Criticizing Fat Pregnant Women Isn’t Just Mean, It Is Offensive

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Times like these are mostly considered the productive month; this is a time of the month where there is a greatest likelihood of children coming to life. In fact some experts even pinpoint April as the most productive month.

But in the process of giving birth, and during breastfeeding their new additions, many women may experience an unwelcome surprise, which may cause family, friends and even bystanders to start quick comments and even sometimes criticize an expectant or new mother’s weight.

This shaming can include judging a mother-to-be for her weight before becoming pregnant; the weight she gains over pregnancy; and the weight she doesn’t lose after having the baby. Weight stigma like this is potentially a very real threat to maternal health.

A study published on Theconversation has recently revealed that fat-shaming pregnant women is not just mean, it is harmful and offensive and this may cause that they do something hurtful to themselves.

The study revealed that outside the realm of pregnancy, experiencing weight stigma is stressful and harmful. And this is associated with various health consequences, including weight gain, heightened cortisol and inflammation, and unhealthy or disordered eating. Despite this, little research has examined weight stigma’s effects on pregnant and postpartum women.

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Criticizing Fat Pregnant Women Isn’t Just Mean, It Is Offensive
Criticizing Fat Pregnant Women Isn’t Just Mean, It Is Offensive

Angela C Incollingo Rodriguez, the author of the study and assistant professor of psychology, Worcester Polytechnic Institute U.S. said the research suggests that nearly two-thirds of pregnant and postpartum women experience some form of weight stigma.

According to the study, 501 pregnant and postpartum women reported experiencing weight stigma from multiple people and places.

21 percent indicated they had experienced it from immediate family. One woman said, “A good number of my family told me that I shouldn’t be ‘trying’ to get pregnant because I’m too heavy after they found out I was expecting.” Nearly 25 percent women reported feeling stigmatized by the media. Also, 33 percent said they experienced weight stigma in the media, an example being, “society treats overweight pregnant women as less.”

Healthcare providers were another common source. One woman shared, “One doctor told me I was terrible for getting pregnant at my weight that I was setting up my baby to fail.”

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The report shows that these types of experiences didn’t just happen for heavy mothers. Women of all weights experienced some form of weight stigma.

There’s a widely held concern that heavy women are unhealthy and have unhealthy pregnancies, so many think the researchers need to intervene on weight. Rodriguez research, however, suggests that people should also be very concerned about weight stigma directed at pregnant and postpartum women.

For instance, in that same sample of 501 women, having experienced weight stigma was related to more symptoms of depression (both during and after pregnancy), dieting in unhealthy ways, more emotional.

Rodriguez explained that eating behavior, and feeling stressed out among postpartum moms, weight stigma was also related to keeping on their baby weight.

The study found that experiencing weight-based discrimination during pregnancy was associated with gaining more weight throughout the pregnancy. It also predicted more symptoms of postpartum depression and retaining baby weight in the first year after having the baby.

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Another study shows that weight shaming has been linked to increased postpartum depression in women, an often serious illness.The author discusses her research on weight stigma during pregnancy.

Ruth Kava, PhD, RD, director of nutrition for the American Council on Science and Health in New York, says obesity may be a result of underlying genetic tendencies, thyroid problems, or even lack of exercise. But it’s hard to exercise when you’re heavy, so why stress? she said.

“Being pregnant doesn’t suddenly make it any less uncomfortable for someone to comment on your weight (or to touch your stomach). So as the year comes to a close, you might consider a new kind of New Year’s resolution. If your partner, friend, sister, neighbor or colleague is pregnant, be mindful in how you talk to her about her weight. Or better yet, maybe don’t even mention weight.

If we want healthy babies, that begins with healthy mothers. We all have a role to play in that in so far as we can avoid weight shaming,” Rodriguez emphasized.

 

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