Shedding light on plus size pregnancy

Everyone’s pregnancy journey is different and we all have our own unique story.

When you think of a “pregnant woman”, what do you picture? Most likely, the media’s portrayal of what it looks like – a perfectly round belly on a slim figure. Although this can certainly ring true for some, this is not the reality for all women.

A body mass index (BMI) greater than 25 is considered overweight, and a BMI of greater than 30 is considered obese. More woman than we think would fall into these categories prenatally as it is not a different index. The higher the BMI, the higher the risks associated with pregnancy. Being plus size and wanting to get pregnant can lead to adversity from health professionals, stigma, limitations and increased risks in pregnancy.

Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) is an endocrine disorder characterized by abnormal ovulation, increased androgen levels and polycystic ovaries, and can include amenorrhea (not menstruating) or irregular menses, unusual hair growth, persistent acne, hair loss, abdominal obesity, hypertension and infertility. Often plus size women struggle with PCOS.

Imagine wanting to start a family so bad your heart aches and then having this constant reminder of how the odds are stacked against you. Pregnancy is a miracle no matter who you are. But for some, the struggles they overcome to bring their amazing babe into this world is absolutely incredible.

As a health professional that works with mamas, I believe it is important to shed light on this topic. I’d like to see us work to minimize the stigma around being plus size and start celebrating and encouraging women of all shapes and sizes in whatever journey they are on. Size doesn’t determine the type of mama you will be and it is unfortunate that judgement can begin for plus size mamas even before they conceive.

Sherry is someone who has an amazing story. She has experienced PCOS and a plus size pregnancy. She has been through the devastation of being told pregnancy may never happen for her, and then the joy of giving birth to her beautiful baby boy. Her story is inspirational and can help to bring awareness to a topic that is not talked about in  mainstream media. She is an entrepreneur, a wealth of knowledge, and a humble, positive woman that is not afraid to be vulnerable. She has taken her health and personal goals into her own hands and has some great advice for other woman going through a similar journey. I was able to ask Sherry about her experience and here is a snippet of her amazing story.

Can you briefly describe your journey for us?

I had struggled to conceive as I have a common hormonal disorder called PCOS that had gone undiagnosed for years. Two of the effects are weight gain and a very high percentage of infertility. When we finally became pregnant my husband and I were very excited and grateful!

Having PCOS and being plus size, you are at a higher risk of developing complications such as gestational diabetes, preeclampsia and an increased chance of miscarriage. Obviously knowing this created some extra anxiety,  but I decided to accept that there were some aspects out of my control and to focus on taking care of myself by eating healthy, taking vitamins, exercising regularly and minimizing any stress.

What does plus size pregnancy mean to you? Was it hard to find a doctor you felt comfortable with? Were there any concerns from your doctor about your higher risk pregnancy?

There is such a negative stigma placed upon being plus size and pregnant. We live in a society where you are often encouraged to diet so you can ‘fix’ yourself. Being a plus size woman, it was very important to me that I found a size-friendly doctor. I wanted to work with someone who would provide excellent care, allow for me to make choices, have the birth I wanted and not generalize me into a ‘high risk’ category. A size-friendly health care provider does just that! I was lucky to find this type of doctor during my pregnancy. I found her by speaking with other plus size moms, asking Facebook mommy groups and doing some research online (I found helpful for me). During my first visit with my Obstetrician-Gynecologist, I asked if there were any concerns or risks that I should be aware of due to my size, and she informed me I was at greater risk for gestational diabetes and high blood pressure (preeclampsia). However, she told me not to worry as long as I continued to eat healthy and exercise regularly. She did inform me that she would likely send me for more ultrasounds to periodically check the size of the baby as it can be more difficult to tell the size due to additional belly fat. However, I didn’t see this as a negative because I loved seeing my baby growing and developing every step of the way!

Overall, I would have to say I had a great pregnancy with no complications except for some heartburn and mild swelling that occurred after I hit 40 weeks of gestation. I gave birth to our beautiful son at 41 weeks and 1 day after 17 hours of labour, five hours of which was active labour. I had a great support team during pregnancy and delivery which played a huge role in having the beautiful, natural, unmedicated birthing experience I hoped and dreamed about.

What did you find comfortable for your beautiful pregnant body?

Canada is a pretty amazing place to live but when it comes to plus size maternity clothes it pretty much sucks! Before becoming pregnant I typically shopped at Addition Elle, Torrid and Pennington’s. There are two major plus size maternity stores in Canada including Thyme Maternity and Motherhood Maternity. However, the selection in these stores is small, so you may have to order online. My go-to pieces were leggings from plus size stores and dresses. I found this worked great because I could wear a dress with leggings and cute boots in the winter and when it was warmer a dress with some sandals or flats. Also, an added bonus is the dresses will work long into postpartum if you stick to A-line and empire cuts. Any pre-pregnancy shirts that are a little longer will also work for most of your pregnancy and you can pair that with some maternity jeans or capris.

What advice do you have for woman reading this that might be going through the same thing?

My advice to plus size pregnant women is to perform a good deal of research, be open and communicate with your doctor, midwife, doula, coach etc. about your birth vision and expectations. If they can’t support and advocate for you then it may be time to find a more size-friendly healthcare provider. Also remember to take care of yourself and baby. Eat healthy, exercise regularly, minimize your stress and most importantly have faith in yourself and your body. You got this mama.

For inspirational stories, tips and for more info about this amazing mama be sure to follow her on Instagram @mypcosjourneytohealth. Also check out her all natural, luxurious handmade soaps @lasoaperie.  Thank you Sherry for sharing your story, you are amazing!

GIVEAWAY! A $50 Gift Card to La Soaperie – Handcrafted natural soaps and body products made with essential oils and no artificial colours or fragrances. Made in Sherwood Park, AB.


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