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New animation enhances support for women with eating disorders during pregnancy

Posted on 26/02/2018

Researchers at King’s College London are translating research on eating disorders during pregnancy and motherhood into practical training resources, helping healthcare professionals provide the best care for pregnant women and mothers. Launching today at the start of Eating Disorders Awareness Week 2018, the resources include an animation co-designed by the research team, women with lived experience, healthcare professionals and key organisations.

Currently there are very limited resources available for healthcare professionals, despite previous research finding that approximately 7.5% of women may be suffering from an eating disorder during pregnancy. The animation aims to raise awareness that eating disorders are serious mental illnesses that can impact on pregnancy and beyond, and highlights the importance of a trusting relationship between women suffering from eating disorders and healthcare professionals.

‘Women with eating disorders are often reluctant to disclose their illness to healthcare professionals, possibly due to a fear of stigma, and healthcare professionals may be unsure about how to identify women with eating disorders or what support they need,’ says Dr Abigail Easter, Senior Postdoctoral Fellow in Improvement Science at King’s College London’s Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience (IoPPN).

Recent guidance from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE, 2017) has recommendations for enhanced monitoring and support for women with eating disorders before, during and after pregnancy. However, barriers can exist which prevent healthcare professionals from implementing current NICE guidelines in practice.

Melita Walker, Mental Health Lead at the Institute of Health Visiting says ‘Having these resources available will help fill the current gap, enabling healthcare professionals to be more aware of eating disorders and understand how to work in partnership with mothers to ensure they get the right help at the right time.’

Caroline Price, Director of Services at the charity Beat, says ‘pregnancy is often a difficult time for someone suffering with an eating disorder. However, being pregnant also provides an opportunity for a positive impact on recovery, so it is vital that both women and their midwives are aware of the signs and symptoms of eating disorders.’

The animation will be will be hosted online at eatingdisordersandpregnancy.co.uk alongside additional training resources, and will be presented at a training event at the IoPPN on Tuesday 27th March. The project was funded through the Health Foundation’s Evidence into Practice programme, and Dr Easter is supported by King’s Improvement Science, part of the Centre for Implementation Science within NIHR Collaboration for Leadership in Applied Health Research and Care (CLAHRC) South London.

The following charitable organisations have contributed to the development of this animation: Beat, the Institute of Health Visiting, NCT (National Childbirth Trust) and Tommy’s.

Case study

Christina Kelly is married with three children. Christina has struggled with an eating disorder since she was a teenager and had to be admitted to hospital while she was studying at university. Throughout her twenties she sought help through counselling and support groups and managed to live with her eating disorder symptoms.

In her late twenties, Christina became pregnant with her first child and quickly found her eating disorder increased in severity. This was the case throughout each of her pregnancies, resulting in inpatient admission to a specialist eating disorder unit during her first and second pregnancy. She struggled with low mood and feelings of guilt and isolation during each pregnancy, struggling to find support that brought together her needs as a pregnant woman, a mother and someone needing support for an eating disorder.

Christina now works in a mental health crisis service providing peer support to people in distress, working with compassion and using her own experiences to help others.

NOTES TO EDITORS

To interview Dr Abigail Easter or Christina Kelly, to view the animation or for further media information, please contact Robin Bisson, Senior Press Officer, Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience, King’s College London, robin.bisson@kcl.ac.uk / +44 20 7848 5377 / +44 7718 697176.

To interview Caroline Price please contact Daniele Fisichella, Press Officer at Beat on  D.fisichella@beateatingdisorders.org.uk / 01603 753 316.

To interview Melita Walker please contact Julie Cooper, Communications and Marketing Manager at the Institute of Health Visiting on Julie.Cooper@ihv.org.uk / 07508 344716.

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