Fertility and reproduction in women with anorexia nervosa: a controlled study

J Clin Psychiatry. 1999 Feb;60(2):130-5; quiz 135-7. doi: 10.4088/jcp.v60n0212.


Background: Women who have anorexia nervosa may experience difficulties with fertility and reproduction.

Method: We examined fertility and reproductive history in 66 women who had a history of anorexia nervosa (DSM-III-R) and 98 randomly selected community controls as part of a follow-up investigation examining the course of anorexia nervosa.

Results: Although women with a history of anorexia nervosa and controls did not differ on rate of pregnancy, mean number of pregnancies per woman, or age at first pregnancy, women with anorexia nervosa had significantly more miscarriages and cesarean deliveries, and the offspring of women with anorexia nervosa were significantly more likely to be born prematurely and were of lower birth weight than offspring of controls. There were no differences between women with active versus remitted anorexia nervosa on any of these measures; however, offspring of anorexic women with no history of bulimia nervosa had significantly lower body weight than offspring of anorexic women with a lifetime history of bulimia nervosa.

Conclusion: Our results argue for intensive prenatal care for women with both active and remitted anorexia nervosa to ensure adequate prenatal nutrition and fetal development.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anorexia Nervosa / complications*
  • Anorexia Nervosa / epidemiology
  • Birth Weight
  • Bulimia / complications
  • Bulimia / epidemiology
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Comorbidity
  • Female
  • Fetal Diseases / epidemiology
  • Gravidity*
  • Humans
  • Infertility / epidemiology
  • New Zealand / epidemiology
  • Obstetric Labor Complications / epidemiology
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications / epidemiology*
  • Pregnancy Complications / etiology
  • Pregnancy Outcome / epidemiology
  • Prenatal Care
  • Random Allocation