File photo: I thought the swelling was a side-effect of my eating disorders. Picture: EPA

When a hospital consultant sat Sarah Fletcher down and told her there was "no easy way" to break the news she had, she thought she was going to tell her she was terminally ill.

Instead, she revealed the former air hostess was six months pregnant – something she had long been told would never happen because of her history of serious eating disorders.

"I couldn’t believe it," said Miss Fletcher, 33, whose "miracle baby" Beatrice is now nine weeks old.

She told how she had gone to see her GP with a stomach complaint. Thinking that it was a swelling in her bowel, he sent her to hospital for tests.

Three doctors there also examined her and, in the light of her medical history, concurred that it was likely to be related to her bulimia and anorexia. But when she was sent for an X-ray, it revealed that she was carrying a baby.

Describing how she was given the results, Miss Fletcher said: "Before she told me what the X-ray had found, a doctor told me to sit down because she had something to tell me and there was no easy way to do it.

"I thought she was going to say I was terminally ill – that all the abuse I had put my body through had caught up with me. When she told me about the baby, I started sobbing.

"Then I told her about my history and how I didn’t think that was possible. She started crying too."

Miss Fletcher, who lives in Derby with partner Ashley Townsend, 42, a factory shift manager, had previously had emergency surgery after suffering complications through years of eating disorders.

She said: "Having a baby was all I ever wanted but I’d been told it would never happen because of the damage I’d done to my body through starving myself.

"I thought the swelling was a side-effect of my eating disorders.

"I couldn’t believe it when the consultant told me I was carrying a baby." She added that after her initial shock, she was "ecstatic" about her pregnancy and that it had "saved my life" by helping her beat her eating disorders.

"It instantly changed my mindset," she said. "I was almost past the point of caring about getting better – I couldn’t see myself ever recovering.

"But knowing I was carrying a baby instantly gave me somebody else to focus on. I had to start eating to make sure Beatrice would be okay."

Cradling her daughter, Miss Fletcher said she is the "happiest I have ever been".

She added: "People asked me how I hadn’t picked up on the baby moving, but I just thought I had indigestion."

She revealed she had struggled with eating disorders since the age of 14.