Pregnancy Outcomes in Women with Self-Report Psychological Traits Associated with Eating Disorders: Results of a Pilot Study

Wednesday, July 13, 2011: 9:10 AM

Brenda B. Broussard, PhD, RN
College of Nursing, Seattle University, Seattle, WA

Learning Objective 1: The learner will be able to identify two potential unfavorable pregnancy and neonatal outcomes in women with psychological traits associated with eating disorders.

Learning Objective 2: The learner will be able to describe the need for health care providers to assess all women for eating disorder throughout pregnancy.

Purpose:  Although eating disorders are estimated to affect 5.9% of women of childbearing age, little is known about pregnancy and neonatal outcomes in women who have an undocumented history of disordered eating behavior. Understanding eating disorders is important because maternal nutrition contributes to favorable pregnancy and neonatal outcomes. Research objectives were to determine feasibility of exploring self-report eating disorders and pregnancy on a larger scale and gather preliminary data. 

Methods: A retrospective descriptive design was used to examine self-report eating disorders in a convenience sample of 54 postpartum women 19 to 43 years from a large hospital in the Pacific Northwest.  Participants voluntarily completed a demographic form and Eating Disorder Inventory-3 (EDI-3) prior to discharge.  EDI-3 risk scales scores (EDRS) were used to identify probable eating disorders.  Medical records were reviewed for eating disorder and mental health history, pregnancy outcome, and neonatal outcome.   

Results: One of 54 medical records (1.85%) documented a past eating disorder. Fifteen participants’ (27.8%) EDRS indicated a probable eating disorder. There was no significant difference in neonatal outcome of gestational age, weight, or length between participants with EDRS suggestive of an eating disorder and those without (n = 39). Eight women in the probable eating disorder group with complete prenatal records (61.5%; n = 13) had additional mental health issues, and two newborns (15.4%) had unfavorable outcome of neural tube defect (n = 1) and preterm birth at 32.6 weeks (n = 1).  Five women in the non-eating disorder group with complete prenatal records (14%; n = 36) had a documented psychiatric history, and one newborn (2.8%) was delivered near term at 35.5 weeks. 

Conclusion: The trend regarding the occurrence of psychological traits associated with eating disorders and pregnancy warrants further investigation.  Health care providers should assess all women for eating disorders throughout pregnancy.