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Sumati Gupta, PhD

Dr. Gupta is a licensed psychologist and professor at Barnard College, Columbia University. She specializes in the treatment of anxiety and eating/weight issues at Tribeca Psychology in NYC

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Does binge eating during pregnancy affect the baby?

For many women, pregnancy triggers increased stress related to eating –Am I gaining too much weight? Am I gaining enough weight? Am I eating the right foods? The range of worries around eating and weight may seem endless. A new research study released online this week sought to answer questions around how binge eating actually affects both the baby's and mother’s physical health.

The study, to be published in the International Journal of Eating Disorders, followed hundreds of Brazilian women during and after pregnancy. The researchers asked women about their eating behaviors, but only after the first trimester given the confounding effects of vomiting and food cravings that often occur in the first 16 weeks of pregnancy.

The researchers found no significant relationship between binge eating behaviors and any outcomes on the baby (premature birth, C-section delivery, size of baby). In other words, binge eating during pregnancy wasn’t related to the baby’s health at birth.

Women who reported binge eating while pregnant did, as expected, gain more weight.

Does this mean pregnant mothers can binge eat without worrying about the effect on the baby? Not quite. A large 2009 study found that women who reported more significant binge eating tended to give birth to larger babies and require a C-section.

It looks like the degree to which a pregnant mother binge eats is an important qualification here. Simply overeating from time to time may not be cause for alarm. But feeling a loss of control while eating an abnormally large amount of food, and doing so at least weekly, may lead to negative effects on the baby. 


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Dr. Gupta is a professor at Barnard College of Columbia University and provides individual therapy at Tribeca Psychology

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