Anorexia and Infertility – Are the two connected?

Anorexia and Infertility – Overview

Eating disorders like anorexia can affect your fertility negatively. Fertility problems can develop during the onset of such a disorder or may even arise years after remission.

Studies have shown that women who suffer from anorexia for longer durations of time are twice as at risk of developing fertility problems as compared to the general population.

Research indicates a significant link between eating disorders such as anorexia and increased risk of fertility issues.

What is Anorexia

Anorexia nervosa is a disorder where a person does not allow themselves to eat normally. This habit severely restricts the calorie intake of their body and results in abnormally low weight.

BMI is one of several factors used to assess the severity of anorexia nervosa, alongside psychological and behavioral symptoms.

The DSM-5 does not specify exact BMI thresholds for classifying the severity of anorexia nervosa; it uses a range of criteria, including BMI, but the severity is primarily assessed based on the overall clinical condition.

Some patients suffering from anorexia nervosa can maintain an excessively low-calorie diet, while others may resort to binge eating episodes.

These episodes are usually followed by self-induced vomiting, taking laxatives or engaging in excessive exercise.

How Does Anorexia Affect the Reproductive System

Mental and physical health problems usually accompany anorexia and similar eating disorders. Health problems caused by eating disorders can prove deadly if medical help is not sought in time.

For instance, patients suffering from anorexia may experience serious cardiac issues. Anorexia is thought to be one of the most dangerous psychiatric disorders.

Anorexia tends to affect your body by:

  • Depleting fat stores
  • Lowering protein stores
  • Decreasing vitamin and mineral stores

People suffering from anorexia and other eating disorders can be identified by:

  • Risk of thyroid imbalance (low thyroid)
  • Decreased BMI

Relation Between Body Fat and Hormones

Maintaining hormonal balance in the body requires healthy fat stores. Body fat is essential for healthy living. Fat cells are vital for the production and synthesis of hormones.

For instance, excessively lower fat deposits prevent the production of estrogen, which is required for the normal functioning of your reproductive system. Fat cells are also important to maintaining testosterone levels in the body.

While low body fat can affect testosterone levels and fertility, the relationship between body fat and testosterone is complex and influenced by various factors.

Relation between Nutrition and Hormones

Anorexia nervosa often results in significantly low body weight, but amenorrhea (absence of menstruation) can occur in individuals with eating disorders, even if they are not underweight, due to the effects of malnutrition on the body.

Although the direct connection between nutrition and hormone development is not yet understood completely, studies have shown the connection between a person’s quality of diet and the risk of developing fertility problems. This is true for men and women alike.

People suffering from eating disorders like anorexia are more likely to have a diet that lacks the basic nutritional requirements.

If a person is forcibly expelling the food through self-induced vomiting or laxatives, their bodies are unable to absorb essential nutrients from the food they eat.

The human body needs various minerals, vitamins, and proteins, along with proper hydration, to function normally. So, when your body does not receive essential nutrients, your body is unable to produce sufficient levels of hormones, which in turn affects your fertility.

What are the long-term effects of Anorexia on Fertility

Evidence suggests that anorexia and other eating disorders can adversely affect fertility through mechanisms such as hormonal imbalances and changes in reproductive function.

Some researchers have discovered that people with eating disorders are more likely to face problems when conceiving, as compared to the general population. Some studies have also shown that such people may take longer to get pregnant.

Malnutrition and nutritional deficiencies, common in eating disorders like anorexia, are well-documented to impact fertility and reproductive health. The severity of an eating disorder indeed affects bodily functions, including reproductive health, with more severe cases potentially leading to more profound impacts.

For instance, people suffering from severe anorexia can suffer from damage to the bones, heart and reproductive system.

The best option in such situations is to consult an experienced and well-trained gynecologist. You should be honest about your history with the eating disorder so that they can perform basic fertility testing to get a baseline on potential problems.

How Does Anorexia Impact Pregnancy and Childbirth

Eating disorders like anorexia can affect pregnancy and childbirth. Women with active eating disorders during pregnancy face increased risks to both their own health and the health of their fetus.

A history of eating disorders can also put the mental health of the mother at risk.

Some health risks associated with anorexia for the child during pregnancy include:

  • Higher risk of miscarriage
  • Higher risk of pre-term delivery
  • Higher risk of low birth weight of the baby

Some of the health risks associated with anorexia for the mother during pregnancy include:

  • Dehydration
  • Malnutrition
  • Heart problems
  • Partum or post-partum depression


It is strongly recommended to seek help during pregnancy if you suffer or are suffering from an eating disorder like anorexia.

Talking to a counselor or nutritionist can also help you to make better choices for yourself and your baby. This is also a great way to handle the stress of pregnancy and childbirth.

See Also

IVF Due Date Calculator

IVF Pregnancy Calculator

How to Become an IVF Nurse

IVF Cost in Texas

Blue Cross Blue Shield IVF Coverage

Follow us