Fed Up With Lazy Journalism

Another day, another article which blames obese mums and completely misrepresents the research it purports to be reporting on.

Thanks Helen McArdle ‘Health Correspondent’ for The Herald @HMcardleHT, for yet more scaremongering claptrap.

Here’s the article:

http://www.heraldscotland.com/news/16071005.Foetuses_of_obese_women_develop__fatty_liver__in_the_womb/

Let’s begin with the headline:

Offspring of obese mothers prone to childhood obesity because they develop ‘fatty liver’ in womb

So, that sounds worryingly simple enough, an assertion which is reinforced in the first paragraph:

“CHILDREN whose mothers were obese during pregnancy are more likely to become overweight themselves because they develop a “fatty liver” in the womb, research has found.”

As usual, we’re to blame, and “research has found it”, so the article says, so it must be true. Surely?

Unless you read on.

But the trouble is, how many people do read on with articles like this? How many mums, glancing at this and feeling sick to the pit of their stomach at the potential harm they’re doing to their baby/have done to their children, breath deeply, and flick past to something lighter to brighten the mood? If you’re already pregnant/have had the baby there is little point in finding more things to stress over – being a parent is hard enough!

How many healthcare professionals, busy on a lunchbreak, notice the heading and possibly the first paragraph and move on, because there’s no need to read it – it’s clearly just going to tell the thing they already believe to be true; overweight women are harming their children through greed, laziness, and ignorance?

Not all health professionals think this way, certainly, but I’ve met enough to get the impression that it’s not a rarely-enough-held viewpoint. Newspaper articles like this don’t help matters.

The second paragraph kicks us again when we’re down.

“It has long been known that overweight and obese women are more likely to give birth to heavy babies and that these infants are at greater risk of childhood obesity.”

Actually, (and please correct me if you know of more recent studies to the contrary) I think
the link between big mum=big baby is only shown in studies which failed to adjust for mums with poorly controlled blood glucose levels (usually as a result of poorly managed gestational diabetes). Where this is accounted for, there is no established correlation between otherwise obese mums and heavier babies at birth.

The second claim, that ‘these infants are at greater risk of childhood obesity’ does have some grounding; there are plenty of studies that show a correlation between maternal obesity and childhood obesity. It’s very easy to find data on the mother’s BMI at her booking appointment – and so again, lazy researchers have been known to draw conclusions that pregnancy BMI is a factor in the obesity of a 10 year old, failing to account for the environment the child is growing up in after its birth! Funny how these studies are so rarely interested in paternal obesity as an indicator, isn’t it, since that data is so much less readily available?

Then we get onto the third paragraph and the headline starts to unravel…

“However, research published in the Journal of Physiology has revealed for the first time how fat accumulates in the liver and metabolic pathways are disturbed in foetuses developing in obese mothers with diets high in sugar and fat.”

Hang on a second! That additional information makes quite a bit of difference!! “Obese mothers with diets high in sugar and fat“. So not ALL obese mothers, but the ones with poor diets. Obviously much less catchy as a headline though, isn’t it?

Then comes not just the unravelling, but the full scale chopping up of the headline with the sword of Damocles… if you read further down to paragraph eleven.

“The study was carried out using obese pregnant monkeys.”

I’m sorry? What?! Obese. Pregnant. Monkeys??!?

They didn’t mention that in the title, now, did they? No, in fact, The Herald used the word ‘childhood’ in the title. Could have used the more factually correct ‘infant’; it even comprises fewer letters, but implying that this is research on humans makes this a more compelling read, doesn’t it?

Baboon hanging from its tail above water

The very first word of the article itself is ‘Children’, which we now know should read ‘Baboons’!

While I concede that humans share 91% of their DNA with baboons, there’s definitely enough of a difference between us for that distinction to be quite important.

I can’t do this, for instance. And I’m not overly fond of bananas.>>

If you google a bit, you’ll discover that Helen McArdle didn’t even write all of the article herself. Most of it, the accurate stuff, was lifted directly from this press release from the Physiological Society. The Herald’s only input was just to add confusion and a click-bait title – and bury the essential information deeper in the text. Standard journalistic fare, sadly.

My advice, always read on if you come across a news story that makes you feel uncomfortable about being a bigger mum. More often than not, the article unravels itself as you read, and your fears prove false.

