Postnatal depression, eating, exercise, and vomiting before and during pregnancy

Suzanne Abraham*, Alan Taylor, Janet Conti

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    46 Citations (Scopus)


    Objective: To examine the postnatal distress and the eating, exercise, and weight losing behavior of women before and during pregnancy. Method: The subjects were healthy women who had given birth to a singleton healthy baby in the week before the study. They were drawn from two consecutive series of mothers of babies whose birth weights were either ≤2,500 g or >2,500 g. A total of 181 women were interviewed using a standardized interview modified for pregnancy and related behaviors. They also completed the Edinburgh Postnatal Distress Questionnaire. Results: Regression analysis produced a final model containing variables that made a unique contribution to predicting the level of distress of women in the week following childbirth. The model accounted for 25% of the variance and included four variables that were associated with greater distress: fear of weight gain before and during pregnancy, being distracted by thoughts of food during pregnancy, being afraid of gaining more weight than the pregnancy would explain, and vomiting more frequently during the first 3-4 months of pregnancy. A fifth variable accounted for less distress, that is, participating in low-intensity exercise for reasons of shape and weight during months 3-4 of pregnancy. Other variables associated with distress only in the preliminary analysis were maternal age, binge eating, and vomiting before pregnancy. The most distressed mothers were suffering from an eating disorder at the time of pregnancy. The binge and/or purge type of eating disorder was associated with more distress than a food restriction type. Discussion: Postnatal distress is associated with body weight and shape concerns, with disordered eating before and during pregnancy, and with vomiting during pregnancy. The protective role of low-intensity exercise during early pregnancy needs to be explored. Women with eating disorders should be considered at risk for postnatal problems.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)482-487
    Number of pages6
    JournalInternational Journal of Eating Disorders
    Issue number4
    Publication statusPublished - 2001


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