Anorexia is not a disease that many associate with pregnancy. However, for many women, their eating disorder does not go away during pregnancy, and may even start as a result of pregnancy weight gain. Maggie Baumann discusses her life with “Pregorexia” and the toll it had on not only her body, but the body of her unborn child.
Maggie has been open and candid about her experience with Pregorexia and the stigma attached with seeking help. Baumann tells EmpowHer that her battle with anorexia began after her first pregnancy, as she struggled to lose the extra pounds put on by pregnancy. She notes that she gained normal weight during her first pregnancy, but quickly wanted her body back to pre-pregnancy shape. Therefore, she began working out vigorously and was doing sit ups just seven days after having a c-section, which was strongly discouraged by doctors.
Baumann says she had her normal athletic body back just three weeks after giving birth to her first daughter, but as a result of the extreme dieting and exercise, she had a new battle to deal with: anorexia. When Maggie became pregnant with her second child, the anorexia did not go away. In fact, it intensified.
Maggie says that she continued her same extreme workout regime and diet. As a result, at 11-weeks of pregnancy, Beaumann almost lost her daughter to a miscarriage. She was told to place herself on restrictive activities, not to work out or do anything extremely demanding. However, Maggie ignored the advice after her bleeding ceased. At seven months of pregnancy, Maggie was again warned that things weren’t quite right with her daughter. The doctor diagnosed her with intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR), which meant the baby was not growing at a sufficient rate and may not be getting enough nutrients. Again, Maggie would ignore doctor’s advice.
“And [the doctor] said you have to stop exercising and you have to eat more. And I heard that, and of course I went home, never told my husband, nothing. He had no idea.”
Baumann says that she would pretend she wasn’t pregnant and made no acknowledgement that what she was doing may be hurting her unborn child. In fact, she said she received numerous compliments from people about her lack of weight gain during her pregnancy. Therefore, she says she felt successful and determined to keep the weight off. Maggie says she was happy when two nurses wheeling her into surgery for her c-section commented on her figure, noting how tiny she was even throughout pregnancy. Maggie says this gave her a sense of accomplishment. However, all that would change when her newborn daughter, Whitney, was just four months old.
Maggie says that Whitney began having violent seizures, up to 20 times per day, when she was just four months old. When she took the newborn to the doctor, she was given a pamphlet on epilepsy. This would be the first time that Maggie realized the damaging effects of her Pregorexia on her daughter. The pamphlet noted that lack of nutrients while in the womb could cause seizures. Maggie knew she was the cause of her daughter’s issues.
Fortunately, Whitney’s seizures stopped as she grew older and received proper nutrition outside of the womb. Despite her daughter’s issues from her own battles with anorexia, Maggie would continue to battle the disease for 10 more years.
Eventually, Maggie would land in the emergency room for heart problems related to her anorexia and would subsequently seek help from a resident treatment facility for those with eating disorders. Now Maggie spends her time helping others battle their eating disorders. As a Certified Eating Disorder Specialist (CEDS), credentialed by the International Association of Eating Disorders Professionals (IAEDP), Maggie helps other women face their diseases, including Pregorexia, head-on with compassion and real-world experience.
Did you know that Pregorexia was a real disease with many women battling body image issues while pregnant?