Disordered eating attitudes and exercise in women undergoing fertility treatment

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Background Previous research has found a higher lifetime prevalence of eating disorders in women undergoing fertility treatment. Aims This study aimed to gauge the prevalence of eating disorders in women attending a fertility clinic and to compare current disordered eating attitudes and exercise amongst different infertility categories. Materials and Methods Three hundred and eighty-five women were grouped according to infertility diagnosis: male factor, unexplained infertility, ovulatory disorders, polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) and heterogeneous causations. Participants anonymously completed the Eating Disorder Examination Questionnaire (EDE-Q), the International Physical Activity Questionnaire (IPAQ) and a Demographics questionnaire. Results The lifetime history of self-reported eating disorders for women in the sample was similar to Australian community rates. Profile analysis revealed on the EDE-Q that women with ovulatory disorders were not significantly different from women with PCOS; however, they were significantly different to women with other infertility diagnoses (all P < 0.05), suggesting increased vulnerability to disordered eating. There were no between-group differences in exercise quantity (IPAQ, P = 0.625) although women with ovulatory disorders and PCOS had a significantly higher risk of engaging in compulsive, 'driven' exercise (OR = 6.98, CI = 1.39, 34.90, P = 0.018) as a means to control weight or shape. Conclusions Contrary to previous research, our findings do not confirm a greater lifetime prevalence rate of eating disorders in women attending an infertility clinic. This study does highlight the importance of screening women with forms of an ovulatory disorder for features of disordered eating attitudes and driven exercise behaviours.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)82-87
Number of pages6
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2016


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