Researchers estimate that as many as one in 20 women suffer from an eating disorder during pregnancy. According to the experts at The Victorian, a premier eating disorder and co-existing substance abuse treatment center for women, that number appears to be increasing as more women emulate Hollywood starlets who are getting pregnant, gaining very little weight, and losing every ounce of "excess" weight within days or weeks of delivery.

"Pregorexia," as the media calls it, is a disorder marked by preoccupation with weight control through extreme dieting and exercise while pregnant. Eating tiny amounts of healthy food and working out excessively, many women with pregorexia actually lose weight during the early months of pregnancy, despite doctor's recommendations that they should gain 25 to 35 pounds over the course of a nine-month pregnancy.

While a moderate amount of exercise during pregnancy can improve an expecting mother's mental and physical health and aid delivery and recovery, doctors suggest that pregnant women avoid starting an exercise program for the purpose of controlling their weight. In addition, doctors strongly advise against strenuous activities such as aerobics and extended workouts, particularly in the last trimester, because of the negative health implications for both mother and baby.

According to Maggie Baumann, MA, a therapist at The Victorian who experienced pregorexia firsthand, overcame it, and went on to help treat hundreds of women struggling with similar disorders, eating disorders aren't simply about looking thin or feeling attractive.

"Although eating disorders can be reinforced by comments about weight from friends and family, the root of the disorder is more often based in control, perfectionism, or using the disorder as a coping mechanism to deal with difficult emotions or experiences," she said.

Like most mothers, women with pregorexia want what's best for their baby, but their eating disorder is so powerful and all-consuming, it controls every area of their lives. Despite their best intentions, they can't do what they need to do without support. For Baumann, who was recently featured on "The Morning Show with Mike and Juliet," her motherly instincts kicked in the moment her children were born.

"As soon as my daughters came out of my body, I immediately switched into the nurturing and loving mom I knew I could be," she said. "I just needed them outside of my body to get there."

Eating disorders can have severe consequences for both mother and child. Research shows pregorexic moms miscarry more often and suffer from irregular heart rhythm, vitamin deficiencies, irregular menstrual cycle, and other health issues. The health risks children of pregorexics may face include neurological problems, smaller head size, lower IQ, birth defects, and impaired functioning later in life.

For many eating disorder sufferers, treatment is the only hope for recovery. In a new environment, away from familiar habits and routines and under the guidance of a supportive team of eating disorder experts, women can begin to surrender control, learn positive ways to handle difficult emotions, and find out what a healthy relationship with food and exercise looks like.

"Learning to surrender control and accept myself was the most important part of treatment for me," Baumann said. "I know I can survive whatever happens to me, without grabbing hold of the eating disorder to pull me through. Now that I'm a therapist, helping women just like me, I finally feel like I'm doing what I'm supposed to be doing."

The Victorian's treatment program helps women with eating disorders forge trusting bonds with other women, overcome feelings of shame and low self-worth, and learn to grocery shop, cook, and exercise healthfully. In a warm, nurturing setting, women suffering from anorexia, bulimia, binge eating, and other forms of disordered eating receive the care they need to build stable, meaningful lives.

Many women who suffer from eating disorders also struggle with the dual diagnosis of substance abuse. In order to achieve lasting recovery, all emotional and psychological issues have to be addressed at the same time, as part of an integrated treatment plan. What makes The Victorian unique is the staff's expertise in effectively treating both eating disorder and substance abuse issues simultaneously, using a "no-resistance" style of treatment.

"Residential treatment can totally turn your life around," advised Baumann. "So many women are afraid to take that step because they never think they're sick enough. But what I discovered is you don't have to be sick enough, you just have to be willing enough."

Author's Bio: 

The Victorian of Newport Beach is part of the family of Sober Living By The Sea treatment centers (one of the largest residential substance abuse treatment programs in the United States), and is a proud member of CRC Health Group, which offers the most comprehensive network of specialized behavioral healthcare services in the nation. With the largest array of personalized treatment options, individuals, families, and professionals can choose the most appropriate setting for their behavioral, addiction, weight management, and therapeutic education needs. CRC Health Group is deeply committed to making its services widely and easily available to those in need, while maintaining a passion for delivering the most advanced treatment available.

For more information about The Victorian of Newport Beach, visit or call (888) 268-9182. For more information about CRC Health Group, visit or call (877) 637-6237.