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*Trigger warning: mentions of eating disorders.*

Just like smoking, alcohol, and stress, even eating disorders can impact fertility. Eating Disorders (ED) can wreak havoc on a woman’s endocrine system by disrupting the regular ovulation process resulting in irregular periods, poor egg quality, primary ovarian failure (POI) or insufficiency. premature ovaries, and even miscarriages in some cases.

It is essential for women with eating disorders to take care of their health and increase their chances of having a healthy conception by adopting certain lifestyle changes. We asked Dr. Sulbha Arora, Clinical Director, Nova IVF Fertility, Mumbai, to explain the association between eating disorders and infertility, and how to achieve pregnancy success.

Correlation between eating disorders and fertility

Correlation between eating disorders and fertility
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There are different types of eating disorders. Anorexia nervosa is diagnosed when there is an extreme loss of appetite, leading to starvation and weight loss. Bulimia nervosa is a condition in which a person eats and vomits food that has been eaten. Binge eating is a situation in which a person continues to eat even when they are not hungry. All of these eating disorders can lead to unhealthy weight, poor diet, and low or high levels of body fat. here’s how eating disorders impact fertility.

1. Eating Disorders Affect Reproductive Hormones

Eating Disorders Affect Reproductive Hormones
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Eating disorders affect the female endocrine system, which is responsible for the production of hormones in the body, including reproductive hormones. The disruption of the endocrine system, in turn, results in the disruption of the regular ovulation process. This can lead to irregular menstrual cycles and periods may even stop completely.

2. Eating Disorders Alter the Reproductive System

Hormonal disruption leads to poor egg quality and ovarian failure, similar to menopause which is expected to occur after age 40 or 45. But, with eating disorders, this state can be reached even at a younger age (below 40). All of these factors can decrease the chances of conception. Eating disorders can also increase the risk of miscarriage once a woman becomes pregnant.

3. A healthy weight does not equal good nutrition

Women with eating disorders who maintain a relatively normal weight may still have fertility issues. Although their weight may be within the normal range, their nutrition may be affected.

4. Eating Disorders Impact Mental Health

Eating Disorders Impact Mental Health
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People with eating disorders are more likely to struggle with stress, anxiety and depression. All of these factors can increase the risk of unhealthy behaviors and habits, such as smoking, tobacco use, excessive alcohol addiction, or more disordered eating. This can further reduce a woman’s chances of conceiving.

The right treatment can help overcome erectile dysfunction

The good news is that a majority of women have healthy pregnancies after being successfully treated for the eating disorder, provided there are no other infertility factors. Even years after treatment, you may want to see a fertility specialist and make sure everything is okay, especially if you don’t get pregnant after 12 months of trying.

When a woman is pregnant, she should eat a nutritious and well-balanced pregnancy diet, take vitamins as advised by the expert, and drink plenty of fluids to stay hydrated. This will help mother and baby to stay healthy. Here’s to healthy conception and pregnancy.

Main image credit: iStock