The Intricacies and Complexities of Pregnancy and ED Recovery

The Intricacies and Complexities of Pregnancy and ED Recovery

Written By Jena Morrow Margis, CADC, Alumnae Coordinator, Timberline Knolls

Today countless women throughout the world who previously struggled with an eating disorder are living successful and bountiful lives. Although their individual stories are different, each has learned to navigate the various challenges inherent to recovery. And then, whether by design or sheer happenstance, a pregnancy enters the picture.

Most women in recovery are no different than many other expectant mothers in terms of how delighted they are by a positive pregnancy test, how very much they want a child to love. Nevertheless, pregnancy for a woman in eating disorder recovery can prove exceedingly difficult due to a variety of factors. For a woman who used to view food and the commensurate weight gain as the “enemy,” the constant and necessary consumption can be stressful.

Typically women in recovery move into a state of healthy acceptance with their bodies. No longer do they strive to make their physical being something it was never meant to be—they have achieved peace. Now, that familiar body is morphing into something utterly foreign. The fact that the body is doing exactly what it is supposed to do—grow another human being—is not the issue. The figure and shape that she has grown comfortable with is no longer there.

Add these two factors to a bubbling cauldron of pregnancy hormones that create a whole new normal and it is no wonder a woman even solid in recovery might experience all kinds of fears or emotions.

So if you are this woman, what are you to do?

Perhaps more than ever, honesty must be the coin of the realm. Be truthful with yourself about your thoughts and feelings as well as with those who love and support you. If your expanding breasts or waistline upset you, that is okay; you are allowed to feel that way.

Most important, honesty is imperative with your prenatal provider, midwife, or whoever you are entrusting with your care. Tell your team about your history with food or body image.  If the numbers on a scale are triggering to you, ask to be weighed backwards.

If your team seems unresponsive or unsympathetic to your unique needs, consider going elsewhere. You and your baby need understanding professionals who respect your position and are willing to work with you. Which is why you may want to consult a nutritionist, preferably one with eating disorder expertise, throughout your pregnancy. Individual counseling or support groups can also prove beneficial to reduce the fear surrounding food and weight gain.

Be judicious with social media and social interaction. This might not be the best time to spend countless hours on Facebook, Instagram, or other outlets where women post filtered or altered photos of themselves and their bodies. If viewing these images generates negative thoughts about yourself, your changing body, or cause you to feel “less than,” make a healthy pledge to yourself to limit this time. Instead, pick up a book and read to your growing baby.

The same holds true with chat groups where future mothers either complain or boast about how little weight they have gained. Neither of these topics are beneficial.

In daily life, keep in mind that most people know very little about eating disorders, including recovery from them. If someone at the grocery store comments on your weight or size, try to extend the same grace to them that you are hopefully extending to yourself. Frivolous comments are just that—they are spoken from a place of unawareness, not a malicious desire to hurt you.

Remember that pregnancy is not only a process, but it is temporary. As such, be mindful, endeavor to live in the moment. Try not to project into the months and years ahead, obsessing about work, family finances, preschool. These are topics for the future.

Instead, when you are sitting quietly and your child is saying hello by relentlessly kicking you from within, try to capture that moment in your heart. Not only is this form of communication a priceless gift, but a fleeting one, so try to cherish it every day.


For pregnant women and moms struggling with eating disorders, Timberline Knolls is pleased to offer Lift the Shame—a free monthly, one-hour telephonic support group facilitated by Jena Morrow Margis—on Friday, December 21, 2018, 3- 4 p.m. EST, and every third Friday of the month thereafter.

Participants have the opportunity to express their feelings and share concerns about body image and eating behaviors. Women are invited to share personal successes and challenges, beliefs, fears, and anxious feelings about pregnancy or being a mom during a time when they might be struggling with an eating disorder, disordered eating, or unhealthy thoughts and emotions.

All are welcomed to join; participation is not required. Simply listening to and learning from others often helps alleviate guilt and shame, reduces stigma, and eradicates the feeling of being alone.

Contact for more information or to register.