Recognising the Symptoms: How Common Are Eating Disorders in Pregnancy?

Authors

  • Abigail Easter,

    Corresponding author
    1. Behavioural and Brain Sciences Unit, Institute of Child Health, University College London, London, UK
    • Section of Eating Disorders, Department of Psychological Medicine, Institute of Psychiatry, Kings College London, London, UK
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  • Amanda Bye,

    1. Behavioural and Brain Sciences Unit, Institute of Child Health, University College London, London, UK
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  • Emma Taborelli,

    1. Behavioural and Brain Sciences Unit, Institute of Child Health, University College London, London, UK
    2. Section of Eating Disorders, Department of Psychological Medicine, Institute of Psychiatry, Kings College London, London, UK
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  • Freya Corfield,

    1. Section of Eating Disorders, Department of Psychological Medicine, Institute of Psychiatry, Kings College London, London, UK
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  • Ulrike Schmidt,

    1. Section of Eating Disorders, Department of Psychological Medicine, Institute of Psychiatry, Kings College London, London, UK
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  • Janet Treasure,

    1. Section of Eating Disorders, Department of Psychological Medicine, Institute of Psychiatry, Kings College London, London, UK
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  • Nadia Micali

    1. Behavioural and Brain Sciences Unit, Institute of Child Health, University College London, London, UK
    2. Section of Eating Disorders, Department of Psychological Medicine, Institute of Psychiatry, Kings College London, London, UK
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Correspondence: Dr Abigail Easter, Eating disorders and Adolescent Mental Health (ED&AMH) research team, Behavioural and Brain Sciences Unit, Institute of Child Health, University College London, 30 Guilford Street, London, WC1N 1EH, UK.

E-mail: a.easter@ucl.ac.uk

Abstract

Objectives

This study aimed to investigate eating disorder diagnostic status and related symptoms in early pregnancy.

Methods

Pregnant women (n=739), attending their first routine antenatal scan, were assessed using an adapted version of the Eating Disorder Diagnostic Scale (EDDS). Prevalence estimates and eating disorder symptoms were assessed during the first 3 months of pregnancy and, retrospectively, in the 6 to 12 months prior to pregnancy.

Results

During pregnancy 7.5% of women met diagnostic criteria for an eating disorder, compared to prepregnancy prevalence of 9.2%. Approximately one quarter (23.4%) of women reported high weight and shape concern during pregnancy; binge eating was endorsed by 8.8%, and 2.3% of women engaged in regular compensatory behaviours.

Conclusions

Eating disorders are more common than previously thought in pregnancy. There is a clinical need for increased understanding of eating disorder symptomatology during pregnancy and for appropriate screening tools to be incorporated into antenatal care. Copyright © 2013 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd and Eating Disorders Association.

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