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Anorexia Linked With Unplanned Pregnancies

Patients may mistakenly assume they can't conceive, researchers say

WEDNESDAY, Nov. 3, 2010 (HealthDay News) -- Women with anorexia nervosa are much more likely to have unplanned pregnancies and abortions than women without the eating disorder, a study of Norwegian women has found.

This may be due to the mistaken belief that women with anorexia can't get pregnant because they have irregular menstrual periods or no periods at all, said study lead author Cynthia M. Bulik, director of the eating disorders program at the University of North Carolina (UNC).

"Anorexia is not a good contraceptive. Just because you're not menstruating, or because you're menstruating irregularly, doesn't mean you're not at risk for becoming pregnant," she said in a UNC news release.

Bulik and colleagues analyzed data on 62,060 women included in the Norwegian Mother and Child Cohort Study and identified 62 who reported having anorexia nervosa. Unplanned pregnancies were reported by 50 percent of women with anorexia and 18.9 percent of other women.

The study also found that 24.2 percent of women with anorexia said they had a prior abortion, compared with 14.6 percent of other women.

The findings are published in the November issue of the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology.

Physicians and other health care providers "need to make sure that they have the conversation about sexuality and contraception as clearly with patients with anorexia as they do with all other girls and women," Bulik said.

More information

The American Academy of Family Physicians has more about anorexia nervosa.

SOURCE: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, news release, Oct. 29, 2010
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