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Fat And Pregnant – 7 Things I Wish I Would Have Known

Are you fat and pregnant or fat and trying to conceive? Welcome to a special corner of the internet where you'll find positive, evidence-based resources and support.

As you noticed, I'm using the word fat in this article with no apologies or embarrassment. This is because there's an exciting shift in the body-positive movement as more people self-identify as fat.

A word often used to shame people in larger bodies no longer holds the same power, and that's exciting! This means, if we choose to, we are free to use “fat” as just another adjective describing our bodies.

Since people are Googling “fat and pregnant,” it's essential to have resources that aren't full of fear-mongering and misinformation.

So, pour yourself a cup of decaf tea (or another beverage of choice!), and snuggle in for some reassuring information to support you along your pregnancy journey.

fat and pregnant woman

Fat And Pregnant

Real quick, before we begin, I want to share that I'm not only someone who has experienced pregnancy in a larger body, but I'm also a certified childbirth educator.

In 2010, in a fat body, I had a completely healthy pregnancy and gave birth on my knees! That experience inspired me to start Plus Size Birth. A decade later, with nearly seven million pageviews, it's the leading plus size pregnancy resource.

So, let me be your guide, and let's dig right in!

It's Okay To Be Fat And Trying To Conceive

I'll never forget mentioning to my OB-GYN that I wanted to become a mother soon and her pulling out the Body Mass Index (BMI) chart.

A few moments later, she casually said I should lose 100 lbs before trying to conceive. For her, it was one sentence; for me, it was one of the most devastating things a care provider had ever told me.

At that point in my life, I was 28-years-old and had already “failed” every fad diet.

I left my doctor's office, questioning if I'd ever become a mom. And sadly, my experience is not unique.

When you're fat and trying to conceive, the conversation with your care provider will likely revolve around one number (your BMI) and not your overall health. This can be emotionally painful, of course, but also could lead to difficulty down the road. After all, we know that working with a size-friendly, evidence-based medical professional can make a big impact when working towards the goal of healthy outcomes.

The truth is, getting pregnant at any size comes with risks, and there are increased risks when you're plus size.

But, your risks also go up when you're over the age of 35, and our fertility window is not infinite.  

Just because there are increased risks does not mean you will automatically incur them because of your size or age.

So, the focus (for both you and your care provider) should be your overall health.

When you're fat and trying to conceive, it's essential to step away from diet culture and focus on balanced nutrition.

If you're unsure where to start, that's okay! You can learn all about Intuitive Eating, listen to anti-diet podcasts like Food Psych, and/or connect with Health At Every Size® (HAES®) nutritionists.

You'll also want to get lab work completed and look out for common vitamin deficiencies like vitamin D. Talk to your care provider and nutritionist about what vitamins and supplements they recommend for preconception.  

During pregnancy, it's crucial to be physically active, so now's a great time to find a form of movement that brings you joy! From water aerobics to exploring walking paths in your community, find something that gets you excited to move your body.

Related: 7 Plus Size Pregnancy Exercise Tips

One great benefit of exercise is the wonderful endorphins that the body releases that help you get a good night's rest. Sleep is crucial for your own body and brain, of course, but is also a really important part of self-care during pregnancy. So, if you're not already getting eight or more hours of sleep each night, stop hanging out on TikTok until the wee hours of the morning!

Seriously though, even if social media isn’t the guilty pleasure keeping you up at night, examine what might be disrupting healthy sleep for you. You could improve your sleep routine by listening to a relaxation app or reading a body-positive book before bed.

You'll also want to reduce stress and pay attention to your mental health. These two things are critical when getting your body ready for pregnancy. Consider connecting with a HAES®-aligned therapist and setting healthy boundaries with people who don't support your family planning.

Did you notice I shared many things you can actively do to improve your overall well-being, and I didn't mention weight loss even once?!

If only my care provider had shared helpful resources rather than just telling me to lose an incredible amount of weight all those years ago. I would've left her office focused on healthy habits rather than feeling hopeless.

Now I don't want to assume that you're not already practicing healthy habits. But if you aren't, you're not alone, and now you have some great starting places and helpful resources! Let’s talk about moving forward…

Fat And Trying To Conceive woman holding a pink baby dress

Connect With A Size-Friendly Care Provider Before You Get Pregnant

I saw that same OB-GYN when I found out I was pregnant two years later and ten pounds heavier.

She never made me feel ashamed of my body. However, she had a “wait and see” approach to my prenatal care that led me to believe I was having a high-risk pregnancy because of my size.

Five months into my pregnancy, I transferred care to a midwife who believed in my body's ability to have a healthy outcome. In my medical records, I smiled seeing the low-risk box checked!

This change in care also meant I'd be giving birth at a different hospital.

Do you know the biggest risk factor for having a cesarean birth isn't your BMI; it's where you give birth?

At the time, I hadn't realized the importance of researching care providers and where I'd be giving birth. Now I know better, and you do too!

When scheduling your next pap smear, take extra steps to assess if your care provider is size-friendly (here's a helpful guide).

Unfortunately, some facilities (like birth centers) have BMI restrictions. So, when you're fat and pregnant, be sure to inquire if there are any BMI restrictions when making your appointment with your chosen provider. If they’re unable to support you, they may be able to refer you to someone who can!

Related: How To Talk About Plus Size Pregnancy Risks In A New Way

Also, consider exploring different models of healthcare.

The midwifery model of care provides individualized healthcare and tends to be more size-inclusive. Midwives not only work with people during pregnancy but also offer well-woman care.

