Pregnant With an Eating Disorder: 'I Want to Get Well'

Photo: Pregnant With Eating Disorder

While gaining weight is a hardship for many pregnant women, it's even worse for Beth Jones. Jones has spent much of her life obsessed with staying thin at almost any cost, and reversing a lifetime of dangerous eating habits is no simple task.

Jones has had an eating disorder for 25 years, and from the start of her third pregnancy the 38-year-old struggled to consume enough calories for both her and the baby.

"I always remember kind of hating myself -- hating my legs, hating my body," Jones said.

Jones, who lives in Nashville, Tenn., also has a 7-year-old daughter, Mary Kathryn, and a 5-year-old son, Asher. She is featured on a special airing tonight on Discovery Health called "I'm Pregnant And ... I Have an Eating Disorder."

In addition to struggling with food, Jones exercises compulsively.

"It's just amazing how bazooka my butt has gotten, and my thighs," she said. "Exercise just helps me feel like I'm more in control."

She takes long walks every morning, but she will make any excuse to get in more exercise. She walks to go shopping with her daughter rather than drive.

"When I was in college, I experimented some with throwing up and I took some laxatives," Jones said. "I think the restriction [of calories], the anorexia part, came in before I got married."

Restricting calories during pregnancy can be dangerous and can harm the fetus. Complications can range from developmental delays to birth defects -- and in some cases, fetal death.

Click here for advise and tips on pregnancy and eating disorders and for guidelines about healthy weight gain during pregnancy.

"I married Beth 11 years ago," her husband, Mike Jones, said. "It is extremely challenging to be married to somebody with an eating disorder."

Beth Jones was so thin when she and her husband first tried to get pregnant nine years ago that she had to enter a treatment program just to gain enough weight to start ovulating again. Today Mike Jones worries about his children. Studies show children of those with eating disorders are at higher risk of developing them.

Eating Disorder 'a Life-long Battle' for Mom of Three

"Kids pick up on everything," he said, tearing up. "It's something we are extremely aware of and, and I will be extremely sad, especially if my daughter and potentially… God…if they would ever have to go through that."

The couple went for check-ups with Beth Jones' midwife every three or four weeks towards the end of her pregnancy. She asked not to be told how much weight she'd gained.

"The scale can define how you feel about yourself," she said. "And it's just not worth it."

"She's gained about fifteen pounds," her certified nurse-midwife, Melissa Davis, said. "But I've been specifically monitoring the size of the baby. And she has consistently maintained about three centimeters less than she should."

"The main risk to the baby is growth restriction," Davis explained.

For support, Jones met regularly with a nutritionist and also relied on group therapy.

On Sept.10, 2009, three days after the baby's due date, Jones went into labor and Wittmer Jones was born at 7:10 a.m.

And then came the best news of all -- he weighed in at 7 pounds, 12 ounces.

"Oh my gosh, a 7-12 pound baby!" Jones exclaimed.

Today baby Wittmer is three months old, but Jones' struggle is not over. Now that she knows she's not eating for two, will she return to her dangerous eating habits?

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