So many times the argument of being a plus size parent is reduced to looks, appearances and self-worth. It is abridged and cheapened to how a woman feels inside her skin with cynics chanting pro-weight-loss and the opposition cheering for even more weight gain to reflect a true society where people come in all shapes and sizes.
While it is undeniably true that beauty is not limited to a particular socially constructed shape and that there is a unique cast for everyone; one needs to face – or at least be aware of the risks and realities – that come with plus size pregnancies, especially the ones people rarely tell you for fear of offending as the topic is already very sensitive.
The decision to be a parent, particularly when one will and can be good to the child, should not be dampened by whether or not you are a plus size and how society will react to seeing a plus woman being pregnant, it should be a personal reason that is between two people or the single parent and her doctor.
“When I got pregnant, I really wished someone warned me of the condemnation that comes with being a chubby girl. I have never been a skinny girl and now after my baby, I know I probably never will. I wish someone was blunt and honest with me from the word go because plus size women have battles that normal and skinny girls don’t,” said a recently separated single mom with tears in her eyes when asked to comment about her journey of plus size pregnancy.
7 The Hips Don’t Lie When it Comes to Infertility
In many cultures, hips are associated with fertility. In some African cultures, the more rounded the woman is, the more her lobola (traditional bridal price) can be. Hips are a sign of a woman’s child bearing readiness and a symbol that such a wife will be more able to make and deliver children with ease than a skinnier woman.
Being over-weight is also a symbol of health, prosperity and riches in many third world nations. It is a social status that one has abundance and/or is being well looked after. Even in this day and age, it is common for married women to want to gain weight (the same is true for their husbands) because it is a sign of happiness and one acquires more respect as a plus size married person in community.
In Westernized society, being a plus size can have its perks such as being “more real” than the edited images mass media bombards societies with, subliminally advertising that this is the standard of beauty. As a plus size person, one can become more aware of the deeper underlying elements and can truly explore that beauty is not necessarily being under-weight, but it is all of you, from the inside out.
You Can Do Something Today for Your Fertility Tomorrow
However being over-weight and having an abundance of love handles and hips does not really equate to being more fertile as certain cultures believe. Sometimes, the hips do lie, particularly when you are trying to conceive as a plus size person.
“People who want to be parents or are planning to have a child need to be aware that being over-weight can increase the risk of infertility. The social and cultural notion that one is bigger and can therefore fall pregnant easier is not necessarily true,” says Nawaal Nolwazi Mdluli, Founding Editor of a well-established parenting magazine, Mamas & Papas.
Excess weight can increase estrogen levels which then act as a form of birth control and prevent a woman from ovulating. Yes, some women can fall pregnant at a go, but significant numbers need time and assistance. There are additional factors one must be aware of if you are busy with family planning and are a plus sized individual.
6 Too Much “Cushion for the Pushing”
“It is romanticized at first, people can want to go against the grain of popular culture to the extent that they do their bodies harm. Don’t get me wrong, I am big and proud. I am a good woman to my man, loving mother and snug buddy. My home is cozy and that makes me proud when I see my family happy.
“Yet in truth, I wish someone was upfront with me about being the realities of plus size pregnancy,” said a woman who spoke on the grounds of anonymity because she didn’t want to bring more spotlight to herself as her daughter was already being teased at school because of her obesity.
While there’s the societal belief that being a plus size person has its perks such as with the phrase “cushion for the pushing” which paraphrased signifies that the plus size body may provide sensual pleasure which a skinny person’s body can’t (particularly to their male partners during sexual intercourse), there’s underlying elements that are often not reported because they may be considered rather private.
Talk to Your Health Professional Truthfully About Your Health
“Like with most pregnant women, I gained weight during pregnancy. The only thing is that plus size women may already have an inclination to not snack on carrot sticks and cucumbers and consider that a filling meal. I was already a pretty big girl before I fell pregnant and now that the [pregnant] cravings kicked in and I gained a lot of weight during my pregnancy, there was too much cushion for the pushing…"
"It was downright uncomfortable and I lost interest, which put irreparable strain on my relationship,” continued the mother of two.
She revealed that behind closed doors, what they could do now that she had gained all the weight was quite limiting. Her energy levels dropped tremendously, she felt tired quicker and it was not so easy for her partner to reach her the way he used. With sadness evident in her voice, she described in detail how things just no longer felt as they used to before pregnancy and her libido dropped dismally.
