There’s no single “right” way to look pregnant, no standard of “the perfect belly”. The logic makes sense: There’s great diversity among bodies, people get pregnant all the time, and so there’s great diversity among pregnant bodies. But you wouldn’t know that from the way in which the mainstream media – from television to maternity clothing advertisements – depicts pregnancy as a one-belly-fits-all experience.
This lack of representation erases the experiences of plus size parents and can lead to feelings of insecurity and shame. Does anyone even know I’m pregnant? Is my weight going to be an issue for my baby? Do I deserve to feel happy about my own pregnancy?
Of course, with social media platforms serving as online communities, we can see others who look like us, going through the same experiences as us, having the same thoughts as us. We feel seen and understood.
But if you’re plus size and looking to conceive, having a positive pregnancy extends beyond knowing that you’re not the only plus size person to get pregnant. With the status quo of modern obstetrics, navigating the world of appointments that make you feel like you’re at the whim of practitioners who can’t look past your weight is a disempowering, often traumatizing, experience.
Here are ways that a plus-size-friendly doula, someone who’s knowledgeable of the unique needs of plus size parents, can make all the difference.
Doulas Support Plus Size Parents
1. They’ll Help You Know Your Birth Options (And Advocate For Your Agency To Choose)
No birthing individual should feel pressured or prescribed into a birth they didn’t choose. Plus size pregnant people have the added trauma of doctors using weight as the sole factor in recommending induction. Sometimes even using the label “high risk” inaccurately. As well as spreading the unfounded fear of stillbirth to convince the plus size patient that a specific birth plan is the only option for them. Though this may seem unprofessional at best and like downright assault at worst, it’s, unfortunately, a common experience for many.
2. They’ll Help You See The Truth Past Stereotypes & Misconceptions
Most people would have you think all plus size pregnant individuals are destined to be diagnosed with gestational diabetes based on their BMI (not a good judge whatsoever!) or you must have a c-section for a “successful” birth. If you’re plus size and pregnant, you may feel like you’re being placed into a box of stereotypes by not only strangers on the street, but also by the people that matter most, like healthcare practitioners, and most importantly, yourself.
But just as your weight doesn’t define you when you’re not pregnant, it doesn’t define you when you are either. A doula will remind you to hold onto a simple truth that’s often forgotten: You know your body best.
3. They’ll Help You Manifest A Safe Space For The Birth
In addition to the general anxiety surrounding the birth itself, being plus size and pregnant can conjure up feelings of worry and dread regarding who’s going to be in the birthing room to see you in such a vulnerable state. Your birth space should be a sacred, calming environment, so the details of who and where and what you’re wearing do matter.
Having the added stress of not wanting to be unclothed in front of a certain relative shouldn’t keep you from having the birth experience you envision, and a doula can help you think over your concerns and plan for the ideal environment.
4. They’ll Be There For The Emotional Journey
While this bullet point is not exclusive to size-friendly doulas, it’s true that the emotional rollercoaster of pregnancy can dip lower for plus size people feeling ostracized in very real ways like being unable to find maternity clothing or hearing subtle or explicit microaggressions about their weight and how that reflects on their ability to take care of their body (and a baby once it’s born). The judgement and unwarranted advice directed at plus-size pregnant persons is unfair and steeped in ignorance.
At the heart of doula work is connection. Beyond providing educational resources and the knowledge and security of seeing a lot of pregnancies and births is simply being present during such a transitional phase of someone’s life. Offering space to talk about feelings both positive and negative is not only “part of a doula’s job,” it’s the part of the job that drew that person to venture into birth work in the first place.
Related: Do I Need A Doula?
The reality is that plus size people get pregnant and they are perfectly capable of carrying life and delivering it into this world without a barrage of health issues. A plus-size friendly doula is simply someone who recognizes this, while having the experience of working with plus-size clients. Here’s to advocating for representation, respect and autonomy for all birthing individuals!
This article, 4 Ways Doulas Support Plus Size Parents, is a guest post from Doula Trainings International. They have supported the work of Plus Size Birth for many years.
Doula Trainings International (DTI) has doulas who serve people of all sizes. DTI offers a model of doula training that is appealing and accessible to all – it is for the “modern doula”.
Photos generously donated by Hannah Spencer of Milk & Hannah
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