Objective: To determine the impact of pregnancy on eating disorders (ED) symptoms using data from a large prospective, community-based cohort study.
Methods: Women (12,254) were classified according to whether they had a recent or past history of ED, were obese before pregnancy, or constituted part of the general population control group. We evaluated self-induced vomiting (SIV), laxative use, exercise behavior, and appraisals about weight gain during pregnancy, as well as dieting, and shape and weight concern before and during pregnancy.
Results: Women with a recent episode of ED dieted, used laxatives, reported SIV, and exercised more than other groups during pregnancy. They were also more likely to report ED cognitions in pregnancy and their weight and shape concern scores remained high during pregnancy. Women with past ED were also more likely than controls to have some ED behaviors and/or concerns about weight gain during pregnancy.
Conclusions: Women with a recent ED continued to have some ED symptoms in pregnancy, albeit fewer compared to before pregnancy. Although at a lower level, women with a past history of ED also had ED symptoms in pregnancy. Screening for ED symptoms during pregnancy may provide a useful opportunity for engagement in treatment and to reduce behaviors that might be detrimental to the foetus.