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Transition to motherhood in women with eating disorders: A qualitative study

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Original languageEnglish
JournalPsychology and Psychotherapy: Theory, Research and Practice
E-pub ahead of print23 Oct 2015


King's Authors


OBJECTIVES: The aim of this study was to examine in depth the individual experience of transition from pregnancy to motherhood, among women with current eating disorders (EDs), focusing on differences between the first and subsequent pregnancies.

DESIGN AND METHODS: We analysed the narratives of 12 women with severe ED during pregnancy using interpretative phenomenological analysis. We employed a sequential structure, and the emerging themes were ordered according to consecutive pregnancy stages.

RESULTS: Our results indicate that experiences of pregnancy vary across pregnancy stages and in the first pregnancy compared to subsequent pregnancies. In particular, during their first pregnancy women with an ED seem to experience an inner conflict and questioned the continuity of their ED identity leading them to be more open to change.

CONCLUSIONS: The first pregnancy, during its early stages, should be considered a potentially unique window for intervention for women with current ED.

PRACTITIONER POINTS: Eating disorders (EDs) are known to seriously affect fertility, pregnancy, and pregnancy outcomes. Our research sheds a light on experiences of pregnancy in women with ED and ultimately helps to define a window for intervention. Our findings have important implications in understanding mechanisms of relapse in the post-partum period and consequently could help in tailoring an adequate intervention for women with ED and in preventing ED relapse.

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