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Psychological and Behavioral Traits Associated with Eating Disorders and Pregnancy: A Pilot Study


  • Brenda Broussard PhD, RN, IBCLC

Brenda Broussard, Seattle University, 901 12th Ave PO Box 222000, Seattle, WA 98122-1090. E-mail:


Introduction: The aims of this pilot study were to determine the feasibility of conducting a large-scale study exploring the extent to which self-report psychological and behavioral traits associated with eating disorders occur during pregnancy, to test the design, and to gather preliminary data on the magnitude of the problem. Although eating disorders are estimated to affect 5.9% of women of childbearing age, little is known about pregnancy in women who have an undocumented history of disordered eating behavior in the United States. Understanding and identifying eating disorders is important because optimal maternal nutrition contributes to favorable pregnancy and neonatal outcomes.

Methods: In our study using a retrospective descriptive design, a convenience sample of 54 postpartum women aged 19 to 43 years voluntarily completed a demographic questionnaire and the Eating Disorder Inventory-3 (EDI-3) before discharge from the hospital. Medical records were reviewed for documented eating disorders.

Results: Fifteen women (27.8%) had scores on the EDI-3 indicating that they had psychological and behavioral traits associated with eating disorders. One (1.85%) of the 54 participants’ medical records listed a history of an eating disorder.

Discussion: Exploration of self-report symptoms associated with eating disorders during pregnancy warrants further investigation. Health professionals providing care to pregnant women should assess all clients for eating disorders throughout pregnancy and the postpartum period, regardless of history.