Anorexia and Infertility: Can An Eating Disorder Risk A Woman’s Ability To Conceive

Updated at: Sep 26, 2020
Anorexia and Infertility: Can An Eating Disorder Risk A Woman’s Ability To Conceive

While dealing with an eating disorder, the woman restricts her diet to an extent that it affects her nutritional needs and causes fertility issues.

Chanchal Sengar
Women's HealthWritten by: Chanchal SengarPublished at: Sep 26, 2020

Infertility is defined as the inability to conceive after 1 year of regular intercourse. Anorexia nervosa is a disease where a person doesn’t allow himself or herself to eat normally, severely restricting calories to lose weight or maintain abnormally low body weight. Bulimia nervosa is a disorder that involves recurrent binging episodes followed by inappropriate compensation to ‘make up’ for the binging. According to Dr. Sowjanya Aggarwal, Principal Consultant, IVF & Infertility Centre at Max Super Speciality Hospital, Vaishali, Ghaziabad, some women have disordered eating that doesn’t strictly fall into the anorexia nervosa or bulimia category, but they still suffer mental and physical health challenges.

How do eating disorders affect fertility?

These eating disorders can disrupt the normal reproduction. Of all the causes of infertility, malnutrition, too much exercise, and chronic stress are the avoidable factors.

The reproductive hormones in our body are directly impacted by these factors. This is the reason many women with an eating disorder present with irregular periods, infrequent periods, or a complete loss of menstruation.

Health complications associated with eating disorders

Apart from menstrual problems and infertility, other complications associated with eating disorder may be decreased ovarian reserve (low egg count), anovulatory cycles due to deranged reproductive hormones, and decreased sexual drive.

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Also Read: Types Of Eating Disorders Explained By Nutritionist

What is the role of diet for fertility?

This occurs because of restriction of caloric intake, limitation of the major macronutrients (like fat, protein, or carbohydrates), over-exercising, and binging/purging. This is the reason why a woman’s diet must include a variety of foods that gives sufficient calories and includes a balance of essential nutrients, including proteins, fats and carbohydrates. Fats, in particular, are a crucial part of the diet, as they are essential for the synthesis of reproductive hormones.

Also Read: All About Anorexia Nervosa Eating Disorder

Other factors that are associated with eating disorders and infertility

  • Coming to exercise which also forms a part of this disorder, over-exercising can interfere with reproductive health and increase the risk of infertility. Strenuous exercise can jeopardize the normal menstrual cycle. Over-exercising and under-eating can cause the body to shut down organ systems that are not essential for survival, including the reproductive system to meet the demands for other essential organs.
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  • Ideal weight i.e.; normal BMI is important for fertility and to improve the chances of conceiving naturally.
  • Chronic stress, whether due to emotional or environmental reasons, cause the release of hormones that interfere with normal menstruation and ovulation.
  • The reason for this can be inadequate nutrition, over-exercising, lack of sleep, difficult relationships, or an overwhelming job. While stress cannot be avoided one can implement effective techniques for managing stress and improving self-care.
  • The good news is that as a woman recovers from anorexia, adequately nourishes her body, and has weight restoration, she will have normal periods. Once menstruation begins again in the anorexic woman, her chances of conceiving become much higher.

So if you are suffering from one of these disorders boost up yourself, try your best and reach out for professional help if needed, to guide you through it. It is possible to combat anorexia and enhance fertility. Just follow the tips provided in this article.

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