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Pregnant and Anorexic Leads to Low Birth Weight

Update Date: Sep 18, 2013 02:07 PM EDT

During the gestation period, women are advised to eat healthily and stay active in order for their unborn child to grow. Even though good nutrition is vital during pregnancy, for some women, other variables that are hard to control might get in the way. For example, women who are frequent smokers or drug addicts usually cannot give up these drugs immediately. For some women, other conditions, such as anorexia nervosa, which is an eating disorder, could significantly affect the health of the unborn child. In a new study, researchers examined the effects of anorexia nervosa on a fetus. They found that women who are anorexic at any point during or before pregnancy have a greater risk of giving birth to a low weight infant.

For this study, the researchers from the University College London (UCL) Institute of Child Health (ICH) analyzed data from 14 existing studies that dated from 1999 to 2012. The studies were conducted throughout many western countries. The data set was composed of over two million women. The team calculated that women who were anorexic at some point during their pregnancy and even before their pregnancy started had babies that were on average seven ounces lighter than babies born to healthy mothers.

"This is a landmark study for the field as it brings together a comprehensive body of literature on the subject, allowing us to support out hypothesis that among women of reproductive age with anorexia, there is a heightened risk of an adverse outcome for their babies," the study's lead author, Dr. Nadia Micali, senior lecturer and Honorary Consultant psychiatrist at the ICH. "There is good evidence from our research that eating disorders in pregnancy can affect both mother and developing baby. Greater awareness of eating disorders and their symptoms amongst antenatal health care professionals would help to better identify and manage such disorders amongst pregnant women."

The study was funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) and it was published in Epidemiologic Reviews

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