A couple of weeks ago, I read a viral Facebook post about a pregnant woman who’d been fat shamed after posting a series of photos online that she’d had taken of her and her bump. The story was then picked up by the Huffington Post after the woman was asked to take part in “The Honest Body Project”, a photo series which gives an honest look at women’s bodies.
The whole story was something which really resonated with me. Brittany Dykstra, the woman in the photos said “I’m 35 weeks pregnant and just last week I had maternity pictures taken to celebrate this horrible, but beautiful pregnancy. For the first time in about 35 weeks I felt beautiful, and was so excited to share this moment with my friends and family.”
She goes on to say “Later that day we got the sneak peak pictures back and I posted them on Facebook thinking my friends and family would think I was beautiful and would love them, however that wasn’t the case. All I received were negative comments about how huge I am, about how unhealthy I am, and about how they think my baby is going to be a 10 to 12 pound baby by the looks of how much I weigh. I literally went in the bathroom and cried for hours. It’s so hard being plus size, pregnant, sick, and getting negative comments about the way I look. If I’m happy and accepting of my body, why can’t everyone else just be happy for me?!”
Before I fell pregnant with Sausage, I wasn’t huge, probably around 12st, so a little overweight for my 5’4″ height, but not horrendously so as I have a large frame and huge boobs which tends to mean even at a ‘healthy’ body shape, I’m a little over what BMI charts say I should be. I gained a lot of weight during that pregnancy; for the first 4 months, I could barely eat anything at all and actually lost weight because of hyperemesis gravidarum. Then I developed gestational diabetes and despite trying to eat a low GI diet, the weight piled on. Once I’d given birth, I was in a cycle of depression and PTSD which meant that I never lost the baby weight and by the time I fell pregnant with Burrito Baby 5 years later, I was pushing 14 and a half stone.
I’d had every intention of losing the weight BEFORE getting pregnant again, especially as I was already diabetic, but I fell pregnant a lot quicker than I thought I would after having my implant removed, which meant dealing with pregnancy with a much higher starting weight than I would have liked. Like Brittany, once I reached a certain point in my pregnancy, I also felt a little more body-confident; my shape was suddenly defined by the life growing inside of me, not the amount of biscuits I ate, and while I wasn’t about to post photos of myself in lingerie on Facebook, I totally understand whet she meant about feeling beautiful for the first time in a long time.
According to the story, Dykstra started receiving abuse from family and friends regarding her weight, although no examples are given and I can’t help but wonder how much of this “abuse” was unwanted but well-meaning concern for her obvious weight problem. Because, while I am against the idea of ‘fat-shaming’ (lets face it, us fatties do tend to KNOW we’re fat, we don’t need to be constantly reminded), I do think it’s deluded to think that being overweight doesn’t cause health problems, especially during pregnancy. Being “happy” with your body is one thing, but being aware of health ramifications is also hugely important.
On a medical level, obesity during pregnancy can increase the risk of gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, infection, problems during labour, increased birth weight, birth defects, babies with a high birth weight and even miscarriage. This isn’t about ‘fat shaming’ or ‘thin privilege’ – these are REAL risks, caused by being overweight.
On a personal level, I definitely found that being overweight during pregnancy adversely affected me. Hauling around a giant bump AND a giant body was genuinely exhausting and I honestly think my SPD and mobility would have been slightly better had I not been putting so much pressure on my pelvis with my excess weight (although and friend of mine, who is very slim, also had SPD, probably worse than my own, so I’m not saying obesity is a cause or necessarily means I suffered more, just that I don’t think it helped at all).
I’m not saying that Brittany Dykstra deserved to be abused for being overweight, nor am I saying that she deserved to feel any less beautiful than other pregnant women who enjoy the glow of carrying a child, but tip-toeing around the issue of obesity isn’t right either. Lots of women get pregnant at a less than ideal time of their lives and I’m sure that, given the choice, women would always choose to be in peak health when conceiving but it doesn’t always happen that way.
The thing is, weight is such a hot-button issue for most people. I know I’ve taken offense, even from medical professionals who’ve tried to talk to me about being overweight. It’s one of those things that people are hugely sensitive about because it’s so closely tied to their self-esteem, so choosing a moment where a mother-to-be is feeling good about herself to give her a lecture isn’t the best timing, not to mention the fact that she probably already KNOWS the issues AND has a team of health professionals telling her the same thing, but that doesn’t alter the fact that being fat and pregnant can be a problem, so it’s not simply a case of whether a person is happy with their weight.
What do you think? Are people overstepping the mark by expressing concern for her? Have you experienced pregnancy as an overweight person? I’d love to hear your opinions and experiences because this whole story has obviously struck a chord with me.
6 thoughts on “The Realities of Being Fat and Pregnant”
I think that there are ways to “express concern” without being mean. At the same time though I do believe that being overweight when pregnant makes a huge difference to your wellbeing. I was very overweight when I fell pregnant both times and after losing the weight I wish I’d had the willpower to lose it before. My pregnancies weren’t hard but I think I might have enjoyed them more if I’d weighed less.
I don’t think there is any reason to tell a pregnant woman that she looks bad. She is creating life and there is nothing more amazing than that.
Great post. Xx
I think most ‘concern’ about overweight people is just fat-hating, certainly is in my experience. My mum alleges to be concerned for my health but it came out recently she thinks I’d find a partner quicker if I was slimmer. She is always down on me about my weight and no matter how often I tell her that I need her support to lose it, not to be constantly told I’m fat, it makes no difference.
