Pregnant … and anorexic. Will her baby survive?

Daily agony of a pregnant anorexic
Image credit: Holly's very small baby bump on her blog
 

This is Holly Griffiths. She's pregnant, and anorexic.

She's already given birth to one healthy child – a son named Dylan who is now two. But her battle continues during her second pregnancy.

This brave mum has been sharing her struggle since her first pregnancy and despite the criticism she's faced, she's inspired by other women struggling with eating disorders during pregnancy and has decided to continue telling her story.

Holly is 1.7 metres tall, 50 kilos and survives on 800-1200 calories a day, much lower than the 2000 required during pregnancy.

She wants there to be more knowledge about pregnancy and eating disorders as well as more understanding and less judgement from the medical community so women like her can get help.

"Anoxeria has ravaged my body. I've been suffering and battling this for 13, almost 14 years now, over half my life now, I'm only 21," Holly says in this recent YouTube video.

"I've stunted my growth, which causes problems during pregnancy, I developed a heart condition, which causes problems during pregnancy, I have developed osteoperosis and arthritis which causes problems during pregnancy."

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"So even though I didn't become infertile which you know people have questioned whether or not I was actually anorexic because I managed to conceive."

Holly with her two-year-old son Dylan.
Image credit: Holly with son Dylan
 

One in 14 women has an eating disorder in the first three months of their pregnancy, according to a study funded by the National Institute for Health Research in Britian.

More than 700 pregnant women were surveyed by University College London (UCL) and the results showed that a quarter were 'highly concerned about their weight and shape'. Two per cent admitted they'd fasted, exercised excessively, induced vomiting, misused laxitive or diuretics in order to avoid gaining weight during pregnancy.

It also found one in 12 pregnant women would overeat and lose control over what they ate at least twice a week.

Dr Nadia Micali, from the UCL Institute of Child Health, led the study. He told the Huffington Post, "There is good evidence from our research that eating disorders in pregnancy can affect both the mother and the developing baby.

"Greater awareness of eating disorders and their symptoms amongst antenatal health care professionals would help to better identify and manage such disorders amongst pregnant women."

There are calls for women to be screened for eating disorders at their first antenatal check-up.

Holly hopes pregnant women with eating disorders can seek the help they need without the guilt and judgement she's experienced. She says, "It's very difficult to ask for help because you're judged. It's just a vicious cycle that just continues during pregnancy. It's the guilt"

"You're locked in this battle the whole time, for nine and a half months."

During her first pregnancy Holly was induced at 37 weeks and 4 days due to the strain on her body. In her photos and videos you can see that her bump doesn't grow at all but she explain that her baby (Dylan) was still growing and compressing her organs as well as cracking her ribs. She suffered from heart problems and regularly passed out. Doctors thought her pelvis would fracture but thankfully it didn't.

Now in her second pregancy Holly is experiencing the effects of her eating disorder on her pregnant body sooner with joint pain and ligament pain. She's being monitored by a team of doctors to make sure the pregnancy progresses as normally as possible, however she says the anorexic and bulimic 'voices' in her head are louder than ever.

She says, "Pregnancy is when you nourish your body and you nourish your baby and if you don't, you're a bad mum."

"It would be so easy for me to binge and I wouldn't have to purge and feel guilty because I have morning sickness."

Dr Abigail Easter who is also from the UCL Institute of Child Health told the Huffington Post, "Women with eating disorders are often reluctant to disclose their illness to healthcare professionals, possibly due to a fear of stigma or fear that health services might respond in a negative way.

Holly says, "I understand why they say people with eating disorders shouldn't get pregnant and don't get pregnant. I never wished that I'm not pregnant."

"I'd never wish that I didn't have him, but I wish I was better, I wish I was healthy doing this."

You can follow her heartbreaking journey on YouTube and on her blog, Two Little Dickie Birds.

"Anorexia and pregnancy – the two they don't go together, not at all, Holly says. "But I do think that, there needs to be more support, and there needs to be more knowledge out there about the psychological problems that can flare up because there's not. ANd if ther's not and there's no one you can talk to, and there's no one you can talk to you, you can't get help."

"I think pregnancy is the one time for me ever that I've ever wanted to get help, that I've ever cared about myself and my body enough to say, 'I need help now'. When you're pregnant you need help."

Take the time to listen to her explain her condition in her YouTube video.

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