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Does Eating Disorders Affect Fertility

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The Severity Of An Eating Disorder Has More To Do With Hormone Levels Than With Weight

Eating Disorders and Fertility.

Two hormones levels can predict how difficult it will be to recover from anorexia or bulimia. One of these hormones is the stress hormone cortisol. The higher the cortisol level, the more severe the eating disorder, regardless of BMI. The other hormone that predicts the severity of an eating disorder is peptide YY, also known as PYY and peptide tyrosine tyrosine . PYY is a hormone secreted by the digestive system shortly after we begin to eat that tells our brains that we are getting full. In eating disorders, there is a greater release of PYY and the brain gets a stronger message that one has eaten enough.

Complications Of Eating Disorders

Although many people in the grip of an eating disorder appear very high-functioning on the outside, excelling at work and at home, inside, their bodies are in crisis. Some eventually fully recover. Others cycle through periods of recovery and relapse. And some become chronically ill or die.

According to NEDA, eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any psychiatric illness. An estimated 20 percent of people with eating disorders eventually die from complications such as irregular or very low heartbeat , sudden cardiac arrest, severe liver disease, or suicide.

Even those who survive may face serious health issues, including but not limited to:

  • Irreversible bone loss

Body Fat And Your Hormones

Hormonal balance requires healthy fat stories in the body. Body fatalso known as adipose tissueis frequently villainized, but you actually need fat!

One of the many roles fat cells play is the production and synthesis of hormones. For example, if you have too little fat, you wont produce enough of the hormone estrogen. If you dont produce enough estrogen, your reproductive system will not function well.

Fat cells also play a role in testosterone levels. Men with too little body fat will produce suboptimal levels of testosterone. This will impact sperm production and erectile function.

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Eating Disorders Can Compromise Fertility Years After Youve Recovered

Perhaps one of the most surprising things to learn is that infertility can be an issue even years after a woman has gained control over the situation. This is because the brain and body work in a very delicate, choreographed harmony. The physical, mental and emotional stress caused by an eating disorder combined with starvation/malnutrition can cause hormonal imbalances that linger well after the situation is under control.

These hormonal imbalances most often cause problems with ovulation, which results in difficulties getting pregnant. The good news is that the larger majority of women will find the restoration of a healthy diet and healthy BMI results in regular ovulation cycles again.

Exploring The Link Between Eating Disorders And Infertility


It might seem strange that anorexia and bulimia can make it more difficult to conceive. However, everything in the human body is connected. As such, a persons caloric intake influences other bodily systems, including the reproductive system and the brain.

Its common knowledge that eating fewer calories causes a patients body weight to decrease. When a woman loses too much weight, she will often stop having menstrual periods and ovulating. Without ovulation, a woman cannot conceive. This helps explain the link between eating disorders and infertility.

When a patient receives treatment for an eating disorder, her period will often return as she gains weight. However, having a period doesnt necessarily mean that ovulation is occurring. In fact, a woman might not begin ovulating after reaching a normal body mass index . This is because the brain may not be releasing the hormones needed for ovulation. When this occurs, our Austin fertility doctors recommend pursuing treatment.

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What Are Eating Disorders Symptoms Causes Diagnosis Treatment And Prevention

Watching what you eat, like most things, is good for you in moderation. To eat nutritious foods and feel comfortable in your body is certainly a good goal. But when you focus excessively on what you eat, when you eat, and how much you eat to the point where it impinges on your life and impairs your ability to function, you may have an eating disorder.

Does Past Bulimia Affect Pregnancy


. Subsequently, one may also ask, can bulimia affect your pregnancy?

In a new study, pregnant women who currently are experiencing symptoms of bulimia are more likely to have complications, including miscarriage, early delivery, diabetes, and postpartum depression, compared to those who had bulimia in the past.

Similarly, can bulimia kill your baby? During pregnancy, though, the disorders may present additional health risks for a growing baby, Gaudiani explained. Anorexic women may be more likely to have lower-weight babies or premature delivery. And in bulimia, binge-purge cycles may cause electrolyte imbalances that risk fetal loss, Gaudiani added.

Subsequently, question is, does bulimia affect egg quality?

In fact, fertility problems are a common side effect of eating disorders including anorexia, bulimia, binge eating or any other type of obsessive or compulsive eating pattern. It can even lead to ovarian failure, which is a condition that mimics menopause in women under 40.

What happens if you purge while pregnant?

For example, with repeated binging and purging, severe electrolyte abnormalities may result or heart impediments that may put additional stress or pressure on a woman’s body. The combination of medical complications and nutritional deficiencies can increase a woman’s chance of: Preterm labor.

