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Disordered Eating in the Perinatal Period


Traditionally, eating disorders in the perinatal period (pre-pregnancy to 2 years post birth) have been under-identified and under-supported. Women without an ‘official’ diagnosis or sub-clinical disordered eating are often left even more vulnerable.

Pregnancy and adaptation to motherhood are significant changes in a woman’s life and, as such, mental health difficulties are more likely. In recent times, a multitude of resources to identify and support mothers with perinatal anxiety and depression have been developed. It is important that the same level of support be given to mothers experiencing disordered eating or a relapse/development of an eating disorder.

What are some of the symptoms of disordered eating to look out for in yourself, family and friends?

  • Episodes of binge eating
  • Dietary restriction or restraint
  • Compensation for eating behaviours
  • Body weight and shape concerns

What puts someone at higher risk of experiencing disordered eating in the perinatal period?

  • Being in a larger body pre-pregnancy
  • Increased anxiety and depression in pregnancy
  • High expectations of self and others to ‘bounce back’ to their pre-baby body
  • Impact of social media content post-pregnancy
  • Previous experience with disordered eating or an eating disorder
  • A lack of social support
  • Low self-esteem
  • Difficulty reorganising own identity post-birth
  • Hyperemesis Gravidarum
  • Post-partum depression

Why does someone experiencing disordered eating symptomology need support?

  • It can lead to serious health problems
  • Increased depression and anxiety
  • Increased risk of experiencing suicidal ideation and behaviours
  • Increased risk of an eating disorder
  • Increased chance of social and relationship problems
  • It can lead to transgenerational eating habits and eating disorders, and the likelihood of being overly critical of their child’s eating, body weight, shape and size.

What can be done to support someone experiencing disordered eating or an eating disorder in the perinatal period?

  • Reach out to BodyMatters by calling 9908 3833 or emailing info@bodymatters.com.au. Support is available Australia-wide.

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