Eating disorders and fertility in women

Fertility is not gender, size or shape based; it is for everyone.

Eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and binge eating disorder can affect fertility.

In this blog, we give tips on how to improve your fertility if you have an eating disorder, have had an eating disorder in the past, or are in recovery.

It is important to remember that there are elements we can not control so if a natural pregnancy does not happen for you there is nothing wrong with you and there are elements you can focus on to improve fertility.

How eating disorders impact fertility

Eating disorders disrupt your body’s function, including reproductive health. Women who have an eating disorder, are in recovery or who are recovered, are more likely than other women to take over a year to conceive.

5 ways eating disorders impact fertility

1. Being underweight

If you are underweight from an eating disorder or stress caused by eating disorders it can cause hormonal imbalances which can cause disruptions to menstruation and your cycle.

2. Lack of periods

Eating disorders have a severe impact on women, 68-89% reported amenorrhoea during their eating disorder. If you do not have a period, this means you won’t be ovulating. Which means no egg is released to become fertilised.

3. Hormone fluctuations

During an eating disorder, the hormones progesterone and oestrogen will fluctuate. Their role in fertility is to thicken the lining of the uterus to support a pregnancy.

4. Calorie intake

Oestrogen can decrease in cases of prolonged calorie restriction causing the ovaries and uterus to return to prepubertal length and size.

5. Ability to support a pregnancy

When trying to conceive and grow a foetus it requires extra vitamins and minerals which are often not met when you are struggling with an eating disorder.

Depleted levels of potassium, vitamin D, and calcium will increase the difficulty of conception.

Can you become pregnant if you have an eating disorder?

Yes. You can become pregnant if you have an eating disorder as not all lose their period. Eating disorder recovery is the first step in improving your fertility to become pregnant.

This is because your body needs to be prepared to ensure you have a safe and healthy pregnancy

Can you get pregnant if you don’t have a period?

It depends. If you are still ovulating, then yes. If you ovulate irregularly, it might be less common but not impossible. There are many reasons you may have lost your period, for example:

    • Being underweight
    • Stress
    • Hormonal changes
    • Health conditions, especially PCOS
    • Medications you’re taking
    • Breastfeeding
    • Birth control or coming off of contraceptive (known as a post-pill bleed)

How to improve your fertility if you have an eating disorder

If you are having trouble with your fertility there are a few steps you can take to improve your fertility and help you on your journey to pregnancy. It’s important to remember there are elements which we can not change.

 

 

 

We need to acknowledge that a natural pregnancy is not a guarantee for everyone. We want to remind you if this is the case for you, it’s not your fault and there’s nothing wrong with you.

 

 

 

 

It can be a hard thing to accept but once you do you can focus your time and energy on what you can do to move forward with your fertility journey.

    • Having a good support system can help a partner, friends, family, doctors and nurses.
    • Self-care: having time to yourself, reducing your screen time, and doing what makes you feel good.
    • Stress management like meditating, doing yoga, or journaling
    • Sleep is so important for our bodies and can have a positive impact on our reproductive health. There is evidence to show that it affects hormones related to ovulation.
    • Smoking damages the material in the egg and sperm and reduces the chance of getting pregnant by half compared to a non-smoking couple. We recommend getting support from your GP.
    • Supplements during the pre-natal stage and in early pregnancy can help the risk of preeclampsia, preterm deliveries, and neural tube defects. A general pre-natal supplement like this one (*) can be helpful.
    • Gentle nutrition focuses on what to add to our diets to enhance health. Our nutritionists + dietitians can support you with a healthy approach to nutrition while healing your relationship with food.
    • Movement can be enjoyable, but only if its approaches are supportable if you feel like it’s causing you too much stress and making you feel exhausted it might be doing more harm than good.

If you’re looking to become pregnant, but you’re struggling with your relationship with food, we encourage you to get in touch with us. We can support you where you are, and your hopeful pregnancy in the future.

 

Team Ease Nutrition Therapy x

 

 

(*) This is an affiliate link. We earn a small percentage for any sales made when someone uses this link, at no cost to you.

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