Eating disorders are associated with adverse obstetric and perinatal outcomes: a systematic review

Braz J Psychiatry. 2022 Mar-Abr;44(2):201-214. doi: 10.1590/1516-4446-2020-1449.


Objective: To systematically review the literature focusing on obstetric and perinatal outcomes in women with previous or current eating disorders (EDs) and on the consequences of maternal EDs for the offspring.

Methods: The study was performed following the systematic review and meta-analysis (PRISMA) statement. PubMed, SciELO, and Cochrane databases were searched for non-interventional studies published in English or Portuguese from January 1980 to December 2020. Risk of bias was assessed using the Methods guide for effectiveness and comparative effectiveness reviews (American Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality).

Results: The search yielded 441 records, and 30 articles were included. The psychiatric outcome associated with EDs in women was mainly perinatal depression. The most prevalent obstetric outcomes observed in women with EDs were vomiting, hyperemesis, bleeding, and anemia. Most studies found maternal anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa to be associated with low birth weight and slow fetal growth. Women with binge EDs delivered children with increased birth weight. Of the 30 studies included, methodological quality was good in seven, fair in eight, and poor in 15 studies.

Conclusion: A considerable body of evidence was reviewed to assess obstetric and perinatal outcomes in EDs. Acute and lifetime EDs, especially if severe, correlated with poor perinatal, obstetric, and neonatal outcomes. Obstetricians and general practitioners should be vigilant and screen for EDs during pregnancy.

Publication types

  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Anorexia Nervosa*
  • Bulimia Nervosa*
  • Child
  • Feeding and Eating Disorders*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant, Low Birth Weight
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Pregnancy