Your doctor might have told you that being plus-size and pregnant comes with increased risks; most mothers have healthy outcomes. Don’t let the potential problems ruin your joy – having a plus-size pregnancy is as exciting and joyous as any other pregnancy.
Being educated is vital. You should know your risks so that you can stay vigilant and aware. It’s also a good idea to get the experiences other mothers had, giving you a chance to know what is coming your way.
The remarkable thing is that you aren’t alone. Think about how many plus-size mamas you know! I bet you can easily name a few dozen; those women can be your ultimate resource, but our goal is to answer any of the concerns you might have right now.
So, let’s dive right in and start answering those questions.
First – Ignore the Misconceptions!
Before we go too far, I want to tell you something.
There are A LOT of misconceptions about having a plus-size pregnancy. You don’t need to learn or believe everything you are told.
People make it seem like you’re signing yourself and your baby up for a death trap, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Despite the increased risk, it doesn’t mean you’ll automatically have a high-risk pregnancy just because you’re plus-size.
If your doctor classifies you as high risk simply because you have a higher BMI, it’s a red flag. Find a new provider that is size friendly.
Yes, you have some extended risks, which we will discuss, but it doesn’t mean you will experience any of them during your pregnancy. Now is not the time to operate on fear, leading to stress.
Another myth is that you won’t be able to breastfeed as easily or that your larger breasts will smother your baby. Some might tell you you shouldn’t breastfeed your baby because of its size. This is just another myth; women can breastfeed no matter the size of their breasts.
Not All Health Care Providers are Size-Friendly
Unfortunately, not all OBGYNs are size-friendly. Many have weight bias, which has been proven through multiple studies.
You want a midwife or an OBGYN that provides evidence-based care rather than seeing you as an easy opportunity to have another c-section. That’s a huge problem; many care providers will mark you as a c-section candidate without ever going into labor simply because of your size.
This is when I think connecting with other mothers in your area is particularly helpful. The internet can only tell you so much; hearing real-life experiences from women with your body size and shape in your town can provide invaluable insight. Make those connections!
It’s also a great idea to hire a trained doula who understands how to support you throughout your pregnancy. A doula can ensure you are appropriately treated and given the support you need throughout labor and delivery.
What Are The Risks of a Plus-Size Pregnancy
Let’s discuss the risks you must consider during this pregnancy.
Being overweight adds risks to yourself as well as your growing baby. Many of the risks are minimal, or they can be reduced by living a healthier lifestyle. Eating right and exercising is an essential step in decreasing these risks.
Increased Risks for The Mother
Here are some of the well-known problems you, as the mother, could experience.
- Gestational Diabetes
- Increased Risk of a Cesarean Section
- Increased Risk of Macrosomia
- Higher Rate of Preeclampsia
- More Aches & Pain
Let’s break this down a bit more.
Some women, regardless of size, develop gestational diabetes, which is temporary diabetes, but overweight women are two to eight times more likely to create it. Having gestational diabetes is a serious concern during pregnancy, which leads to an increased risk of preterm labor and c-section.
Having a big baby is called macrosomia, and obese mothers have a 14% increased risk of having a large baby. Macrosomia is a big name for having a baby over 9 pounds.
Increased Risks for The Baby
So, how does the mother being overweight affect the baby? Here are some potential problems.
- Increased Risk of Miscarriage and Stillbirth
- Higher Birth Weight
- Increased Risk of Injury During Birth
- Possible Preterm Birth
How Much Weight Should I Gain?
Since you’re overweight, you shouldn’t expect to gain too much during your pregnancy.
One of the keys to decreasing your risks is to eat good foods and stay active throughout your pregnancy. That means looking at what foods you eat regularly and make healthy selections as often as possible.
No doubt, this is the million-dollar question during a plus-sized pregnancy. So, we need to refer to what the experts tell us about the ideal weight gain for an overweight pregnant woman.
- If you’re carrying a single baby, the CDC recommends gaining between 15-25 pounds throughout pregnancy.
- For obese women you should gain 11-20 pounds during pregnancy.
Of course, you don’t want to pack on the pounds simultaneously. The ideal way to work this is to spread out your weight gain. It’s normal not to gain weight during the first trimester when morning sickness is so common. Then, as you start to feel normal again, a pound every week or so is normal and healthy!
Hearing this recommendation might seem frustrating, but it’s not uncommon for plus-sized moms to lose weight during pregnancy! If you’re focused on eating healthy and exercising, you might not gain anything or very minimal amounts.
Ideal Exercises for a Plus-Sized Pregnant Mom
Exercising and moving your body is an excellent idea for all pregnant mothers. Unless your doctor specifies otherwise, exercise is safe for all pregnant women, so long as you take it easy and don’t overdo it. If you never exercised before pregnancy, start slowly and be careful – your ligaments are looser now than before.
Relevant: What happens to stomach fat after you get pregnant?
So, what are some exercises you might enjoy? Here are a few options.
- Swimming (laps, not leisurely swimming)
- Prenatal Yoga
- Water Aerobics
- Stationary Bikes
Is Sex Safe During a Plus-Size Pregnancy?
