I am hearing more and more stories lately about doctors telling fat women that they will never have a healthy pregnancy, that if they dare to become pregnant at their size they will probably die, that their baby will die, or that they will never have a healthy baby.
This kind of bullying is not the experience of all fat women, mind, but I am hearing this kind of story much more often than I used to. The risks around pregnancy in women of size has become SO hyped now that some doctors are totally distorting the actual risks way out of proportion, trying to scare fat women away from having babies at all.
The Newest Story for the "Scare Providers Hall of Shame"
A mother from a support group for women of size recently wrote about her experience going to a Reproductive Endocrinologist (RE). She gave me permission to share it here.
She is 29 years old, "overweight," and has been trying to get pregnant for 2 years without success. She saw an OB, who determined that she has a blocked tube and doesn't ovulate regularly. They did lab work and counseling to discuss her risk factors and to work out a healthy, sane proactive plan for having a healthy pregnancy. Then her OB sent her to her local RE for help in getting pregnant.
The RE took one look at her size and started interrogating her. In the end, he refused to help her, telling her it would be "unethical" to assist them with pregnancy because of her size.
He also told them that if they were to get pregnant somehow, "The baby would only have a 5% chance of survival." FIVE PERCENT.
Then he told them that he would be writing a letter to her doctors so they would quit wasting his time with cases such as hers anymore.
Now, I have no idea where that doctor got that "5% chance of survival" bullshit. I've read a LOT of medical studies on "obesity" and pregnancy, and I have NEVER seen any number like that in ANY study.
It was purely and totally a scare tactic number, pulled out of his behind and not based on any real research. Bottom line, it was designed to bully and frighten this woman out of having a baby.
Fortunately, she didn't buy into this bullshit at all, but how many fat women have been told crap like this (or read scary online "information" articles and media releases) and are intimidated out of having children?
Other Stories in the Hall of Shame
This is just the latest story of fat bias mistreatment. You'd think I'd get used to reading these by now, but my blood starts boiling every time I read these things.
I've documented other stories like this on my blog before, but it was early in the history of the blog and few people had found me then, so pardon me for a little repetition. Let me hit some of the "highlights" for you.
First, there's the story of the woman who emailed me last year about "Suicide By Pregnancy." An OB at a prestigious university medical school told her that if she chose to continue her pregnancy, she would almost surely die. Here's a quote:
He told me that I wasn't going to make it alive through my pregnancy and that they would "have to take drastic measures to try save me before they would even attempt to save my baby" etc.Or there's Gina Marie's story, where she was induced early because of a suspected big baby, which resulted in a cesarean, as inducing early for a big baby often does. (Of course, they blamed the c-section on her obesity instead of on inducing for macrosomia, naturally.)
He kept saying I shouldn't have gotten pregnant, that I had in a sense, committed suicide! He told me that my heart was going to give out, or that I was going to stroke out while attempting to push my LARGE baby out, therefore I was going to have a c-section. He told me that I was going to have massive blood clots in my legs and severe pre-eclampsia.
I left his office completely panicked and in tears. I was shaking so bad I could hardly walk and all he did was look at me and said in a cold voice with no emotion at all, "It's really scary, isn't it."
Just before the cesarean, the OB pressured her to agree to tie her tubes so she wouldn't have any more pregnancies. When she would not agree, they implied she would not survive the surgery, asked if she was an organ donor, and wanted to know what funeral home to use.
Then they used a classical incision in the cesarean (a huge up-down incision, which is usually used only when a baby needs to come out as FAST as possible, which was not true here), and told her that if she dared have another pregnancy, her uterus would "explode."
In other words, they found a way to punish her and scare her out of another pregnancy, despite her not agreeing to let them tie her tubes.
After the surgery, they took turns coming into her room and yelling at her about losing weight:
Not only did I need to diet, but if I did not do so, I would be dead before ten years, because women my size don't live past 40. My child would never love me because he would be so ashamed to have a fat mama. Fat women are bad mothers who can't keep up with their children, and their children suffer for it. By obstinately continuing to be fat, I would show myself to be an unfit mother.Then of course, there are the fat women who are pressured to terminate their pregnancies, simply because they are fat. The implication is that the baby of a fat woman could never be healthy, that pregnancy at larger sizes is so dangerous that the pregnancy must be aborted in order for the woman to survive, or that the baby would die in a fat pregnancy anyhow so you might as well abort sooner than later.
As one woman recounted:
I also was told I could not have kids. Then when I got pregnant I was told by various doctors for various reasons that I should abort.This is the latest tactic in the obesity hysteridemic------extreme medical bullying.
A New Form of Medical Bullying
Medical bullying has been around for "obese" people for a long, long time, but it only seems to be getting worse now with all the hype about obesity.
Fat women have been having babies for years too, but the risks of obesity and pregnancy are so hyped nowadays in the media and the medical literature that doctors have a hugely exaggerated sense of risk with it.
Because of this, they feel justified in a nearly 50% cesarean rate for "morbidly obese" women (or more; that study was only on first-time mothers); in preventing fat women from having access to reproductive technology (as is happening in the UK); in pressuring women of size to not get pregnant unless they get to a "normal" BMI first (which, given the long-term failure rate of dieting, basically means that very few will ever have babies); or in scaring fat women out of trying to conceive at all or into terminating their pregnancies.
Basically, they are trying to emotionally manipulate fat women out of pregnancy (or further pregnancies) by any means they can.
I've said it before but it bears repeating.....this kind of over-the-top BULLYING is a total exaggeration of the risks, and basically amounts to trying to scare women of size out of having babies rather than giving them reasonable counseling about possible risks and ways to mitigate those risks.
It is a unique and insidious form of eugenics and IT MUST STOP.
*If you have a story of fat-biased treatment that you encountered during pregnancy or birth, please feel free to email it to me at kmom at plus-size-pregnancy dot org. It's very important that we document these kinds of incidents.