It became a mission to please her partner and for him to reach her in a deep sensual way.
5 “Eating for Two” Can Put You in Danger of Type Diabetes
“If you are a plus size or obese woman, the advice that I can give you is that you should try to lose weight even before you fall pregnant. If you are already pregnant and are struggling to lose weight, then try not to gain more weight. This myth that one has to eat for two – particularly when you are already a plus size – can put you at risk of getting diabetes,” clarifies Nawaal Nolwazi Mdluli, Founding Editor of parental magazine Mamas & Papas.
Mdluli asserts that over-weight and/or plus size pregnant mothers must note that there is your weight and that of the unborn child inside of their womb. While the weight of the child should and will increase as they grow, the mother should try to maintain a healthy weight. Developing diabetes can put both mom-to-be and baby at risk.
Some of the risks and dangers to the baby that she is referring to include, but are not limited to, the following:
-Being stillborn or dying shortly after being born,
-developing obesity later in life,
-developing diabetes later on in life,
-developing health problems which may include heart and breathing difficulties,
-being large when one looks at it in terms of the gestational age which can increase the possibilities of caesarean section and/or birth trauma, and/or
-developing heart abnormalities.
Learn Better Eating Habits Now for a Better Tomorrow
No matter how much sugarcoating society can try to put on risks affecting pregnant plus size women, if you are in this position, you should be aware that there is a link between being overweight or obesity (having a body mass index - BMI - of 30 or greater) and type 2 diabetes, especially if you have excessive weight in the areas around your belly (abdomen).
Research mentioned on diabetes.co.uk suggests that “obesity is believed to account for 80-85% of the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, while recent research suggests that obese people are up to 80 times more likely to develop type 2 diabetes than those with a BMI of less than 22.”
4 Increases Your Risk of Developing Labor Problems
“I have always wanted to feel the pain and push out my baby naturally the day I gave birth. As a plus size pregnant mom-to-be, I was energetic and excited and used to encourage all my friends to ignore tabloids and Western medical advice that encouraged big women to lose weight during pregnancy,” said a woman who now only describes herself as a former plus size woman advocate.
When asked why she did not want to be mentioned in an article that was about plus size women, she responded in a lowered voice that it is because she feels like she let the other plus size women down. After her birthing story, she is desperately trying to lose weight, exercising, eating healthier and no longer pushing her plus size missions.
“I wish someone told me that being a heavily plus size mom was going to decrease my chances of falling pregnant due to infertility and once that hurdle was done, why did my friends not tell me that obesity would increase my risks of encountering labor problems? I look back and ask myself if being a plus size advocate was really worth putting the life of my son at risk... Being overweight almost cost me my life and that of my son,” narrated the woman.
Your Chances Increase for medical Intervention
Even though she affirmed that she is still a plus size and will always love her body no matter how it looks, she wished for mothers who are plus size to be aware of the reality of her story. She hoped someone would not just confirm to stereotypes and picking sides, but ask themselves as mothers, is this the very best you can do for your baby?
“Do I want to maintain my obesity to prove a point that plus [size] is fabulous, even though it may put my child and me at risk? I totally believe all people are worthy of respect and love, regardless of their outward appearance. That being said, if losing a bit of weight, being self-disciplined, eating healthier and exercising can protect an unborn child, why go on promoting a lifestyle that is harmful to self and our babies?” asked the reformed plus size activist.
3 Increases the Likelihood of Emergency C-Section and Complications
“My doctor told me that labor induction was somewhat common in plus sized women and that obesity increased the risk of overdue pregnancy, but I didn’t think it would happen to me,” continued the same woman who referred to herself as a former plus size activist, with a hint of remorse in her voice.
It was only when she encountered these problems that she regretted not having dropped some weight before and during her pregnancy. What hurt her the most was that she was not able to push out her son like she had always dreamt of doing from the time that she was a little girl hoping to have her own family someday.
“I think I needed to push out my son so that I could bond with him. I got very depressed afterwards because I did not want to have a caesarean section birth. I did it out of complications and need. If only I had looked better after myself, my social support would have loved me regardless of how I looked… "
A C-Section is a Serious Surgery
"I feel selfish for being rigid about my weight to the extent that it put our lives in danger. I almost lost my boy. He’s my life; my everything. The doctor also warned me that being obese lessened the chances of me having a vaginal delivery after the caesarean section birth.
