Anorexia: a reality check on fertility and osteoporosis


motherchild400px-Bratislava Ruzinov nemocnica interier MaterstvoSevere anorexia can seriously limit a woman’s ability to conceive. It also erodes bones.

A girl or woman suffering from anorexia is terrified of having fat on her body. Despite pain, hunger, dizziness and weakness she starves herself daily.  If this is you please know this.  Your biology of your body is part of nature. You were born human and you have no choice about your species or what your body needs to survive.  Starving your body removes fat.  That's been your goal. 

But, starving your body stops menstruation.  Your body needs fat to function properly.  When the fat content of your body goes below what your body requires, hormone production slows or stops.  Your body will not produce a level of hormone distribution required to stimulate ovulation.  For some women, weight gain and achieving a healthy weight will restore menstruation and the ability to have children.

But, depending on your unique body situation and the length of time you were not menstruating and the severity of your anorexia, there is no guarantee that your fertiity will be unaffected.  In other words, years after recovery, when you and have been at a normal weight for some time, you may be unable to have children.

Another consideration is your bones. Your ability to hold yourself erect, walk, jump, run, dance is based on the quaity of your bones.

Bones weaken as a result of starvation.
Many young women with eating disorders develop osteoporosis.

Osteoporosis doesn't hurt, and doesn't show. Some anorexic women who are only 17 years old have lacy bones comparable to a very old and fragile woman. These are the bones that will break if you bump into a piece of furniture or jolt your structure with a mild jump or hop.  In severe osteoporosis bones will break from simply walking because the bones are no longer strong enough to carry your body.

That said, stating health risks will not scare you into recovery. But they might scare you into treatment! I hope so.

From my personal experience with bulimia decades ago and from my experience as psychotherapist dedicated to eating disorder recovery, I see a pattern. 

It seems that girls and women need to notice that the eating disorder eventually causes more pain than they can bear before they are willing to risk giving it up.

This requires a desperate kind of courage because they genuinely face the unknown in the therapy work.
It can be almost impossible for you to imagine a life without your eating disorder. Yet, a glimmer of the freedom that might be possible if you were genuinely free of the behavior, the thoughts, the anxiety, the planning and strategizing, the need for the cover up lies can you put on the recovery road.

  1. Have you looked at the damage you are causing to your body and your future?
  2. Would you like to live a more free life?
  3. Would you like to experience days where you think of far more interesting things than fat on your body?
  4. Would you like to enjoy life today and look forward to a healthy and satisfying ife in the future?
  5. Would you like to have children?  Would you like to be able to pick them up and dance with them because your bones can handle the weight of you both?

* sculpture by Peter Zelizňák

Links to more information:

Anorexia may inhibit fertility
Research Into Eating Disorders and Fertility Reveals Mixed Picture
Physical effects of anorexia

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