Yes, Plus-Size Women Can Have Healthy Pregnancies

by Joanna McClanahan
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Having gained weight from my first pregnancy, I was about 50 lbs. overweight when I got pregnant with my second child. When I announced my second pregnancy, I was immediately met with concern from well-meaning friends:

“Aren’t you worried about your weight? I heard it’s bad for the baby.”

“Overweight women are more likely to get gestational diabetes, you know.”

“Plus-size women are more likely to need medical intervention during delivery.”

I have never felt as size-shamed as I was during that pregnancy. People made me feel like I was putting my baby at risk, just by daring to get pregnant while I was overweight.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists says that obese women have a higher risk for miscarriage, preeclampsia, gestational diabetes, sleep apnea, and hypertension. In fact, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists urges doctors to counsel plus-size women on losing weight before pregnancy, limiting weight gain during pregnancy, and losing baby weight quickly after pregnancy.

With all the warnings out there about how dangerous it is to be overweight and pregnant, it’s no wonder that most obese pregnant women worry about their health, and for the health of their babies. But luckily for plus-size pregnant women, the truth is that healthy plus-size pregnancies are possible, and overweight pregnant women give birth to healthy babies all the time.

“Most plus-size women have completely normal pregnancies and normal babies. We’re currently making a lot of fuss about maternal size. This only magnifies the risks and scares women,” OB-GYN Cornelia van der Ziel, a clinical instructor in obstetrics at Harvard Medical School, told Babycenter.

And plus-size pregnancies are more common than you might think. According to Reuters, about half of U.S. women are overweight during pregnancy. And a lot of these plus-size moms-to-be find that their health care providers approach their situation negatively.

“My advice to other plus-size pregnant women who are dealing with biased doctors would be to make sure you are your own advocate. Don’t be afraid to question what the doctor is saying, especially if you’ve been doing your research. You know your body well enough to know when a change feels wrong. And, if you still feel you’re not receiving the best care because of a bias against your weight, don’t hesitate to switch doctors,” Serena Chen, MD, told The Bump.

While being overweight and pregnant does come with some increased risks, there’s not a lot a woman can do about it aside from eating better and exercising more. And according to Today’s Parent, it’s not uncommon for plus-size women to actually lose weight during pregnancy, especially in the first trimester. Doctors think it’s a combination of healthier eating, lifestyle changes, and morning sickness.

If you’re having a plus-size pregnancy, do what you can to eat low-sugar/high-protein snacks, drink plenty of water, and get some light aerobic exercise. But mostly, don’t stress out that being overweight in itself is going to put your baby at risk.

“The odds are, plus-size women are going to have healthy pregnancies,” Brette McWhorter Sember, a mom of two and co-author of Your Plus-Size Pregnancy, told Babycenter. “The odds often sound like they’re against plus-size women, but the truth is that you’re most likely to have a perfectly healthy pregnancy, nothing wrong with the baby, and a wonderful delivery. It doesn’t have to be that big of a deal.”

Yes, plus-size pregnancies come with greater risks for things like gestational diabetes, and I had that during my second pregnancy. Is it a pain in the ass? Absolutely. Is it manageable? YES. Like most of the risks associated with plus-size pregnancies, it can be easily managed. I still had a big baby (11.1 lbs.), but that baby is turning 4 this year and is happy and healthy.

And no, I haven’t lost the baby weight yet.