Understanding the risks of Plus Size Pregnancy

Risks of Plus Size PregnancyWe live in a culture of fear. A simple Google search of “Plus Size Pregnant” will fill you with hundreds of reasons your pregnancy could contain a medical disaster. (And sadly, they read more like “These things WILL happen to you!” not “might”… And they tend to leave out that they also MIGHT happen to a woman who is not-plus size.) Understanding the risks of Plus Size Pregnancy is important. It’s equally important to not live in fear. (Stress can lead to pregnancy complications – high blood pressure, fatigue, etc! So don’t live in that place of fear!)

Plus Size Model, Tess Holliday has been very outspoken in the media this year about Plus Size Pregnancy Shaming, and while she isn’t always my cup of tea? I think she has been AMAZING for this movement.

Here’s the thing, the moment where I am totally honest with you. My last pregnancy? I weighed 210 lbs when I found out I was pregnant. I gained 30. I had a normal, healthy pregnancy for the most part. I had a normal healthy baby. But? I lived in fear. I was convinced I was going to get Gestational Diabetes. (I didn’t.) I was going to have a giant baby, with possible complications from the diabetes. I was so paranoid that I didn’t get a chance to enjoy my pregnancy. (And I fully believe that stress led to elevated blood pressure, which lead to preeclampsia.)

So let’s be real. We need to be educated about the potential complications. We need to know how to take care of ourselves so that we can best avoid those complications when possible. But then? We need to not stress. We need to enjoy our pregnancy, and keep ourselves healthy for the sake of our babies!

What qualifies as a plus size pregnancy?

Plus Size is typically synonymous with “Overweight” – so let’s look at those factors. (I hate pulling up these technical terms, they will likely bum me out for the rest of the day. But, it’s important to be informed.)

Having a BMI (Body Mass Index) of greater than 25 is considered overweight. Having a BMI of greater than 30 puts you in the “Obese” category.  But once you look at the Obesity category? There are three levels that are associated with increasing health risks.

  • Having a BMI of 30–34.9 — Lowest Risk
  • Having a BMI of 35.0–39.9 — Medium Risk
  • Having a BMI of 40 or greater — Highest Risk

To calculate your BMI, you can visit countless online calculators. Such as the Mayo Clinic BMI Calculator.

(PLEASE!!! Try not to let these numbers freak you out. It’s important to know them, as there ARE health risks associated with being overweight/obese. But? As long as you are making steps towards taking care of yourself? You’re on the right track!!)


Potential risks of plus size pregnancy

Let’s just jump in. The most common risks for the plus size pregnant woman? Here they are.

  • Miscarriage.
  • Gestational Diabetes.
  • Preeclampsia.
  • Sleep Apnea.

These risks all come with risks to both mom and baby. And while they are more likely to occur in a Plus Size pregnancy? They also happen in pregnancies of “normal weight”.

Let’s look closer at a few of these risks.

Push PinMiscarriage. I hate this one. I hate that it has to be brought up. In the past few months, I have watched three friends – all skinny, if you must know – go through this. It’s awful and I wouldn’t wish it upon anyone. The devastation of losing a pregnancy is something I can’t even begin to describe.

No one fully understands or can explain the reasonings behind miscarriages. (Most of the time there is no cause that can 100% explain why a woman has miscarried.) With plus size pregnancies? PCOS (and the related hormone imbalances) often tend to be the culprits.

Push PinGestational Diabetes. I have admitted on numerous occasions that this was always my biggest fear. Plus Size women may be tested twice (once earlier than normal) during their pregnancies for GD, since their risk is higher. This also leads to the higher likelihood of a cesarean delivery.

I am just giving a brief overview, but the National Institute of Health has a great explanation of GD if you want in depth info!

Push Pin Preeclampsia. While the risks of preeclampisa are scary (seizures and in rare cases, stroke) it’s also easily detectable! (I had Pre-e during my last pregnancy, and it was caught very early and monitored closely – turned out just fine for me!) WebMD has some great resources for more information about PreEclampsia.

Push PinSleep Apnea. I have to admit, this is one that was new to me when I started researching! I didn’t realize that Sleep Apnea could be caused by pregnancy!! (And luckily, if you get it while pregnant? It’s likely to go away after!) The Sleep Foundation has more in-depth information about Pregnancy induced Sleep Apnea.

So what do I do about preventing/monitoring these risks?

First? Take a deep breath! Just because these risks are higher during a Plus Size Pregnancy? Doesn’t mean you’re absolutely going to get them! Having a great doctor that you trust and respect is a HUGE help in preventing and calming your mind about these risk factors.

Know what to look for with these disorders; with each explanation above, I posted a link to a great site which shows the signs and symptoms to look for! If you are worried that you may have one of these conditions, please bring it up with your doctor ASAP!

At the risk of sounding like a broken record? Proper sleep/rest, hydration, diet and exercise are the keys to a healthy pregnancy! If you’re taking care of yourself in the best way you can? Your body can respond better to any potential risks that pop up! So now is the time to really focus on your own mental and physical health!

Have you experienced any of these risk factors in your pregnancies? We’d love to hear your story to help inspire others who may be going through it! Please leave a comment below!!

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