Even better, find the research the article is citing and read that, if possible, (if, in this case, you’re not squeamish about reading of the the deaths by exsanguination of not-quite-to-term baby baboons…)

Primate fetal hepatic responses to maternal obesity: epigenetic signalling pathways and lipid accumulation (72.7 KiB)

This journalistic laziness is so frustrating. Research which usually took scientists months, maybe years to conduct, and several thousand words to explain, are so often twisted and misrepresented when distilled by a journalist into an attention-grabbing article. But the damage is done.

This is all I have to say about that…

A baboon's bottom
If you’d like to get involved in some citizen-led science about high-BMI pregnancy in conjunction with Parenting Science Gang, funded by the Wellcome Trust, then do join our Facebook group here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1955647771354577/

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Big Birtha

The Marks Of Life

I’ve had this song going round in my head for days.

In case you missed it, it’s blogger Sophie McCartney’s take on Ed Sheeran’s ‘Shape Of You’ from a Mum’s perspective; gagging at the smell of baby poo and vomit, dealing with toddler tantrums, wondering where that strange smell is coming from, dealing with fussy toddlers at mealtimes, thanking God for CBeebies. It’s all there.

It was funny the first time, and the second, and the third… And now whenever ‘Shape Of You’ comes on the radio I no longer hear Ed’s original lyrics. Even if I do sing under my breath because I don’t really want the kids singing ‘Smell of Poo’ at the top of their lungs at every opportunity; scatological humour being their very favourite, of course, they’re kids…

Except one refrain keeps jarring with me; “What have you done to my body?”, sung as she wriggles and struggles trying to fit into a pair of jeans.

I can’t blame or credit my kids for my body – it looks pretty much the same as it did before they came along; saggy bits, wobbly bits, stretch marks, flat feet; it all predates them! No blame on their little heads!

Which got me wondering… do some skinny mums resent their kids for what pregnancy has done to their figures? Even if it’s just a tiny tiny bit, buried deep in the subconscious, that’s terribly sad.

Personally, I feel it would be far better to resent society and the beauty industry for suggesting that women should conform to some unrealistic ‘spring back into shape’ notion immediately after childbirth – but it’s hard to argue with the subconscious!? I know the mum in the video is playing for laughs, but as the saying goes ‘ many a true word spoken in jest’.

I’d never considered how the flipside of pressuring new mums to get back into shape, actually subtly implies that the children are to blame; the magazines don’t tend to call it ‘pregnancy weight, but ‘baby weight’, after all and language is a very subtle but powerful manipulator.

I don’t buy magazines, nor seek this sort of thing out online, so I don’t see this on a regular basis, but now I’ve been thinking about it, I’m glad this sort of content doesn’t appeal to me. Certainly, having a quick look before writing this showed just how much judgemental content there is out there for new mums in terms of body image.

When I’d just had my babies, I was blissfully ignorant of any such pressures! In hindsight, being fat and opting out of mainstream media actually seems like a really positive life choice! I just got on with being a new mum, trying to fathom my path through the sleep-deprived, bodily-fluid-covered, chocolate-digestive-fuelled world that is early parenthood; enjoying it and being exhausted by it in roughly equal parts.

At a time of the greatest upheaval and steepest learning curve in their lives, women should be able to just be with and enjoy their babies! But seriously, could this actually affect how women bond with their babies – wasting valuable time and effort trying to get back into the pre-pregnancy skinny jeans, and potentially feeling a sense of failure if they don’t achieve that lauded goal at a time when our hormones are naturally all over the place surely can’t be ideal?

I know I moan at times of the treatment of bigger mums. But actually, in this case I’m glad that my early days as a mum weren’t infected with this kind of poison. I felt no such pressure. Plenty of other pressures around keeping a tiny human alive, but none of this nonsense, and for that I am eternally glad.

For me, pregnancy and childbirth was (and should be!) a time of absolute wonder and amazement at what my not-so-little body was capable of. Well, wonder, amazement and general queasiness, but hey, that means the hormones are all working as they should, right?

Right from the first realisation that carrying a child had suddenly awakened my ‘spidey-senses’ and I was now able to detect the nauseating whiff of a tuna sandwich from half a kilometer away, to feeling the babies wriggling around inside me, to discovering that the dairy had sprung into production surprisingly early (about 20 weeks early!), through to having two awesome, pop-a-pea-out-of-a-pod births, and then feeding them well into toddlerhood, my amazing body did all of that, and I’m bloody proud of it. Wobbly bits and all.

