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Can an Eating Disorder Affect Your Fertility?

By: Jo Johnson - Updated: 30 Oct 2019 | comments*Discuss
 
Eating Disorders Fertility Fertility

The consequences of eating disorders are wide and varied with many people believing that once the eating disorder has been overcome, any health problems are alleviated with no long lasting problems when in fact this is not necessarily truer.

Anyone who has suffered from an eating disorder may have put many of their bodily functions and anatomical features at risk from the effects of vitamin and nutrient depletion.

The female cycle is one such area that may be put at risk from an eating disorder and is a common cause for fertility problems in the future.

Why Is Fertility Affected By Eating Disorders?

The most common cause for fertility problems related to eating disorders is because of long periods of depleted nutrition and rapid weight loss which interferes with hormonal balance which has an effect on the menstrual cycle and egg release.

It is also common to suffer from a lack of sex drive and anxiety and depression often related to poor or altered body image meaning the chances of conceiving are reduced even further.

Often these issues are not discovered until the woman seeks advice from a fertility specialist who will try and determine why the woman is having problems conceiving. This usually means carrying out fertility tests to try and find out why the person cannot conceive and whether it is the cycle, the quality of the eggs or the inside of the womb that is the problem.

Often the issue of eating disorders is brought up either by the specialist or the patient if it is thought this might be the problem.

What Happens In The Body Of those With An Eating Disorder?

The effects of eating disorders on fertility are quite varied.It is common to have an irregular menstrual cycle meaning that periods are infrequent and ovulation is altered. Eggs that are released however can be reduced in quality and find the womb an inhospitable environment.

Any egg that does become fertilised however, may find it difficult to embed in the womb lining, or if it does, find it difficult to grow which increase the chancel of miscarriage.It has also been found that polycystic ovary syndrome is more common in those with a history of eating disorders. This is a condition that causes the ovaries to produce many follicles containing many lesser quality eggs.

Compulsive Overeating

It is not just those with the most common forms of eating disorder such as anorexia or bulimia who risk their fertility, as being overweight can have a detrimental effect as well.

Obesity can also affect hormonal levels and alter the menstrual cycle and the time and quality of the eggs released. Those who are overweight are also more likely to suffer from polycystic ovaries and they may be more at risk of miscarriage due to the pressure on the body.

Eating disorders are very complex illnesses with many possible causes being the trigger to the illness. The effects on the body are very serious, sometimes life threatening and one of the other serious side-effects is the chances of becoming infertile.

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@Cara, you really need to get mental health.
Nintendhoe - 30-Oct-19 @ 5:28 PM
I am a 27 year old woman, and the lose of my period and the associated infertility is one of the driving forces behind my eating disorder!I would be absolutely thrilled if I never have another.I don't even like being around children so I certainly shan't be having any!And I have felt like this since the disgusting things (periods) started ruining my life at the age of 12.
Cara - 28-Oct-19 @ 10:18 AM
@Jes - you should be saying something now, especially if you're throwing up blood. You really need to see a doc :(
OllJ - 4-Dec-17 @ 1:39 PM
I’m 20. I’ve been on/off with bulimia since I was 11. It’s been almost 3 months since I’ve had my period. Recently my ed reached it’s worse and I’m not sure what to do about my health. I already know my stomach is internally always sore and I always throw up blood. How long do I wait without my period before I say something?
Jes - 1-Dec-17 @ 10:07 PM
My daughter aged forty-five has lost 70 lbs. In six to eight weeks.She started losing at 200 lbs.She has had constipation issues since her early marriage and even before.She has been in hospital three times this year.Thankfully, she began eating again four days ago.How long until her first bm?She has been using enemas or milk of magnesia or laxatives for years.She is under Mayo Care in MN Sincerely Her mom, Cheryl Venable She also has anxiety and obsessive behavior re elimination.
Susie - 27-Nov-16 @ 12:10 PM
Tened - Your Question:
Hello, I am 16 5'8 and 100 lbs. I lost my period just over five months ago amd was wondering if this will affect my fertility in the future? I have been Anorexic with occasional bulimic tendencies for over a year now. I lost 65 lbs in roughly 7-8 months at first but have been maintaining for the past few months as I am attempting recovery. Even though I am eating much more my period has not returned, does it have to do more with my BMI and body fat percentage than nutrition?

Our Response:
It can be anything from a few months to a few years before you get your period back, even if your BMi is in the normal range. Each person is different, but you may wish to discuss this with your GP next time you attend.
EatingDisorderExpert - 16-May-16 @ 2:37 PM
Hello, I am 16 5'8 and 100 lbs. I lost my period just over five months ago amd was wondering if this will affect my fertility in the future? I have been Anorexic with occasional bulimic tendencies for over a year now. I lost 65 lbs in roughly 7-8 months at first but have been maintaining for the past few months as I am attempting recovery. Even though I am eating much more my period has not returned, does it have to do more with my BMI and body fat percentage than nutrition?
Tened - 16-May-16 @ 5:58 AM
I'm 16 and I'm 5'1 I weigh 113, Back in August I weight 145. I've suffered from an eating disorder since I was 13 it's a back and forth thing I fall back then come up! It's very stressing. I was wondering if it's causing me to have stomach and bowl movements problem?
Bp - 2-Jan-16 @ 3:03 AM
@Dre - obviously combining all three is not good for your health at all, not just in the area of fertility. If you haven't already, you should either speak to a parent or to see your GP and they will be able to make a diagnosis and talk to you about possible treatment options. Also, I have included a link to B-eat herewhichprovides helplines for adults and young people offering support and information about eating disorders and difficulties with food, weight and shape. I hope this helps, as you will need to speak to someone asap about this.
EatingDisorderExpert - 13-May-15 @ 10:17 AM
I have bulimia, anorexia, and binge eating disorder. I'm 15 years old, and 5'2 and weigh 103 pounds. How will all three of my eating disorders affect my period? I also have anxiety and depression. And I'm anemic. What happens to me when I have all three of the eating disorders? There is no information for people that have all 3 eating disorders.::
Dre - 11-May-15 @ 1:21 AM
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