Contrary to popular belief, the midwifery model of care isn't just for those who want an unmedicated childbirth. For example, you can get an epidural in a hospital while under the care of a midwife.

Regardless of your provider’s title: OB-GYN, midwife, nurse practitioner, or Physician's Assistant for your gynecological care, you want someone who doesn't make you feel ashamed of your body. And the sooner you connect with a great provider, the better!

The Odds Of Having A Healthy Plus Size Pregnancy Are On Your Side!

While Google and well-meaning friends might lead you to believe you can't have a healthy pregnancy because of your size – they are wrong.

Remember that low-risk checkmark in my medical records? It's absolutely possible!

Studies show people can be healthy at every size. If you go into pregnancy without any health conditions like high blood pressure or diabetes, the odds of having a healthy pregnancy are on your side.

And, if you do have any preexisting health conditions, it's even more critical to connect with a size-friendly doctor who will provide you with compassionate care and evidence-based guidance.

For example, let's look at Gestational Diabetes (GD) since it's a condition commonly tied to plus size pregnancy. Studies show your actual risk of developing GD if you have a BMI over 40 is 17%. What's even better is that the percentage is not in stone; it can be even lower depending on other health and lifestyle factors!

We have evidence to show being proactive with your health can reduce your risk of most complications even further! And we've shared many great tips for you to start tapping into right away.

It's powerful to believe that your body is capable of having a healthy outcome for you and your baby. Yet, even if you incur something like Gestational Diabetes, please know it's not a moral failing! GD and other complications are something that we have to trust our provider (see why it’s so important to choose a great one?!) to support us with.

Also, during pregnancy, consider connecting with a size-friendly doula!

What It Feels Like To Have A Fat And Pregnant Belly

We each have a body story. If you exist in a larger body, I'm going to guess our stories are similar.

For so long, my belly was a place I held my shame.

I didn't like touching my stomach, let alone wearing clothes that hugged my body. But that all changed as my belly began to grow during pregnancy.

I started noticing I was rubbing my fat and pregnant belly with love. Just as I once did when I was a little girl who had yet to learn to hate her body.  

What’s more, I eagerly awaited to see my belly grow! It was such a surreal experience to hope my body would get bigger!

While this is a magical time, it can also feel confusing and isolating.

As Mia O'Malley shares in her essay, My Invisible Plus Size Pregnancy, “You will live and breathe as a pregnant woman, but to the outside world, you are simply plus size – only larger – and will be treated as such.”

It's common for plus size people to “show” later and feel movement later during pregnancy.

Your belly also might be shaped more like a “B” than a “D” when you stand to the side. Having a B-shaped belly during pregnancy is commonly referred to as a B belly.

Related: What Is An Apron Belly? Practical Solutions And Comfort Tips!

But what I want you to know is that all of these things are normal and they are shared experiences when you're fat and pregnant. If and when you experience any of the above, it doesn't mean that there's anything wrong with your body. All it means is that your pregnancy journey looks a little different than what you'll read in most pregnancy magazines and books – and that's okay!

Speaking of books, check out the My Plus Size Pregnancy Guide if you're looking for a book on being fat and pregnant. It's written by yours truly and covers everything you could want to know about being plus size and pregnant.

How To Find Plus Size Maternity Clothes

Hands down, one of my biggest frustrations during pregnancy was finding clothes. From plus size maternity jeans to plus size maternity underwear – the struggle was real!

Sadly, all these years later, the options have only gotten slightly better.

The best tip I can share is to think beyond the maternity label – you'll save money and have clothing items to wear long after pregnancy.

And, as I shared above, it often takes longer for people to show when you're fat and pregnant. So, you'll be amazed at how long your regular clothes will fit (and you can snag a belly band to help you wear the clothes in your closet even longer if you’d like).

I completely understand the desire to have some maternity clothing options! So, here's an entire plus size maternity resource that covers everything from clothing to babywearing options.

Document Your Pregnancy

I didn't have maternity photos taken because I didn't see many bodies that looked like mine pregnant. Consciously or subconsciously (we’ll never know), I believed that plus size pregnant people just didn’t do pregnancy photoshoots. It saddens me still to think about just how invisible I felt my pregnancy was (and how others maybe thought it should be too!).

Lucky for you, times have changed!

Tap the #plussizepregnancy hashtag on Instagram, and you'll see over 80,000 images and videos, from the ever-popular bathroom selfie to glamorous maternity photos.

It's powerful to see images of people who look like you celebrating their fat and pregnant bodies!

Our bodies deserve to be celebrated and our pregnancies documented. So, be sure to take photos – be it handing your phone over to your partner or scheduling a plus size maternity photoshoot.

Tap Into Positive Resources

Along with seeking out photos of people who look like you, many amazing humans are developing content celebrating plus size pregnancy and parenthood on social media!

Below you'll see three of my favorites!

And, of course, I hope you'll hang out with me, too!

My Plus Size Birth account is focused on educational resources and sharing beautiful plus size pregnancy pictures.

Plus Mommy is where you'll spend time with me and my messy mom bun. As the Plus Mommy Podcast host, I cover topics ranging from pregnancy to parenthood for plus size people.

It's my deepest hope you feel empowered to be proactive with your health and connect with a fantastic care team to support you throughout your pregnancy journey.

Being fat and pregnant might look a little different than you thought it would. It's okay if that feels a little disappointing at first. But, please, hear me when I say that this is also a time in your life when you should feel supported and celebrated. Your body, just as it is today, is spectacular.

Your body was built for this!

Jen McLellan, CBE
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