Absolutely! Just because you’re overweight doesn’t mean sexual intercourse is unsafe for you. If it weren’t safe, your doctor would tell you that you need to avoid sex. If you feel unsure, make sure you mention it at your next appointment.
Sexual intercourse is safe for most pregnant women, regardless of their size and weight. It’s not abnormal to experience a heightened sex drive during pregnancy, but it’s also reasonable to have no interest in having sex.
Don’t feel wrong about what you feel. It’s all normal – you’re normal, mama!
When Will I Start to Look Pregnant?
This is one of the downsides of being plus-sized and pregnant. You might be waiting longer for your plus-size baby bump to appear. Every woman wants to look pregnant; we all dream of having that picture-perfect pregnant belly, but it’s not always true for overweight mothers.
An average-sized mother will develop a small baby bump between 12-16 weeks pregnant, but an overweight baby bump might not appear until closer to 20-22 weeks pregnant.
It is different for every woman. Some will show earlier, no matter their weight. It also depends on how you carry your weight. Some overweight women have their weight distribution spread out more rather than focused on the belly region. The number of previous pregnancies will also factor in your belly’s size.
Having a B-Belly Is Normal!
Many overweight mothers notice that their plus-size pregnancy belly is a B-shape rather than a D-Shape.
What does that mean?
A D-shape belly is a classic belly shape that you see in most pregnant women. A B-Belly looks like there is a waistband or indentation in the middle of the “D,” creating a “B” shape. It’s a prevalent topic for overweight mothers who just want a large pregnancy belly.
Some women claim that they notice the “B” shape starts to decrease as they watch their plus-size baby bump progression pictures, but that’s not true for all.
Your Belly Might Not Grow As Fast
You might notice that your belly won’t grow as well. Your fundal height, which is your uterus’ size, should be the same as any other mother’s. Your doctor will check that at each appointment once you reach between 16-20 weeks.
If you take pictures each week, you’ll see your plus-sized baby bump week-by-week growth, and it might look like things are taking a long time to pop out. That’s entirely normal to feel that way!
4 Things to Buy That Can Help with a Plus-Size Pregnancy
From buying to support items, you will want to invest in a few key pieces to help you throughout your pregnancy. Here are a few suggestions that real mothers recommend to other mothers.
Belly Support Bands
It’s not abnormal for your back and hips to ache when you’re pregnant. Wearing a support band can reduce discomfort, but not all belly bands fit plus-size mothers. Flexguard sells a maternity support band that goes up to XXXL!
Everyone, including pregnant mothers, needs a few pairs of yoga pants. Try adding a few of these black yoga pants to your wardrobe, which double as comfortable clothes and clothes you can wear out somewhere.
Plus-Size Pregnancy Bras
It’s not uncommon for pregnant women to notice their breasts growing at the beginning of pregnancy. If you plan to breastfeed, you’ll want nursing bras as well. Maternity bras can often double as nursing bras.
It can be hard for plus-size mothers to find comfortable bras, but here are some options.
- Bravado Designs Original Full Cup Maternity & Nursing Sleep Bra – Up to G cup size
- Goddess Women’s Keira Nursing Bra – Up to I cup size (yes, really!)
- Gratlin Women’s Full Support Cotton Maternity Nursing Bra – Up to 5XL or E cup size
Plus-Size Maternity Underwear
You want your bottom to feel comfortable and have appropriate coverage, but finding panties to fit your growing butt can be problematic. The Innersy Maternity Panties sell up to size XXXL, perfect for all mothers! Each pack comes with five panties for around $20.
Are There Birth Positions That Are Better for a Plus-Sized Mom?
Just because you’re a bit larger doesn’t mean labor positions won’t work for you. Most labor positions work for all women, regardless of their size.
Having a doula is very helpful in labor. She can show you ways to labor comfortably. For example, if you have a pendulum belly (a hanging belly), you might not want to spend as much time on your hands and knees because it could slow labor.
Always double-check the weight limits if you decide to use a birthing ball. Some don’t work for overweight women, but many do!
Can I Have a Vaginal Birth if I’m Overweight?
Absolutely! Don’t let your weight limit your birthing choices. You can easily have a vaginal birth but might end up with a c-section. Having a plus-size c-section does come with a variety of problems or issues that you could encounter.
Plus-sized mothers can even have a VBAC – vaginal birth after a cesarean section.
Break The Stigma
There are a lot of myths and stigmas surrounding plus-size pregnancies, and it is frustrating. It’s not uncommon for women to experience shaming when all they need is love and encouragement. Make sure you create the right support team around you to ensure you have the pregnancy and birth of your dreams.
Hey, this is Linda. My biggest accomplishment in life is being a mother of four children. Their current ages range from almost ten years old down to 20 months old.
I’m passionate about writing parenting articles because I understand so well all of the problems and trials you face as a parent. From breastfeeding woes to budgeting problems and behavior problems, along with everything in between, chances are I’ve faced it over the last ten years. Read more about Linda here.