Parents with Eating Disorders

Reprinted from Eating Disorders Review
September/October 2007 Volume 18, Number 5
©2007 Gürze Books

When a parent has an eating disorder, the risk is increased for their child, according to Nadia Micali, clinical lecturer at the Institute of Psychiatry, London. In Dr. Micali’s study of 40,000 mothers, 450 women had anorexia nervosa (AN) or bulimia nervosa (BN). The mothers with AN were significantly more likely to report that their infants had feeding problems in the first month of life than were other mothers. Perceived problems included slow feeding and fussiness after eating. In contrast, women with BN reported comparable rates of infant feeding problems as did controls, and were more likely to breastfeed their infants than were controls or women with AN. Dr. Micali, who presented her data at the International Conference on Eating Disorders in Baltimore, noted that mothers with eating disorders often have complications during labor and delivery and these complications themselves are a risk for eating disorders in their children; environmental factors can then have an impact on this cycle. Dr. Micali also noted that pregnancy may offer a window of opportunity for clinicians to discuss these risks with mothers-to-be who have eating disorders, and may provide a chance to try to break the cycle of mothers and daughters with eating disorders.

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