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Pregnancy & Eating Disorders

What Are Eating Disorders?

According to the American Psychiatric Association, there are two primary eating disorders: anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa. Anorexia, often characterized by a weight that is 85 percent or less than what is expected for age and height, is usually classified by an intense fear of becoming fat, an unrealistic body image, and the absence of a period for a minimum of three months. While most anorexics lose weight by severely restricting calories, others accompany this behavior with bingeing and purging (such as vomiting or laxative use).

Bulimia is a condition involving recurrent bingeing and purging episodes, during which the person feels out of control. These behaviors commonly occur twice a week for at least three months.

Beyond that, there may be a significantly greater number of pregnant women with subclinical eating disorders -- those who restrict food intake or who are obsessed with food and weight but don't meet the diagnostic criteria for anorexia or bulimia. "It is not always about a classified condition -- what your body weight is or whether you make yourself vomit," says Diana Dell, MD, assistant professor of psychiatry and obstetrics at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, North Carolina. "It's about negative body issues that lead to disordered eating, and a lot of folks have problems."

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