Eating disorders tied to reproductive challenges


Women with eating disorders are less likely to have children than others in their age group. The statistical difference is most notable in anorexics. The number of pregnancies in this group was less than half that of the control group. It has been estimated that 5-10% of all young women in developed countries suffer from some kind of eating disorder.

Variety of reproductive disorders for women with eating disorders

The likelihood of abortion was also more than double for bulimics than for others in the same age range. The likelihood for miscarriage was also more than triple for women with binge-eating disorder. “Early recognition, effective care and sufficiently long follow-up periods for eating disorders are crucial in the prevention of reproductive health problems,” said researcher Milla Linna from the University of Helsinki, Hjelt Institute.

Large, 15 year study covered a variety of disorders

The 15-year register based study examined the reproductive health of patients treated at the eating disorder clinic of the Helsinki University Central Hospital from 1995-2010. Members of the control group were of the same and same region as the patients. More than 11,000 women participated in the study; 2257 were patients at the eating disorder clinic.

Causality not proven, but definite relationship

“This study does not provide an explanation for the reproductive health problems observed in women with eating disorders. Based on previous research, however, it seems likely that the problems can at least partially be attributed to the eating disorder. Both being underweight and obese are known to be associated with the increased risk of infertility and miscarriage. Eating disorders also often involve menstrual irregularities or the absence of menstruation when may lead to neglecting contraception and ultimately to unwanted pregnancies,” Linna hypothesized.

Source: University of Helsinki


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