I am trying to lose weight, for my health and self esteem, but doubt I will ever get down to the size I would like to be again. I think I am now destined to be a large/plus size woman for the rest of my life, and I would certainly rather people kept their ‘concern’ to themselves, especially when they know nothing about my diet/exercise/life.
(sorry for the rant!)
I became overweight when pregnant with my first child. During my first pregnancy I went up to 14.5 stone (a gain of 5 stone!) before I stopped weighing myself. I was under the impression that I needed to eat a lot more than usual just because I was pregnant and I also ate a lot of chocolate which wasn’t helpful. Eventually I ran into trouble as I found that my frame could not cope with all the extra weight I was carrying and I developed an extremely bad case of SPD from 37 weeks of a 42 week pregnancy and for 17 weeks afterwards postnatally. The pain was so unbelievably awful. I couldn’t sit, stand, lie down or anything without a lot of constant pain and I was on crutches. I was in tears frequently because it was just so awful all day and night. It took me quite a while to lose the weight post birth too, but I did and 8 months later I found out I was pregnant again. This time I was much more careful with what I ate, knowing that I couldn’t risk gaining as much as I did previously in case I went through as much pain with the SPD again. 2nd time round I gained only 2st 2lb and had a 10lb 8.5oz baby(!) – first baby was only 8lbs! Anyway for me personally the biggest factor for the SPD was all the excess weight I was carrying as it was just too much for my frame.
I’ve always been a big woman and was massively over weight for my height when I conceived my first….. To start with the pregnancy was normal… Bit of sickness but nothing bad….. However as time went on and I got bigger the complications started….. I couldnt walk… Even old people walked quicker than me!! I was in constant pain with my cocex and hips… Then at 35 weeks the Pre eclampsia reared its ugly head…… I was in hospital by 36 weeks on constant bed rest and still swelling, on a cocktail of drugs to bring my BP down.
The night before I turned 37 weeks they decided that the risk of me having a stroke was to high, so they induced me the next day!
The whole process was awlful, strapped to the bed, not being able to move… Having a back to back baby.. Having my BP monitored all the time and having to take meds while contracting….. Then my sons heart rate dropped and he was quickly removed by ventose with the cord wrapped around his neck three times!!
It took me a while to get my head around being a mum & then losing weight…. When he was around 13 months I started dieting…. I lost 3 stone before I got pregnant with my second…. I was still classed as obese & because of my history went under consultant lead… But the whole pregnancy was much better… I had a lovely natural labour (still back to back) with no complications…
15 months later I’ve lost all my baby weight & more…..
I think they give larger mums a rough time, I had a really horrid midwife second time around that would comment on how difficult it was to measure ‘woman like me’ or find the heart beat on’woman of my size’ my first midwife had no problems and I was alot bigger….
It doesn’t always been you will have a bad pregnancy & birth, you just have a higher risk but I think we know that when we enter the pregnancy zone!!
Being a size 6 or a size 30 doesn’t determine what kind of mother you will be & it shouldn’t stop woman having that opportunity!
Nor does it give people the right to ridicul and bully woman at what is suppose to be a magical time
There’s no need for fat bashing I bash myself every day.. I was very over weight when I fell pregnant and I was on the mini pill!! But it happened, I made myself sick with worry. Between that and HG my head was never out of a bowl, I was so sick for 32 weeks I lost over 4 stone even the Drs at the end said if I wasn’t
the size I was there was no way I would of carried my baby full term!!
My doctor said to me to be able to fall pregnant naturally you have to be in a general good state of health. It seems to me we are never happy there is always something we have to comment on and pass judgement. Breastfeeding, natural birthing, dummies, sleep training the list goes on and on.. Personal choice is personal choice for a reason. My life does not affect anyone, other than my own so why people feel the need to comment and pass remarks is beyond me. Let it be.
I think people are overstepping the mark with her, I’m sure she is fully aware of her size and the risks associated with being overweight in pregnancy, and I’m sure she has medical professionals to advise her!
I was ‘obese’ when I was pregnant with my child. I too didn’t think I would fall pregnant so quickly after having my implant removed and had planned to loose more weight, but I fell very quickly (against the general consensus that it’s much harder to conceive when overweight). On my first midwife appointment I was asked if I would like extra support in the form of attending a monthly clinic for ‘overweight pregnant woman’ – they were fantastic and provided great support and advice throughout my pregnancy and monitored me throughout. Despite 9 months of morning sickness I had a great pregnancy – I actually lost weight and was the healthiest I had been in years. I was cautious about diabetes etc and ensured I ate sensibly throughout. I love my food but I love my child more!
I loved my pregnancy body but due to my size I didn’t actually look pregnant until about 7 or 8 months. I would never have had the confidence to do a lingerie shoot and never showed my bump on Facebook etc. Good on her for having that confidence!
It makes me sad that there is so much negativity around being overweight in pregnancy. Yes it’s not the medical ideal, but I know woman who have continued to smoke and drink throughout pregnancy – something I wouldn’t have dreamed of doing!!
Our little girl was born at a healthy 9lbs with no medical problems.
I would say to any pregnant women who are overweight to ignore the critics and listen to the professionals only – no midwife / Dr ever made me feel bad about my size!