The experience of pregnancy during anorexia nervosa: an interpretative phenomenological analysis

Alessandro Chinello*, Valentina Dolci, Sara Faggioli Covili, Elena Tugnoli, Sara Bertelli, Nadia Micali, Luigi Enrico Zappa

*Corresponding author for this work
2 Citations (Scopus)


The objective of this study was to explore themes and meanings associated with pregnancy in women with a history of anorexia nervosa (AN). Five women with a diagnosis of AN during pregnancy were selected for individual semi-structured interviews. The data (transcripts) were analyzed according to interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA). The main themes and meanings associated with pregnancy during anorexia nervosa were collected. After IPA, two superordinate themes emerged: “Dynamics during pregnancy” and “Post-partum,” and five subthemes of “A new goal,” “Honeymoon,” “Daughter-mother positioning,” “Fears and AN relapse,” and “Redemption and pride.” The study concluded that during pregnancy, AN women create a new reconnection with their body, together with a temporary remission of AN behaviors. Pregnancy becomes a “life project” to excel in, with the persistence and perfectionism typically found in AN patients, but now with a new goal: the wellbeing of the fetus. Our data show an opposite image of the “old self” (with AN): the “new pregnant self” which offers a transient opportunity to create a more fulfilling identity. However, the new identity is progressively abandoned during the postpartum period with the subsequent symptomatic relapse. The findings are discussed in the light of the scientific literature.

Original languageEnglish
JournalQualitative Research in Psychology
Issue number4
Pages (from-to)591-601
Number of pages11
Publication statusPublished - 2 Oct 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • Anorexia
  • interpretative phenomenological analysis
  • postpartum
  • pregnancy


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