The Risks and Dangers of Pregorexia

Camylla Battani

What is Pregorexia?

Pregorexia is a term that has been coined to describe women who excessively control their weight during pregnancy through a variety of means such as calorie counting, exercise, meal skipping, and more.

Although “pregorexia” isn’t a formally recognized medical term, it brings awareness and insight into the importance of healthy weight gain during pregnancy and what that should look like.

Pregorexia has traditionally been a rare disorder but has experienced an increase in the number of cases with the rise of Hollywood’s obsession with stars and celebrities showcasing their incredibly thin bodies both during and after pregnancy. For some pregnant women today, there exists a mental expectation to maintain a slim figure at all times, when it’s not realistically possible or healthy.


The Concerns with Pregorexia 

The women most at risk are those who have struggled with previous eating disorders or body dysmorphia. Pregorexia not only harms the mother but her baby as well. 

Weight gain throughout pregnancy is very important for the baby and mother, as it’s essential to the process of supplying adequate nutrients to both individuals. Denying or purging food reduces the number of nutrients an in utero baby needs to properly develop and grow, and it puts more pressure on the mother’s body to supply nutrients at the expense of her own body.

A woman carrying a child is expected to gain anywhere between 11 and 40 pounds over the course of her pregnancy. There’s also the fact that if there is more than one baby, such as in the case of twins, triplets, etc., even more weight is expected to be gained.  

If there is a concern with the amount of weight gained, ask a healthcare provider as they should be able to help you map out personal weight progressions or benchmarks throughout pregnancy. And, just as with being able to establish an estimated appropriate amount of weight gain during pregnancy, a healthcare provider can also help a pregnant mother establish a healthy diet and eating habits.


Symptoms and Risks

Some of the most common pregorexia symptoms and warning signs include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Binge eating
  • Purging (by self-induced vomiting or laxative use)
  • Restricted food intake
  • Excessive calorie counting
  • Eating alone
  • Avoid social situations with family and friends
  • Habitual and excessive exercising to the point of exhaustion
  • Unwillingness to modify or change exercise routines
  • Feeling shame and/or guilt about weight gain
  • Expressing fear about body weight, shape, and size
  • Weighing yourself several times a day
  • Dizziness and/or blacking out
  • Avoiding going to routine doctor’s appointments
  • Feeling disconnected from the baby
  • Chronic fatigue

All of the above pregorexia symptoms are potentially dangerous and can be indicative of more serious and long-term health risks, including:

  • Bone loss for the mother
  • Fetal development problems
  • Low birth weight
  • Growth restrictions
  • Increased risk of prolonged labor
  • Increased risk of miscarriage
  • Preterm labor
  • Feeding problems
  • Seizures
  • Possible attention deficit disorders later in life


Pregorexia Treatment

The recommended treatment for a woman with pregorexia addresses both the physical and mental difficulties that come with facing an eating disorder. It starts with the mother asking for help when they realize they’re struggling with a body image issue or eating disorder while pregnant. This can be exceptionally hard as people struggling with these issues avoid doing such at all costs, as being pregnant often increases one’s insecurities and also their desire to hide them.  

Someone experiencing pregorexia or its symptoms should be honest with their significant other, their support system, and/or their OB/GYN about the fears, anxieties, and symptoms they have been finding themselves experiencing. The OB/GYN will then begin monitoring the physical health of the mother and baby, as well as assist the mother in finding a mental health professional specializing in eating disorders.

As mentioned previously, they will then begin to work together to help build a realistic expectation of weight gain, pregnancy health, appropriate diet, and adequate exercise to be implemented into the expectant mother’s life

Dealing with the presence of an eating disorder can be hard both physically and emotionally, so the presence of a support system to be there for the mother is also a vital step. She will need consistency and accountability from those around her.

There is no one simple pregorexia treatment. It’s a journey of individual growth and change that takes hard work and time, and each specific course of treatment varies from person to person.


Need to Talk to a Professional?

If you or anyone you know may be suffering from pregorexia, please contact Eating Disorder Solutions in Dallas, Texas to schedule an appointment with a health professional. The admissions line operates 24/7 and confidentiality is guaranteed.