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Anorexia Nervosa: Signs, Effects and Therapies Essay

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Updated: Jan 12th, 2020


Anorexia nervosa is a nutritional disorder depicted by excessive food constraint, unfounded phobia of weight gain and negative physical self-perception (Brown & Isaacs, 2008). It involves extreme loss of weight and is more prevalent in females than in males. People with this disorder often limit their intake of food resulting in acute hormonal as well as metabolic maladies. Anorexia is particularly life-threatening for pregnant mothers and their unborn children.

This paper looks at the signs of anorexia nervosa, its effects on pregnant mothers and delivery, as well as the nutritional therapies for patients suffering from anorexia. It also recommends healthcare professionals who should be incorporated in the treatment process.

Signs of Anorexia Nervosa

The indications of people suffering from anorexia include constipation, laziness, fatigue, drowsiness, headaches, brittle nails, and dizziness (Abraham, 2008). It is also characterized by osteoporosis, which may bring about fractured bones.

The most frequent causes of death in anorexia include electrolyte and body fluid disproportions, suicide and cardiac arrest. Many cases of anorexia are accompanied by psychiatric and physical disorders such as drug and substance abuse, neurological complications, anxiety, depression, cardiovascular complications, and obsessive behavior.

Anorexia, Pregnancy and Childbirth

Generally, pregnant women possess an inflated sensitivity to variations in the shapes of their bodies. For people suffering from anorexia, the elevation of the sensitivity can result in fatal actions such as starvation or purging (Ross, McMahon & Bernstein 2013). Anorexia poses a risk to the pregnancy since the mother does not consume the required nutrients.

A clear sign or anorexia in expectant mothers is failure to gain 25 to 35 pounds during pregnancy or acute hyperemesis. Most purging pregnant mothers hide their condition by attributing the vomiting to morning sickness.

Dangers of Anorexia to Pregnancy and Delivery

Anorexia causes difficulties during pregnancy and may necessitate delivery through cesarian section, breech delivery and the use of forceps. Nurses in the Labor and Delivery health department should identify the signs of anorexia early enough and should be prepared for any complications.

The mother’s eating disorder impedes the birth weight of the fetus. Anorexia during pregnancy may also lead to an infant with poor health (may show retarded growth and vitamin deficiency). Other dangers posed by anorexia in pregnant women include infant mortality, premature labor, gestational diabetes, stillbirth, respiratory complications, preeclampsia, and miscarriages (Bothamley & Boyle, 2009).

Nutritional Therapies used in Treatment of Anorexia Nervosa

Therapy for pregnant women with anorexia includes the restoration of the patients’ weight, handling the psychological issues linked with anorexia nervosa, getting rid of deliberations or actions that cause the disorder, and prevention of a relapse (Price, 2007). Nutritional supplements can be given to the patient besides a properly supervised diet. To do this effectively, nurses in the Labor and Delivery unit need to incorporate the services of other health professionals in psychotherapy and treatment.

To deal with anorexia in pregnant women, the services of certified mental health care providers are required. Different procedures of group and individual psychotherapy are required to deal with the psychological causes of the disorder. Family members may also be incorporated into the therapy sessions since they contribute partially to the disorder.

Physicians and assistant physicians should be contacted to ascertain the physical implications of the disorder on the mother and the fetus. Due to the essential nutritional demands of pregnancy and childbirth, the services of dietitians are significant as they can recommend alternative sources of nutrition to help the mother gain the required weight.


Though all people with anorexia need treatment, pregnant mothers are the most vulnerable due to the risks posed by such nutritional deficiency on the mother and child. Nurses in the labor and delivery units need to be trained on the proper way of diagnosing and handling anorexia patients to reduce cases of infant mortality. A combination of medical attention and accommodating psychotherapy is the most efficient form of treatment in anorexia nervosa.


Abraham, S. (2008). Eating disorders. New York: Oxford University Press.

Bothamley, J. & Boyle, M. (2009). Medical conditions affecting pregnancy and childbirth. United Kingdom: Radcliffe Publishing.

Brown, J. & Isaacs, J. (2008). Nutrition through the life cycle. Belmont, CA: Cengage Learning.

Price, S. (2007). Mental health in pregnancy and childbirth. USA: Elsevier Health Sciences.

Ross, D., McMahon, K., & Bernstein, M. (2013). Discovering nutrition. Burlington, MA: Jones & Bartlett Publishers.

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