Maternal Mental Health

Maternal Mental Health & Eating Disorders Statistics

Eating disorders can affect:

  • Female fertility
  • Health of mother (physical and emotional experiences in pregnancy, greater risk for postpartum depression)
  • Health of baby (low birth weight, premature delivery, long-term sensory, motor, and cognitive consequences)

Approximately 7 million American women are affected by an eating disorder each year.

Eating disorders can originate before and during pregnancy, but especially can peak during childbearing years

Warning Signs suggesting further assessment for presence of an Eating Disorder

Prior history of any ED

Resistance to weight gain, little to no weight gain OR weight loss throughout pregnancy

Restriction of food groups

Fearful of becoming overweight

Extreme exercise regimens

Self-induced vomiting to “get rid” of food eaten

Low self-esteem

Skipping or avoiding meals, or refusing to eat with others

Chronic fatigue, dizziness, blacking out

Difficulty concentrating Social avoidance of friends & family

Increased depression & anxiety

Poor body image

Suicidal intentions

Are you pregnant and struggling with an eating disorder or disordered eating?

Here are some tips from the National Eating Disorder Association and the staff at

Be honest with your prenatal health provider regarding past or present struggles with an eating disorder, disordered eating, or other mental health concerns.

Be willing to ensure the health of your baby, which may include extra appointments with your prenatal health provider to more closely track the growth and development of your baby.

Allow your prenatal health provider to weigh you. Your weight is essential to track the health of your baby.  If you would prefer not to monitor your own weight gain, ask your provider about standing on the scale backwards and instruct them to not share the number with you.

Under certain circumstances, for example, if you suffer from severe depression or obsessive-compulsive problems, you may require medications for these conditions even during pregnancy. Always consult with a medical professional who is aware of your pregnancy, eating disorder, and other health issues.

With physician approval/supervision, attend a prenatal exercise class or engage in healthy body movement. It can help you practice healthy limits to exercising, as well as provide an outlet for reducing physical and emotional stress.

Attend individual and family counseling during and after pregnancy to help identify and challenge your fears regarding food, weight gain, body image, and the new role of mothering. Let others know how they can support you during the pregnancy and after your baby has arrived.

If available, attend a support group for people with eating disorders. It helps to know that others struggle and understand what you are going through.

Consult a nutritionist with expertise in eating disorders before or immediately after becoming pregnant. Work with the nutritionist throughout the pregnancy to create a realistic plan for healthy eating and weight gain. Also, continue to see the nutritionist postpartum to ensure you continue to take care of yourself and lose weight in a healthy manner.

Pregnancy, childbirth, child development, and parenting skills classes or support groups can also be helpful in the preparation for motherhood. Feeling prepared and empowered is beneficial for you and your baby.

Recognize that a growing a healthy baby requires physical, mental, and emotional energy. Be flexible to what your needs are, and tailor your lifestyle to what you need to do to keep yourself and your baby well.