15 Facts About Eating Disorders

Helpful Advice From Kristin Fabbri, MA, LMHC

Kristin Fabbri, MA, LMHC, is a licensed psychotherapist specializing in the field of eating disorders and infertility at the Domar Center for Mind/Body Health.

Kristin Fabbri♦ It is estimated that as many as 1 in 5 patients at an infertility clinic is there as the result of an eating disorder.

♦ An ongoing eating disorder can reduce efficacy of infertility treatments due to: reduced egg quality, poor uterine environment and miscarriage risks

♦ As many as 5-15% of women treated for infertility have a history of eating disorder symptoms.

♦ Being overweight as well as underweight can lead to ovulatory dysfunction and fertility complications.

♦ Fertility can be affected by excessive exercise, poor nutrition, and endocrine changes caused by low body weight.

♦ There are three main types of eating disorders: anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge eating disorder.  All three can have deleterious effects on fertility.

♦ Too much or too little body fat can lead to menstrual irregularities or a complete cessation of menses, making conception impossible

♦ Men account for about 1/3 of infertility cases – and about 10% of those struggling with eating disorders are men.

♦ Men who struggle with eating disorders may be struggling with infertility due to decreased libido, loss of bone/muscle mass, and low body weight which leads to a significant reduction in sperm production.

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♦ A study in Obstetric and Gynecology found that women who exercised 4 or more hours per week for 1-9 years before IVF treatment were 40 percent less likely to give birth after their first treatment compared with those who hadn’t gotten that much exercise.

♦ Due to the physician and psychological nature of eating disorders, people with anorexia, bulimia and binge eating disorder are more likely to suffer from stress, anxiety and depression.

♦ In addition to the physical strain of an eating disorder, stress, anxiety, depression can also make conception, fertilization of an egg, implantation and carrying a pregnancy to term very difficult and, in some cases, impossible.

♦ The good news is that successful treatment and management of an eating disorder can lead to a high rate of conception: as many as 75 to 80% of women will conceive after eating disorder recovery.

♦ A key to a successful fertility journey means being open and honest with your physician about your eating and exercise habits.  Seeing a skilled counselor who can help you deal with the eating disorder will increase your chances of conceiving and carrying a healthy baby to term.

♦ Women need to be aware of the female athlete triad, which consists of three related conditions that can lead to infertility: an eating disorder, amenorrhea (no menstrual periods) and osteoporosis.  Too much exercise and poor nutrition can lead to the female athlete triad, something for female athletes to be cautious of.