What it’s like to be plus-size and pregnantOctober 24, 2016
First of all, let’s determine what I mean by plus-size. While Karl Lagerfeld et al might think anyone over a UK size 12 needs to have their jaw wired shut, my definition is size 16 and upwards, and as a size 18, I’m firmly in this camp.
There are a number of issues facing plus-size women when it comes to getting pregnant and having healthy babies. This isn’t a ‘fat-ist’ comment, it’s just fact. You’re more likely to get up the duff when you’re active and at an optimum weight for your height, as well as being less likely to get gestational diabetes. You’re more likely to exercise during pregnancy and keep the extra kilos to a minimum if you start at an optimum BMI. Your baby has a better chance of good health later in life if you don’t gain too much during pregnancy. And so it goes on.
But guess what? Bigger women get pregnant and have healthy babies all the damn time. I’m one of them. It’s not that much of a, well, big deal.
There are, however, some disadvantages.
1. Thought it was hard to find maternity clothes? Try having issues finding EVERYDAY clothes, then add a bump. Usually a big one. Luckily, most plus-size women have clothes of the empire-line, loose-cut variety in their wardrobes already, so with a few pairs of jeans and leggings you can get through the pregnancy without buying too much. ASOS goes up to a UK20, Yours Clothing goes up to a US28 and Pea In The Pod now goes up to a 3XL.
2. It’s tricky to know what’s bump… On the positive side, if you don’t want anyone to know you’re pregnant, they probably won’t be able to guess until you’re at least four months gone (and as many plus-size women are blessed in the boob department, fabric can drape away from your stomach). On the negative, it’s unlikely you’ll have one of those neat little bumps that’s all baby. You might have a ‘double’ bump, with baby in the top one, and a spare tyre underneath. Fun times. If it bothers you, a belly band or Maternity Spanx (I hate that these exist, but I have some and they’re fab) can smooth it out from a B silhouette to the D shape that other mums-to-be have.
3. You do need to watch your weight during pregnancy. You don’t want to put your joints under extra stress. Bigger women are at higher risk of having longer labours and babies over 9lbs 15 (ouch) so it’s worth being sensible for that alone…
4. Scans might be a challenge. Simply put, there is more ‘stuff’ between the ultrasound scan and the baby, so you might not get super-clear images or information on your little one. Don’t be disheartened though, as a good doctor will be able to identify key details at crucial milestones.
5. Emotionally, you might be reluctant to take photos or record your pregnancy. I urge you to do it anyway.
6. Exercise is essential. While you might not fancy getting into Lycra workout gear (I hear ya) getting moving makes a huge difference to maintaining healthy weight gain through your pregnancy as well as muscle tone. You’ll need it for lifting that baby… Prenatal Pilates (reformer, especially), aqua aerobics and swimming are brilliant for taking pressure off joints, and going for a brisk walk every day keeps your heart pumping. Cliched but true. But this is NOT the time to take up running or go on a faddy diet…
7. Speak to your doctor about conditions that affect obese women during pregnancy, and make sure you get the all clear. Issues can include gestational diabetes, preeclampsia and hypertension. This Baby Centre article is helpful.
Speaking personally, I gained 20kg in my first pregnancy, barely exercised and found breastfeeding made me ravenous, so it took ages to lose the weight, and was still 6kg up on my pre-pregnancy weight when I got pregnant a second time. However, I’m 22 weeks now, and through sensible(ish) diet, regular workouts and running after a toddler, I’ve only gained 4kg so far. So far…
I’ve been given the all-clear for any complications, and the baby is bang on, size-wise. And while it’s tempting to give in and have an ‘excuse’ for over-indulging at the buffet, this weight has to come off at some point, so I’m trying to think about Future Helen eg me in 12 months time, when I’m still wearing maternity jeans despite the baby being 7 months old.
It’s emotionally quite complicated, as I’m programmed to like it when the numbers get smaller on the scale, but when they go up it’s a sign that the baby is getting what she needs. Be the best you can be for your little one.
Ultimately, it’s about health, not the numbers on the scale. About feeling as energetic as possible (and you’ll need that energy when the baby comes) and carrying that bump with pride.
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