Prenatal and perinatal risk factors for eating disorders in women: A population cohort study

Hunna J. Watson, Elizabeth W. Diemer, Stephanie Zerwas, Kristin Gustavson, Gun Peggy Knudsen, Leila Torgersen, Ted Reichborn-Kjennerud, Cynthia M. Bulik

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    5 Citations (Scopus)


    Objective: The fetal programming model hypothesizes that developmental programming in utero and in early life induces adaptations that predetermine the adult phenotype. This study investigated whether prenatal/perinatal complications are associated with lifetime eating disorders in women. Method: Participants included 46,373 adult women enrolled in the Norwegian Mother and Child Cohort Study (den norske Mor & barn-undersøkelsen [MoBa]). MoBa mothers and their mothers (MoBa grandmothers) were the focus of the current study. MoBa mothers with lifetime eating disorders were compared to a referent group. Results: MoBa mothers who weighed more at birth (birth weight, adjusted odds ratio [OR] = 1.14; 95% confidence interval [CI]: 1.10–1.19) or were born large-for-gestational-age (adjusted OR = 1.39; 95% CI: 1.27–1.52) were more likely to develop binge-eating disorder in later life. MoBa mothers who weighed less at birth were more likely to develop anorexia nervosa (birth weight, adjusted OR = 0.88; 95% CI: 0.81–0.95). Bulimia nervosa and purging disorder (PD) were not significantly predicted by the prenatal and perinatal factors examined. Discussion: Results of this study, which include the first known investigation of prenatal and perinatal factors in binge-eating disorder and PD, suggest that fetal programming may be relevant to the development of anorexia nervosa and binge-eating disorder. Future genetically informative research is needed to help disentangle whether these associations are a function of genetic influences or a true environmental fetal programming effect.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)643-651
    Number of pages9
    JournalInternational Journal of Eating Disorders
    Issue number6
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2019


    Dive into the research topics of 'Prenatal and perinatal risk factors for eating disorders in women: A population cohort study'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

    Cite this