Saturday 26 November 2011

How Not to Talk to a Pregnant Woman about Weight

I got pregnant rather by surprise. I had come off depo provera with the expectation that I would lose weight before having a baby. We weren't using contraception, however, and decided to take our chances. 6 weeks after returning from honeymoon we discovered we were pregnant.

I remember seeing my midwife in a panic and worrying about my weight, she told me not to worry and we'd deal with it, that loads of large women have pregnancies and are fine, and there was no reason to believe that things wouldn't be different for me.

However, they were different, and I knew there was trouble brewing. At 18 weeks I went to the hospital to see the consultant to check all was ok and discuss a management plan. Unfortunately I saw a junior doctor. I was unprepared for the way the consultation was to go. He shouted at me, made me feel like I was a kid. "You are an irresponsible fat person. You will get gestational diabetes. You won't be able to have pain relief as you are so fat. You will have a 10lb baby." He then went on to ask if I'd had a 12 week scan, and said "well it's a wonder they could see anything". And he said "well normally I would listen to the baby's heartbeat but you are so fat, it won't be possible". I managed to stare at him and say "it's alright my midwife heard it yesterday".

He was dismissive of my concerns that I might get pre eclampsia, and basically laughed me out of the room. I came home on the bus, tears coursing down my cheeks. Once I got home I took a deep breath and remembered the old saying "no one can make you feel inferior without your consent" and I rang our Patient Advisory Liaison Service (PALS) and made a complaint. The woman who listened to me was shocked. I then rang my midwife and she made an appointment for me to see the head consultant who put a fantastic plan together, which I believe, played a huge part in the safe delivery of Joseph.

I do feel for doctors, midwives and nurses. I think to address and discuss weight is a very difficult thing, and I don't envy them for the discussions they need to have. However, the basic fact is that increased weight does complicate a pregnancy. Increased weight can be implicated in pre eclampsia, still birth, miscarriage and gestational diabetes. It is important to note that these things can happen to normal weight and underweight women too.

I, you have no doubt noticed, am up front about my weight issues, and happy to talk about it. But, we need to do this with respect and positive regard. The vilification of fat people doesn't help anyone.

As for my doctor, he was called in the be on the crash team for my caesarian section. He was very kind, and very apologetic. And, importantly, he has learnt a lesson about how to not to speak to a pregnant woman about weight.

1 comment:

  1. I'm currently 17 weeks pregnant after an extremely tough year of losing babies and being told I would never conceive naturally again. But here I am. My bmi is high enough to warrant consultant care I'm dreading meeting him in case he is unsympathetic. I know I got myself into this but I was told to not diet because I was at risk of infection after miscarriage ( I still ended up with an infection for 7 months). My midwife is great but I'm so worried my consultant won't be. X x