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Adverse Birth Outcomes Associated with Types of Eating Disorders: A Review

Publication: Canadian Journal of Dietetic Practice and Research
7 February 2019


At least 5% of women have an eating disorder (ED) during pregnancy. These EDs affect prepregnancy body mass index (BMI) and weight gain during pregnancy, factors associated with birth complications and adverse neonatal outcomes. This review contributes to the literature by examining several adverse birth outcomes associated with EDs and differentiates between past and present EDs. Of the 18 articles reviewed, EDs were associated with preterm birth in 5/14 (36%) and small-for-gestational-age in 5/8 (63%) studies. Anorexia Nervosa increases the odds of a low birth weight baby, particularly when women enter pregnancy with a low BMI. Binge Eating Disorder is positively associated with having a large-for-gestational-age infant, and Bulimia Nervosa is associated with miscarriage when symptomatic during pregnancy. Having a current ED increases the risk for adverse birth outcomes more than a past ED. Since the aetiology of adverse birth outcomes is multi-factorial, drawing conclusions about causal relationships between EDs and birth outcomes is problematic given the small number of studies reporting these outcomes. Resources should target preconception interventions that put EDs into remission and help women achieve a healthier BMI prior to pregnancy, as these have been consistently shown to improve birth outcomes.


Au moins 5 % des femmes souffrent d’un trouble de l’alimentation (TA) durant la grossesse. Ces TA affectent l’indice de masse corporelle (IMC) avant la grossesse et le gain de poids durant la grossesse, des facteurs associés aux complications à l’accouchement et aux issues néonatales indésirables. Cette revue enrichit la littérature en examinant plusieurs issues néonatales indésirables associées aux TA et en faisant la distinction entre les TA passés et présents. Sur les 18 articles examinés, des TA étaient associés à des naissances prématurées dans 5 études sur 14 (36 %), et à la naissance d’un bébé né petit par rapport à son âge gestationnel dans 5 études sur 8 (63 %). L’anorexie mentale augmente les risques d’avoir un bébé de faible poids à la naissance, en particulier lorsque les femmes deviennent enceintes alors qu’elles ont un faible IMC. L’hyperphagie boulimique est positivement associée au fait d’avoir un gros nourrisson par rapport à son âge gestationnel, et la boulimie symptomatique durant la grossesse est associée au risque de fausse couche. Un TA présent augmente davantage le risque d’issue néonatale indésirable qu’un TA passé. Étant donné que l’étiologie des issues néonatales indésirables est multifactorielle et vu le petit nombre d’études qui en font état, il est difficile de tirer des conclusions sur les relations de cause à effet entre les TA et l’issue de la grossesse. Les ressources devraient être orientées sur des interventions avant la conception qui permettent de traiter les TA jusqu’à la rémission et d’aider les femmes à atteindre un IMC plus sain avant la grossesse, car il a été démontré de manière constante que ce type d’intervention améliore la santé des nouveau-nés.

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Financial support: None to report
Conflict of interest: The authors declare that they have no competing interests.


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Published In

cover image Canadian Journal of Dietetic Practice and Research
Canadian Journal of Dietetic Practice and Research
Volume 80Number 3September 2019
Pages: 131 - 136


Version of record online: 7 February 2019



Kimberly D. Charbonneau MScFN (c)
School of Food and Nutritional Sciences, Brescia University College, London, ON
Jamie A. Seabrook PhD
School of Food and Nutritional Sciences, Brescia University College, London, ON
Children’s Health Research Institute, London, ON
Departments of Paediatrics, and Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Western University, London, ON

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Cited by

1. Maternal Eating Disorders and Adverse Birth Outcomes: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis
2. Identifiable Dietary Patterns of Pregnant Women: A Canadian Sample
3. Weight Changes and Body Image in Pregnant Women: A Challenge for Health Care Professionals

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