When we have questions or concerns about our bodies, for many of us, Google is our first stop before even making an appointment with our doctors. Unfortunately, so much of the information out there is incorrect or misguided—especially when it comes to plus-size pregnancies. So, we went to plus-size birth expert Jen McLellan to find out if any of the online noise is worth listening to.
Written by Jen McLellan
I’ll never forget googling “plus-size pregnancy” soon after getting a positive pregnancy test. I went from feeling excitement to defeat as article after article made me question if I could have a healthy outcome because of my size. I read that I would develop gestational diabetes and be forced to have a C-section. Thanks to the comment section, I also read that I was a terrible person for wanting to become a mother as a plus-size woman.
As someone who has been plus size for most of my life, I didn’t allow this to set the tone for my pregnancy. I ate healthily, became obsessed with water aerobics, and didn’t incur any pregnancy complications.
Bound and determined to have a natural childbirth, I hired a doula and switched from an OB-GYN to a midwife. All of that hard work paid off on August 24th, 2010, when I gave birth to my son—on my knees. Yes, you read that correctly: I gave birth on my knees in a hospital at nearly 300 lbs!
As I settled into motherhood, I felt compelled to share my story. I knew I couldn’t be the first plus-size woman to have a good outcome, even though the internet made me feel that way. In April of 2011, I launched the “Plus Size Birth” website, never imagining that telling my story would change my life forever.
Flash forward eight years and I’m now a certified childbirth educator, author, public speaker, and host of the “Plus Mommy Podcast.” The “Plus Size Birth” website has received over 4 million page views with countless articles that provide positive, evidence-based information and a wide array of plus-size birth stories.
My goal with my website and podcast is to teach plus-size women that our bodies are not broken. Our bodies are amazing! While Google has come a long way, there are still many misconceptions about plus-size pregnancy. You have to believe in your body first so that you can advocate for the very best care.
Just because you’re plus size doesn’t automatically mean you’ll incur any complications during your pregnancy. Yes, we have some increased risks, but, from gestational diabetes to preeclampsia, there’s nothing that only affects plus-size people during pregnancy.
For people of all sizes, it’s important to be proactive with your nutrition and physical activity throughout pregnancy to help reduce your increased risks. As a plus-size woman, you’ll most likely be tested twice for gestational diabetes (though the first time they’re really just testing to see if you’re pre-diabetic or diabetic). You also might receive some additional ultrasounds.
When it comes to finding the right care, it’s critical to connect with a size-friendly healthcare provider. You owe it to yourself to receive evidence-based, compassionate care. Plus-size women are too often shamed during pregnancy—hurtful things can be said by anyone from care providers to even your mother-in-law. That’s why it’s so important to remember that your body is doing incredible things through it all.
As plus-size women, we’ve been conditioned to believe that we have to make our bodies smaller, but during pregnancy, we eagerly await our bellies’ growth. I’ve heard from countless women that pregnancy is a fantastic time to fall in love with your body like never before. While your stomach might look more like a “B” than the “traditional” “D” shape during pregnancy, it’s still a very magical time!
While your body is amazing, it’s also complex—and pregnancy takes a toll. My best advice is to treat yourself and your body with kindness. Surround yourself with people who make you feel great about yourself and select a care team that believes in your body’s ability to have a healthy outcome.
If you, like many, felt a deeper connection to your body during pregnancy, don’t lose sight of it! You can continue to love your body and nurture it, long after pregnancy. Be sure not to just focus on your outward appearance during postpartum—your mental health is also incredibly important. As you’re working hard on self-care with bubble baths and pedicures, don’t be afraid to add therapy to the list!
Remember that, as mothers, we lay the foundation for our children’s self-esteem. Instead of harping on yourself for not fitting back into your pre-pregnancy jeans, buy a new pair of jeans or order a Dia Box. Do things that make you feel great about yourself and build your confidence. You’ll feel better about yourself, and, over time, your kids will notice!
Founder of "Plus Size Birth" & the "Plus Mommy Podcast"