Getting Pregnant after an Eating Disorder
A brief history:
When I was 12, I was bullied at school by this one girl that turned my world upside down. I decided to go on a restricted diet and exercise like crazy. My day consisted of a couple spoonfuls of breakfast, an apple for lunch and a couple spoonfuls of dinner or a protein bar alongside 2-4 hours of sport and exercise.
Needless to say, I lost a lot of weight. Weighing as low as 37-38 kg.
From then until the age of 24 I yo-yo‘d about 3 times between this weight and 54kg mirroring the times in my life I felt most comfortable and happy. I didn’t eat when I felt controlled by others or the expectations of others and I ate when I was in control of my decisions and happy in my environment.
In those years, I had never really thought of having kids. I had gotten my period during a happy time in my life when I was 16 however went on the pill shortly after. For those who don’t know, the pill mimics the hormone levels in the body to create a lining and shed a lining without letting you 1.do it naturally or 2.ovulate. The pill alone can cause many fertility issues in the long term and may make getting a natural period back extremely hard. I was on the pill for 4 years before deciding to come off it when I was at a very low body weight. My period never came back.
Years went on, however I wasn’t that fussed. The doctors would tell me, it will come back in time and that it wasn’t important unless I wanted to have kids.
My pole career kicked off and it was great not having to worry about having a period during comps or travel. I thought that one day it would just magically appear, but year after year, it never showed. I started to get a little more concerned knowing that a period is a vital sign of health in the body and that an absence of may be a sign of something more severe.
As I began to study herbal medicine, I started to become increasingly aware of how important it is to get it back regardless of wanting to having kids. I did heaps of research and got heaps of tests to see what was going on. MRI, ultrasounds and blood tests later, the doctors continued to tell me everything was normal and it will just simply come back.
After dead end after dead end, I discovered what was known as hypothalamic Amenorrhoea which is an absence of a menstrual cycle for over 3-6 months due to a cocktail known as the female athlete triad (excessive exercise, low body weight/food intake and missing period).
It is the body’s survival mode to show you that you are not in a safe environment to harvest a baby. Your body thinks that there is a famine and that you are running away from a predator. That is definitely not a safe environment to also grow a human.
From then on I decided to change things drastically. I decided to slow down. I started seeing a Chinese medicine doctor to help get things back on track. We worked with herbal tea mixtures, acupuncture and cupping as well as teaching me to become more of a nurturer rather than an over achiever. She helped me to understand that I didn’t need to be doing something all the time or even every day.
I had to work so hard to retrain my brain into a new way of life. A life that didn’t involve counting calories, food restrictions, daily exercise, hours of training. Of course I felt a huge amount of anxiety and stress watching my body grow and my strength decline. I felt that everything that I had worked towards was so quickly being flushed down the drain.
After the arrival of my niece and meeting Jake, I started to feel like this was something I wanted for myself. The thought had definitely crossed my mind that I may not ever be able to have kids and before, that wouldn’t have bothered me but now, I was starting to realize how beautiful creating life is and how much love I have to give for a little human. Watching my niece grow up brings me to tears (happy) nearly every time.
As time went on and still not change, I started to become even more on a mission. I decided to go ‘all in’ no matter what the consequence. This is a term used in the book ‘No period, now what” which entails eating 2500+ calories a day and limiting exercise to gentle activities like walking and yoga. Although I was still teaching pole classes twice a week, I definitely did the rest! I had to unlearn all of my disordered eating habits (like no butter, limited carbs, no white potatoes etc) and retrain my brain to allow all food to be accessible. A book that helped me with this is called ‘Just eat it’. It’s a book that helps you realise how silly those eating disordered rules were and that there is no harm in eating what you want.
Naturally I knew I wasn’t going to now just go to the junk food isle and stock up, but I now didn’t have a restriction on that isle and I could have it and will have it when I feel like it.
Along with readings, I also listened to period podcasts daily learning about how it is the fifth vital sign and how to track changes monthly etc. I learnt so much about the menstrual cycle than ever before. I had engulfed my self in this process and had my eye on the goal!
My favorite podcast was ‘fertility friday’ which I recommend for all women!
As I started to gain more weight, I started to realize small changes in my body. I no longer felt incredibly freezing all the time. I also finally understood what full felt like and when I had had enough. Things I only knew once my body was fully replenished!
A few months later and a few kg’s later, I got my period back. Woohoo! It was such a relief to know all my hard work had paid off. I knew it took 3 consecutive periods to know that everything I working again but I knew that 1 was better than anything!
A month later, no period came. I was a little disheartened but I didn’t give up as I had learnt that each month, you alternate ovaries so maybe this ovary was just not up for it yet. Surely enough, a month later,
I got my second period. This confirmed one was working! Now for the other.
Next month, I got my period. YAY! Now I had two functioning ovaries! This was such a blessing and I knew I had done the right thing. I still didn’t know if I would be able to create a baby but at least I knew I now had a better chance than before.
Jake and I had spoken about kids but never really new when or if it could happen. A month after my 4th period, I knew something felt different. I felt my usually PMS symptoms but with added extras. On the day I was due, I took a test. I didn’t want to wait until I had missed it as I knew I felt different. The two lines showed up and I couldn’t believe it. I couldn’t believe it for weeks until I had a scan to see it. It all seemed too surreal to be real. Seeing the little one on the my 12 week scan brought me to tears. I laughed and cried in joy seeing that there was actually a baby in there.
Now currently 17 weeks pregnant, I still have moments wondering if it’s still true or if I’m in a dream. It’s a miracle and another dream come true!