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Understanding Eating Disorders

Eating Disorders Awareness Week – 27th February – 5th March

This event is organised by ‘Beat Eating Disorders’.  The focus of the week this year is that “yes” men get eating disorders and around 1 in 4 people with eating disorders are men. Yet even in 2023, their symptoms can still go unnoticed by those around them.

For those of us with children of any age or are expecting a baby eating disorders can make the already challenging experience of parenthood into one which is dominated by guilt, shame and isolation. If this is a personal issue for you, then at least be comforted that you are not alone.

I am expecting a baby – what might this mean for me?

The eating disorder support organisation, ‘Wednesday’s child’ refer to research revealing that 16% of pregnant women will have experienced an eating disorder at some time in their life, and of those, 50% are likely to relapse within a year of delivery. The perinatal period presents numerous potential triggers for anybody who has current or historic experience of an eating disorder. This includes the pressure of social media, managing rapid bodily changes and the huge transition to becoming mum and changing body image – this is in addition to inevitable choices around infant feeding. Navigating the perinatal period as someone who has or had a disordered relationship with food, exercise, weight, or shape can, not surprisingly, feel difficult.

I have children – what might this mean for me?

When we become parents /carers ourselves this can open the door to our own parenting and life experiences. Choices around feeding our children can stir up emotions and behaviours which in some cases we may have thought we had previously overcome. This is not unusual and please recognise it as a strength to reach out for support. Your Health Visitor is there to support you with your emotional as well as physical wellbeing and can help signpost you where needed.

In need of support?

There’s plenty out there and as always, early intervention is key to recovery. Local NHS Eating Disorder Services are likely to require a GP referral so we encourage you to make an appointment with your GP.

How can the health visiting team help?

We can talk through any worries you might have about the impact on you and your child. If needed, we can help you to make an appointment with your GP and we will also be able to help you find other sources of support. Whether you live in West Sussex or Brighton and Hove please contact us. You can find our phone and email details on our Healthy Child Programme website. 

If you are worried about contacting us, you can use ChatHealth Parentline – see below – this is an anonymous texting service. You may feel more comfortable seeking help like this to start with and we can still direct you to the right support.

There are many other online services and resources that are available at your fingertips:

Beat Eating Disorders

This is an online community with peer support for someone with an eating disorder and the support includes helpline, online webchat, workshops, courses and forums.

Wednesday’s child

This not-for-profit support organisation provides support for new or expectant parents who are themselves suffering from an eating disorder, or are concerned about the risk of relapse in the perinatal period.

Wednesday’s Child has developed two e-learning modules addressing these issues for:

  • people who are pregnant
  • those who have recently become a parent
  • there is also a free befriending programme

NHS Eating Disorder Information and Services

An overview of eating disorders and the most common types.


A good source of information about different types of eating disorders, support and resources.

National Centre for Eating Disorders:

  • Extensive range of informative handouts
  • Advice on finding qualified eating disorder specialists

Getting Better Bite by Bite:

  • A book by Ulrike Schmidt, Janet Treasure and June Alexander
  • A survival kit for sufferers of bulimia nervosa and binge eating

NHS Self help Informative handout

This site provides advice on a range of eating disorders, support options, services and resources from Cumbria, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust. We think it is a helpful guide.


ParentLine logo

Sussex Community NHS Foundation Trust runs a confidential secure text messaging service for parents of children aged 0-5 years called ParentLine. The service operates Monday to Friday between 9.30am and 4.30pm in Brighton & Hove and Monday to Friday between 9am to 4.30pm in West Sussex, excluding bank holidays. All texts will be responded to by a health visitor within 24 hours. Outside of the service working hours, you’ll receive a message back to inform you that your text will be responded to once the line reopens.

Should you require urgent health advice in the meantime, please contact your GP, visit an NHS walk-in centre or call NHS 111. For emergencies, dial 999 or visit A&E.

This page was last reviewed on 22-02-2023

This page will be next reviewed on 22-02-2026