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Women with Anorexia Nervosa More Likely to Have Unwanted Pregnancies

A new study has found that women with anorexia nervosa are more likely to have unplanned pregnancies and induced abortions than women who don’t have the eating disorder. The results suggest that this could be partly due to the fact that many women with anorexia mistakenly believe that they can’t get pregnant because they may experience irregular periods or may not menstruate at all.

Cynthia M. Bulik, PhD, lead author of the study and director of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Eating Disorders Program, said that anorexia should not be used as a contraceptive, and that not menstruating doesn’t mean you can’t get pregnant. She added that clinicians should talk to patients with anorexia about this, making sure they are aware that they have the same risks of getting pregnant as women with normal menstrual cycles.

For the study, researchers looked at data from 62,600 women who participated in the Norwegian Mother and Child Cohort Study. Of the women, 62 reported having anorexia nervosa. They found that the average age of women with anorexia at delivery was 26.2 years, compared with 29.9 years among women without an eating disorder. Of the women with anorexia, 50 percent reported unplanned pregnancies, compared with 18.9 percent among women without the eating disorder. In addition, 24.2 percent of women with anorexia reported having an induced abortion in the past, compared with 14.6 percent of those without anorexia.

Bulik said that doctors should know when their pregnant patients have an eating disorder so they can provide the appropriate care, and that screening for eating disorders during prenatal visits would be an important initial step.

Researches from the Norwegian Institute of Public Health also worked on this study, which will be published in the November 2010 issue of Obstetrics & Gynecology.

Source: Science Daily, Women With Anorexia Nervosa More Likely to Have Unplanned Pregnancies, Study Finds, October 30, 2010

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