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TW: Discussion of specific eating disorders, disordered behavior, medical trauma  –  Today, I want to tackle a topic that’s close to my heart: the challenging journey of dealing with an eating disorder while navigating the beautiful yet complex terrain of pregnancy. This is a subject that requires immense compassion, self-awareness, and support, and I’m here by your side!

Pregnancy can be a miraculous and transformative experience. But for those who have struggled with eating disorders, disordered eating, or medical trauma, it can also bring forth  challenges and triggers. In this blog post, I want to explore these challenges with the utmost empathy and curiosity, offering guidance and insights to help you or someone you know approach this delicate situation.

Understanding Eating Disorders:

Before we delve into the specifics of eating disorders during pregnancy, let’s take a moment to understand what they entail. Eating disorders, such as anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge-eating disorder, are complex mental health conditions that revolve around one’s relationship with food, body image, and self-worth.

Pregnancy and Your Body

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Pregnancy is a time of remarkable changes, both physical and emotional.

Your body is working tirelessly to nurture and grow your baby, and this can trigger a range of emotions and feelings, especially if you’ve had an eating disorder in the past.

It’s essential to recognize that your body is doing incredible work, and it deserves love and respect throughout this journey.

Here are some aspects of pregnancy that may resonate with you:

Weight Gain:

One of the most common triggers for individuals with eating disorders during pregnancy is the inevitable weight gain.

As your baby grows, your body will naturally change, and this can be a source of anxiety and distress. It’s crucial to remember that this weight gain is entirely normal and necessary for a healthy pregnancy.

If you don’t want to know the weight you’ve gained, it’s fine to tell your provider that you don’t want to see the number on the scale.

Body Image:

Pregnancy often leads to changes in your body shape, size, and skin. These changes can be overwhelming, especially if you’ve struggled with body image issues in the past.

Embracing these changes as a part of your unique pregnancy journey is an essential step towards self-acceptance.

You can also try documenting your journey with photos, journaling, or anything else that allows you to reflect on your emotions around a changing body.

Nutrition Concerns:

Pregnancy comes with specific dietary requirements, and this can be a point of contention for those with eating disorders. It’s essential to focus on nourishing both yourself and your baby rather than restricting or depriving yourself of essential nutrients. Consult an anti-diet dietician for support.

Public:

Something about pregnancy makes people feel like they suddenly have access to comment on your body or maybe even touch your belly without permission. This can be uncomfortable for most people, but folks who may have a history of trauma, this may be extremely triggering. Have a phrase in your back pocket to say if folks start pushing your boundaries and remove yourself from the situation if you can.

Managing Triggers

Now that we’ve touched upon some of the potential triggers, let’s explore ways to manage and overcome them with compassion and curiosity.

Seek Professional Help: The first and most crucial step is to reach out to a healthcare provider who understands eating disorders and pregnancy. They can offer specialized guidance, monitor your physical and emotional well-being, and tailor a plan that’s safe for both you and your baby.

Build a Support Network: Surround yourself with a supportive network of friends and family who are aware of your situation. Having a trusted support system can provide you with the emotional support and encouragement you need during this challenging time.

Mindfulness and Self-Compassion: Practice mindfulness and self-compassion regularly. Pregnancy is a time of self-discovery and transformation, and it’s essential to be gentle with yourself. Acknowledge your thoughts and emotions without judgment and remember that it’s okay to seek help and take things one step at a time.

Nutrition Education: Educate yourself about proper nutrition during pregnancy. Understanding the nutritional needs of both you and your baby can help you make informed choices and alleviate some of the anxiety surrounding food.

Also, remember that your mental health is so important during pregnancy. If monitoring your food closely is triggering for you, then find a different focus.

Ask your body what your cravings are that day and what feels nourishing for you. You could also consider asking your partner to take this mental load for you. Ask them to plan the meals, get the groceries, and prepare the meals. If possible, let them take on this full task and you can focus on the enjoyment of the food. 

Therapy and Counseling: Consider therapy or counseling specifically tailored to eating disorders during pregnancy. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) can be effective in helping you develop healthy coping strategies and manage triggers.

Stay Active Safely: Engage in gentle, pregnancy-appropriate exercises that promote physical and mental well-being. Activities like prenatal yoga or swimming can help you stay connected with your body in a positive way.

Keep a Journal: Writing can be a therapeutic way to process your thoughts and feelings. Consider keeping a pregnancy journal to document your journey, track your emotions, and identify patterns that may require attention.

Practice Gratitude: Cultivate a practice of gratitude to focus on the positive aspects of pregnancy. Celebrate the incredible changes your body is undergoing to support your baby’s growth and development.

Remember, you are not alone in this journey. Many people have successfully navigated eating disorders during pregnancy and emerged stronger and more resilient. Your journey is unique, and it’s okay to seek help and support when needed.

The Importance of Self-Care

During this challenging time, self-care becomes more critical than ever. Let’s explore some self-care strategies tailored to the unique needs of those dealing with eating disorders during pregnancy:

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Mindful Eating: Practice mindful eating by paying attention to the textures, flavors, and sensations of each bite. This can help you build a healthier relationship with food and reduce anxiety around mealtimes.

Relaxation Techniques: Incorporate relaxation techniques such as deep breathing exercises, meditation, or visualization to manage stress and anxiety.

Body Positivity: Surround yourself with positive affirmations and images that promote body positivity. Remind yourself daily that your body is doing an incredible job of nurturing and growing your baby.

Create a Safe Space: Designate a safe and calming space where you can retreat when you’re feeling overwhelmed. Fill it with comforting items that bring you peace and solace.

Connect with Others: Join support groups or online communities for individuals dealing with eating disorders during pregnancy. Sharing your experiences and hearing from others can provide a sense of belonging and understanding.

Self-Compassion: Practice self-compassion by treating yourself with the same kindness and understanding that you would offer to a dear friend. Be patient with yourself, and remember that progress may be gradual.

A Letter to Your Baby: Consider writing a heartfelt letter to your baby. This letter can serve as a beautiful reminder of your love, strength, and determination during this challenging journey. It can also be a source of inspiration and motivation as you move forward:

Dealing with an eating disorder during pregnancy is undeniably challenging, but it is also an opportunity for profound growth and transformation. Approach this journey with compassion, curiosity, and a commitment to self-care, and remember that you are not alone. Seek professional help, build a strong support network, and celebrate each step of your unique pregnancy journey

Please note that while this response provides insights into tips to support you during pregnancy, it should not be interpreted as medical advice. Every pregnancy is unique, and individual circumstances vary. Please consult your healthcare provider for more information.