“We both nearly died because I was busy pushing an agenda that plus size moms can also be great moms. I still believe this is true. However, if I could, I would have been a better mom by doing something about my weight so as to lower the dangers and risks and thereby better love and protect my son from the very beginning,” she paused before walking away, too emotional to say anything else.
If you plus sized and pregnant, it is important to note that obesity during pregnancy increases the chances of having elective and emergency caesarean sections. Wound infections and caesarean section complications were also more likely to occur if one was obese.
2 Limited Plus Size Clothing
“I have always been a tiny girl, until my pregnancy and the birth of my first born… I moved from being the small girl – like my petite mom and sisters – and for the first time in my life, I found myself as the proverbial fat kid from that moment on.
“I did everything I could to try and regain my former body weight, but no matter how much I tried, the bulge refused to budge…That was when I realized how little options curvy women had, whether as plus size pregnant mothers or after the birth,” said Semole “Pru” Mooka, Founder of renowned luxury plus size clothing brand, Revelation Fashion which was founded in 2013.
According to Mooka, being a pregnant plus size woman comes with a mind changing call whereby you must be firm and resolute enough to understand the value of your worth. It is a period when you need to embrace your inner beauty and femininity to know that even if popular culture can dictate what beauty is (thin girls), you are and have always been more than enough.
It Sucks When You Can't Find What You Want in Your Size
Mooka had to find the strength within her to know that even when she thought that she did not measure up, she did. Newspapers, catalogues and society kept bombarding her with images of skinny women and many shops did not cater elegant and/or sexy clothing for plus sized bodies.
“Unlike when I was a skinny girl, I found out for myself that plus size women do not have as many choices. The clothing is limited and that which is there did not always make the one wearing it feel awesome. The brand Revelation Fashion was founded to correct social ills that make women feel less-than because of their weight.
“We cater for the curvy and confident woman and advocate for body positivity which comes from harnessing your God-given physique,” elaborated Mooka who initially studied Economics and Finance at Wits University before making the leap into the fashion industry.
It is not just Mooka’s story, but one that many plus size pregnant mothers can identify with. Clothing sizes are often very limited when one goes to conventional shops and at times, it becomes rather depressing as to what options you may have when you want to embrace your size, plus look downright gorgeous.
1 Obesity Increases the Risk of Miscarriage
“The person talking to you now and the person I was before and during my pregnancy is not the same. When you see me now, you may see an obese woman who is indulging in comfort eating. You may even describe me as someone who is lazy and has no ambitions."
"I have been asked how my little hands can stuff so much food in my little mouth to the extent that I am so overweight. I was always plus size because I loved it and so did my partner, but now I am stuck this way because of my grieving,” said a woman who lost her baby some years ago.
She blamed herself for the miscarriage because she says she ignored literature that warned her of the dangers of being plus size and pregnant. Health professionals also instructed her to lose weight, but she did not take heed. She thought that they were being prejudice against her and judgmental because she was overweight.
Know the Risks Associated with Obesity and Pregnancy
“I should have known better because it took me so long to fall pregnant. I ruled it out as maybe being hereditary or that my partner was shooting blanks. I knew that maybe that infertility was made worse by our size, but did not worry too much about that. After all, there were so many bigger people with families in the world.
“I was told that obesity increased the risks of pregnancy loss. Now that my unborn baby died, I can’t help but wonder if my weight had anything to do with it – or if I could have prevented it. What would have happened if I just pulled up my socks and looked after myself a little more? I can’t help, but feel I killed my child,” said the grieving mother.
Her partner blamed her for the loss of what would have been their only child. She blamed him for not supporting her endeavors of eating healthier, but spoiling her with donuts and junk food especially when she was pregnant. She piled on the weight and he enabled her to do so.
The unborn baby inside of her passed away. Their dreams died. Where intimacy was, a void full of regret remained and consumed their love. Her womb is now empty and hollow. Her partner moved out after endless conflict that magnified after their loss. The pain grew. She described her heart as feeling like it was almost physically broken and aching like crazy. Empty house, empty romance, empty womb… Only the [comfort] food remained.
“Don’t be like me. Don’t be like me,” she warned upcoming plus sized pregnant mothers.