Pregnancy + Anorexia = Pregorexia

I’ve always wondered what happens to women who think the scale is their enemy when they get pregnant. Most women are fine, and realize that gaining weight is just a part of the cycle. But in other cases, the result is “pregorexia,” a rare disorder in which pregnant women starve themselves and over-exercise. This week, Maggie Baumann, the pregorexia survivor pictured here when she was seven months pregnant, wrote on

“Pregnancy was a nine-month battle in which I lived in a dissociated state from my body—horrified by my expanding ‘self’ that protested every ounce of weight I gained…I did not experience the freedom to eat for two; rather, I experienced the restriction of starving for two.”

Surprisingly, pregorexics are not necessarily anorexics who got pregnant. In Baumann’s case, she developed pregorexia during her second pregnancy because she’d gained 33 pounds during her first and was terrified of getting big again. It wasn’t selfishness that drove Baumann to this point. “I just needed her outside of my body to be able to properly care for her,” says Baumann.

Obviously, the outcomes for pregorexics can be devastating. Baumann experienced uterine bleeding and was ordered to bed rest. Her doctor even predicted she would have a miscarriage. Fortunately, despite being nurtured in a very deprived environment (when she gave birth, 5’8” Baumann was a meager 135 lbs), Baumann’s second child survived––but at a cost. Baumann’s daughter had seizures when she was a baby, and in her teen years was diagnosed with ADD—both conditions linked to poor nutrition in the womb.

As heart wrenching as it is to hear that a mother could knowingly starve and malnourish her unborn child, it makes some sense given our culture’s thin obsession. The daily effort to go to the gym, to eat the salad, to get in shape—all to gain it back, plus some, must be a mighty hard thing to let happen. So the next time you see a pregnant family member or friend, rather than shouting, “Oh my god, you’re huge!” maybe tell her how healthy and beautiful her baby is going to be instead. [Mom Logic]