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Impacts Of Diet And Exercise


Eating a healthy and varied diet may be a key part of maintaining good overall health. However, there are certain vitamins and food groups that could have a greater impact on reproductive health than others.


An individuals weight is often associated with his or her eating habits and amount of activity. Body mass index is reported as a number. If it is below 18.5 it is considered underweight, between 18.5 and 24.9 is normal, above 25 is overweight, and over 30 is considered obese . Body weight can have significant effects on health, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and infertility .


The obesity epidemic has recently become is a serious issue, particularly in industrialized nations. The goal set by Healthy People 2010 of reducing obesity in the United States to 15% was not met . In fact, adult obesity increased to 35.7% in 2010 . The rising number of obese individuals may be due in part to an energy-rich diet as well as insufficient physical exercise . In addition to other potential health risks, obesity can have a significant impact on male and female fertility.

Eating disorders and being underweight


Other Eating Disorder Subtypes And Irregular Ovulation

Eating disorders among women and how its affects fertility | Usapang Pangkalusugan

Periods and ovulation may look comparatively more typical in people with other eating disorder subtypes, though still different than what we see among people who dont have eating disorders. About 40% of people with bulimia and 50% of people with other types of disordered eating have regular periods, while about 30-40% of people with these subtypes dont get their periods at all.

Across subtypes, there are certain things that make someone more or less likely to experience irregular periods and ovulation. An atypically low BMI, atypically high BMI, high levels of exercise, and low levels of caloric intake all increase the risk of amenorrhea or oligomenorrhea.

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So What Does This Mean If Youre Trying To Get Pregnant

Considering the average couple trying to become pregnant naturally, this review seems less of a bombshell than the headlines might suggest. Yes, eating a healthy diet is a good idea for men and women. Extra folic acid, B12, and omega-3 fatty acids might be helpful for women, but healthy diets are already recommended to everyone, and a prenatal vitamin is already recommended for women trying to get pregnant. Folic acid supplementation has long been known to reduce the risk of developmental neurologic problems in the developing fetus.

A New Study Of Fertility And Diet

Researchers from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and Harvard Medical School have just published a review of past studies that examined the impact of diet on fertility. Heres what they found.

For women trying to become pregnant naturally , the following vitamins and nutrients were linked to positive effects on fertility:

  • folic acid
  • omega-3 fatty acids
  • healthy diets

On the other hand, antioxidants, vitamin D, dairy products, soy, caffeine, and alcohol appeared to have little or no effect on fertility in this review. Trans fat and “unhealthy diets” were found to have negative effects.

Studies of men have found that semen quality improves with healthy diets , while the opposite has been linked with diets high in saturated or trans fat. Alcohol and caffeine appeared to have little effect, good or bad. Importantly, semen quality is not a perfect predictor of fertility, and most studies did not actually examine the impact of paternal diet on the rate of successful pregnancies.

For couples receiving assisted reproductive technologies, women may be more likely to conceive with folic acid supplements or a diet high in isoflavones , while male fertility may be aided by antioxidants.

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Anorexia Is Likelier To Affect Fertility Than Other Eating Disorders

Menstruators who are diagnosed with anorexia and about 50 percent of menstruators with bulimia stop having their periods, which is referred to as amenorrhea. Extreme weight loss from a decrease in calories results in suppression of hormones from the pituitary gland that are needed to maintain normal estrogen levels. Without normal levels of estrogen, ovulation does not occur and infertility develops, said Dr. Carolyn Givens, a reproductive endocrinologist at Prelude Fertility clinic.

Those who participate in compulsive exercise can very well end up suppressing their periods as well. Often in this situation, they may notice their menses are lighter or further apart or may stop menstruating altogether. This causes changes to the hormone levels that occur and suppress both ovulation and menstruation.

According to an article on Eating Disorder Hope by Jenifer Harcourt, a licensed professional counselor, it is possible that if someone struggles with anorexia before menses has ever begun, they could have a harder time recovering from the damage done to their body in formative adolescent years. This can translate to someone who has missed at least three menstrual periods in a row or who has not yet begun menstruation by age 15.

How Mental Health Challenges Can Affect Eating Disorder Issues

Anorexia and Infertility: Can An Eating Disorder Risk A ...

Eating disorders are all too common. In the United States, about nine percent of people will be affected at some point in their lifetime according to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders.

Although these numbers are high, eating disorders are not often talked about. Whether its due to social stigma or shame about mental illness, you may have questions without immediate answers.

One of the first questions people often wonder about when faced with an eating disorder themselves, or upon hearing about them, is how do eating disorders affect mental health? This is a complex question, but its best understood with a foundation as to what eating disorders are.

