Cupids Health

How Eating Disorders Impact Women’s Fertility


Society places so much emphasis on weight and appearance, and it’s really unfair to women — especially those in their 20s and 30s who are in the prime age for having babies. Far too many women worry over their appearance to the point that they engage in disordered eating behaviors, and many of these women don’t realize the impact these behaviors can have on their fertility.

If you currently live with an eating disorder or even if you’ve simply engaged in disordered eating in the past, you may actually find that it’s hard to conceive and carry a baby to term. But why?

RELATED: What To Know About Becoming Pregnant While Recovering From An Eating Disorder

How Eating Disorders Impact Fertility

Pregnant Woman With Doctor

Photo by MART PRODUCTION from Pexels

Any eating disorder comes with its own set of unique health complications. However, anorexia, bulimia, and other specified feeding or eating disorder (OSFED) all deplete the vitamin and mineral stores within your body. They can also all cause decreases in your body’s fat and protein stores. While this may not sound like a big deal, it actually has a huge impact on your reproductive system.

According to the team at Verywell Family, fat cells play an important role in balancing your hormone levels. If your body’s fat store levels are too low, your estrogen levels will also decrease, meaning your reproductive system will stop functioning properly. This can lead to irregular menstrual cycles or the loss of menstruation altogether, which is called amenorrhea.

Even if you don’t experience changes in menstruation, though, disordered eating can still impact your reproductive health and pregnancy. In fact, the team at Texas Fertility Center says that some women with eating disorders still menstruate, but they may not actually be ovulating during those cycles. Without ovulation, there’s no egg for a partner’s sperm to fertilize, meaning pregnancy cannot occur.

What’s more, abnormal hormone levels can cause other reproductive issues over time. Namely, decreased hormone levels can cause both a woman’s ovaries and uterus to shrink, which can create problems both during conception and throughout pregnancy.

Fertility Options For Women With Eating Disorders

An Expecting Couple Holding Up An Ultrasound Picture

via Unsplash / Dahiana Waszaj

If you’re still actively engaging in disordered eating behaviors, you’ll likely experience fertility issues when trying to conceive. In many cases, your reduced hormone levels and lack of adequate nutrition will either prevent conception from the get-go or will cause your body to quickly reject a pregnancy that does occur. Because of this, the best fertility option for anyone still actively engaged in an eating disorder is to undergo treatment. This process can take several months, and your recovery will take even longer. However, the time you invest in your health will pay off when you’re able to conceive and carry a baby to term.

Even if you’re weight restored and in recovery from your eating disorder, the long-term effects of those behaviors may negatively impact your ability to conceive or carry your baby to term. For this reason, the experts at What to Expect recommend women with an eating disorder history be open and honest with the OB/GYN or primary care physician about their past, especially if you’re having issues conceiving. In many cases, a fertility specialist can help you and your partner determine the best options for conception, and they can even provide interventions that may speed up the process.

Eating disorders are difficult to live with, but not impossible to overcome. If you have an eating disorder history and desperately want to get pregnant, don’t panic if the process takes time and requires a little extra intervention. Unfortunately, it’s just all part of the process, and that’s perfectly alright.

Souces: Verywell Family, Texas Fertility Center, What To Expect


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One thought on “How Eating Disorders Impact Women’s Fertility

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