Fertility and Reproduction after Recovery from Anorexia Nervosa: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Long-Term Follow-Up Studies

Diseases. 2020 Dec 16;8(4):46. doi: 10.3390/diseases8040046.


Reproductive health is compromised during anorexia nervosa (AN). However, it is still unclear whether this medical complication is reversible after recovery from AN. The purpose of this paper was to conduct a systematic review of the major reproductive health outcomes in females after recovery from AN. The review was conducted in adherence to preferred reporting items for systematic review and meta-analyses (PRISMA) guidelines. Data were collated using meta-analysis and a narrative approach. Of the 1186 articles retrieved, five studies met the inclusion criteria and were reviewed. These studies monitored weight-restored females who had recovered from AN for a follow-up period of between six and 18 years. Their narrative analysis revealed that appropriate treatment of AN leads to the normalization of reproductive function, especially in terms of fertility, pregnancy, and childbirth rates. The meta-analysis confirmed this finding, where the pooled odds of childbirth rates between the AN group and the general population was not statistically significant (OR = 0.75, 95% CI: 0.43-1.29, p = 0.41). We conclude that if patients undergo appropriate eating-disorder treatment and weight restoration, it appears to be unlikely that reproductive health is affected by AN. However, since this finding is derived from only a few studies, it requires replication and confirmation.

Keywords: anorexia nervosa; eating disorders; fertility; menses; reproductive function; weight restoration.

Publication types

  • Review