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Black And Hispanic Americans And Eating Disorders

Its a misperception that eating disorders primarily affect young, white women. People of all ethnicities and demographics struggle with eating disorders at similar rates. And research shows that people of color Black Americans in particular are less likely to receive help for an eating disorder.

How Eating Disorders Impact The Reproductive System

Anorexia, bulimia, and OSFED come with unique physical and mental health challenges. The possible complications vary between the three, and health complications from eating disorders can be serious enough to prove deadly. For example, people with anorexia may experience serious heart problems. In fact, anorexia is considered to be one of the most deadly psychiatric disorders.

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Exploring Fertility Treatment Options For Eating Disorders

If youre having trouble getting pregnant, an experienced fertility doctor can review your medical history and perform diagnostic testing. This information can help you and your doctor create a customized treatment plan to help you bring home a healthy baby.

When it comes to eating disorders and infertility, our Austin fertility doctors often recommend one or more of the following fertility treatments.

  • Fertility medications, in conjunction with timed intercourse or another treatment, can help women who arent ovulating regularly or at all.
  • Intrauterine insemination can bypass several barriers to conception by placing sperm directly into a womans uterus.
  • In vitro fertilization involves multiple steps to fertilize eggs in the laboratory before transferring a resulting embryo to the womans uterus.

Our goal at TFC is to start with the basics whenever possible. However, a patients situation will sometimes require our doctors to begin with an advanced treatment like IVF. For example, this may occur when a woman is older or has a diminished ovarian reserve .

Eating Disorders Affect Reproductive Hormones

Eating Disorders affect Fertility, Pregnancy | JRWH | 23rd March 2020 | ETV Life

Eating disorders take a toll on the womans endocrine system which is responsible for producing hormones in the body, including reproductive hormones. The disruption of the endocrine system, in turn, leads to the disruption of the regular ovulation process. This can result in irregular menstrual cycles and periods can even stop completely.

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The Disorder Healthcare Providers Often Miss

Healthcare providers often overlook the signs of an eating disorder, and many even say things that could make the disorder worse. Not asking a patient who has lost a significant amount weight about his or her eating habits, and instead praising them for finally getting their weight under control, is one common scenario, says Nanci Pradas, PhD, a psychotherapist in private practice in Bedford, Massachusetts. Many doctors also prescribe medication for depression without considering how a patients mental state might be affecting their eating behavior.

Teenage Girls Who Have Anorexia Or Bulimia Become Resistant To Growth Hormone

Growth hormone is essential for continuing development of bones and muscles into early adulthood. Fasting actually increases the bodys production of growth hormone. Teenage girls produce up to 20 times the normal amount of growth hormone, as their bodies attempt to protect muscles and bones from breaking down. However, the extra growth hormone does not result in extra growth, because there arent enough active fat cells to generate another hormone called STAT-5 that activates growth hormone where its needed. The growth hormone does protect against hypoglycemia and helps fat cells release fatty acids for energy.

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The Damage On Fertility Can Usually Be Reversed

The good news is that people with eating disorders who seek treatment and maintain recovery can typically reverse the damage done by their eating disorder.

Once regular periods resume, that is a good indication of fertility returning as well, said Givens. Menstruation typically returns six months of achieving ideal body weight.

Your Future Fertility: Eating Disorders

Eating Disorders and Infertility â Body Image â San ...

Eating disorders are linked with fertility or infertility issues. Even women who have conquered their eating disorder and/or tendency towards obsessive exercise, and who work hard to manage a healthy lifestyle, may find fertility compromised by their former lifestyle.

The good news is that the combination of meticulous and compassionate self-care, and the help of a fertility specialist, eating disorder-related fertility issues can be overcome. Its also important to note that men with eating disorders can also experience male infertility factors as a result of malnutrition and/or severe fluctuations in weight.

Perhaps one of the most critical pieces of advice we can offer if you have had an eating disorder in the past, or if you currently have an eating disorder, is to be completely honest with your OB/GYN and/or primary physician. You should certainly be honest about it if youre already working with a fertility specialist. This information will help to shape the type of care you receive and the information provided as you navigate the road towards pregnancy and parenthood.

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How Is My Pregnancy Affected

The following complications are associated with eating disorders during pregnancy:

Women who are struggling with bulimia will often gain excess weight, which places them at risk for hypertension. Women with eating disorders have higher rates of postpartum depression and are more likely to have problems with breastfeeding. The laxatives, diuretics, and other medications are taken may be harmful to the developing baby. These substances take away nutrients and fluids before they are able to feed and nourish the baby.It is possible they may lead to fetal abnormalities as well, particularly if they are used on a regular basis.

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