Kara Islington weighed 236 pounds when she found out she was expecting her first child. "I was absolutely thrilled to be pregnant, but because of my size, I felt a great deal of anxiety and doubt," the plus-size mom of two admits. "My brain raced with questions. Was my pregnancy doomed to develop complications? Would my doctor lecture me about my weight? Should I go on a special diet? What about exercise? I wondered whether stores even sold plus-size maternity clothes! I was a basket case."
These same concerns are echoed among an increasing number of expectant mothers. Leading health organizations strongly advise women to lose excess weight before they conceive or else face an increased risk for such prenatal complications as gestational diabetes, gestational hypertension, and preeclampsia. Despite these warnings, almost half of all pregnant women in the US and Canada are overweight.
If you are a plus-size mom-to-be, can your pregnancy still progress problem-free?
"My weight did not stop me from having a completely normal pregnancy," says Islington, of Colt's Neck, New Jersey. "I refused to spend nine months worrying about what could go wrong. Instead, I focused on taking excellent care of my physical health and emotional well-being."
You too can experience a healthy plus-sized pregnancy. Here are some important bits of advice from both medical experts and plus-sized moms.
Find Size-Friendly Prenatal Care
"Your ability to trust, confide in, and feel comfortable with your obstetrician or midwife is critical," says Dr. Cornelia van der Ziel, MD, an OB-GYN from Cambridge, Massachusetts, and coauthor of the plus-size pregnancy guide, Big, Beautiful, and Pregnant. Unfortunately, many plus-size women readily admit that, because of their weight, they fear biased or inferior medical treatment.
In your quest for a healthy pregnancy, make it a priority to find a size-friendly midwife or obstetrician. "These are healthcare providers who don't make negative assumptions about your diet and health, and generally show positive and supportive feelings about your pregnancy," says Pamela Vireday, a certified childbirth educator in Oregon.