In the Willy Russell play/film Shirley Valentine, the inveterate charmer, Costas talks about Shirley’s stretch marks:

Don’t, don’t be too stupid to try to hide these lines. They, they are lovely, because they are part of you, and you are lovely, so don’t, don’t hide, be proud. Sure. These marks show that, that you are alive, that you survive. Don’t try to hide these lines. They are the marks of life.

Shirley replies – to the audience; “Aren’t men full of shit?”, but do you know, I’m with Costas one hundred percent. Shirley reads too many magazines…

Sharing the love

The BigBirthas website has been active for a little over two years now. While I haven’t ever got as much time as I’d like to work on the site, it isn’t hard to stay motivated, as every so often I get a lovely email from someone in the BigBirthas community about how the site has helped them.

I don’t usually share them, but thought maybe it’s time I did (with permission!) so here is my most recent lovely email from ‘Jo’:

I just wanted to say an enormous THANK YOU for your website! I have just discovered I am pregnant after trying to conceive for some time so am over the moon! But am already being body-shamed and fed so many scare stories from the medics that I fear they will make me high risk purely through scaremongering! I’m certain sure my body is not high risk and needed some evidence and research to back it up!

Your wealth of information and reassuring guidance on your amazing website has calmed me down and empowered me to advocate for myself during appointments and in particular, push strongly for a water birth which I have always wanted. This must have taken an awful lot of time and effort (there is so much info there!), but it is a lifesaver for women like me. I will be visiting your page often throughout the next few months!

Thank you

Jo

So for Jo (huge congratulations!) and everyone else reading this, you are most welcome. It has been and remains truly a pleasure.

I’m only sorry I still haven’t got round to finishing researching and writing the many articles that are still languishing in my ‘draft’ box – many of which are little more than titles. I still think I will get round to it! But it seems the right time to reflect. I’ve been involved in a few campaigns over the time that BigBirthas has been active – trying to positively influence birth treatment and outcomes, for everyone, not just the larger ladies in our community, and now the Maternity Review was just published yesterday. I’ve not read all of it yet (there’s over 100 pages!) but it does seem to be suggesting more woman-centred care, which can only be a good thing, in my opinion!

So if you’ve just found out you’re pregnant and are apprehensive of what the future brings, welcome. There’s a community here. Be strong. Have faith in your body’s innate abilities. Don’t be afraid to speak up for yourself. Request to see the evidence base on which treatment is being recommended, and object/refuse/work to find an alternative where you experience prejudicial treatment that has no good evidence for its imposition.

And if you’re ever feeling low, or as though you’re not ‘supposed’ to be pregnant, do a Google image search for ‘fertility goddess’ or ‘mother goddess’. See those carvings and sculptures of women with big breasts, big hips and big tummies?

The ancient people who made those figures knew what they were talking about.

You are a goddess.

Don’t you forget it.

Hotmilk Nursing Bra Review

So, I was contacted by Hotmilk and asked if I’d like to do a review of one of their nursing bras. Hotmilk Nursing BraWell, I jumped at the chance because I’ve never treated myself to one of theirs. I chose this one >>
Show Off Floral Nursing Bra – £32.90
in a 42GG (update 2018 – now out of stock)

I arrived at this measurement with a little surprise, as I normally wear a 40 FF or G, but then, I haven’t been measured in a while and it’s estimated that 80% of women are wearing the wrong bra size…

In fact, following the measurements on the size guide, I should have chosen a 44GG, but Hotmilk doesn’t sell any 44 bras at present. Given the discrepancy, I ordered the 42GG and hoped for the best.

Now, before I get onto the review of the bra itself, I need to mention that the Hotmilk website and I didn’t get off to a great start.

Having decided I was looking for a 42GG bra, I entered those details into the ‘Filter by Size’ / ‘Filter by Cup’ options at the top of the page. Brilliant idea. The filter returned six bras, including
<<< this lovely number:
the Dawn Black Nursing Bra, currently on sale for £19.95 (update 2018- now out of stock), but it turns out that in larger sizes it’s actually only available in a
38 FF, G, or H, 40 FF, or GG, and 42 C, or FF. Disappointing. This filter really needs to take account of in stock bras, in my opinion, although I can see the argument that it could be helpful to know what bras are available if you want to wait for one you really like that’s out of stock.

So, anyway, the bra arrived very quickly, and as soon as I removed it from the packet it was very clear to see that the build quality is excellent. The clips on the cups are sturdy and well-attached, the straps are wide and strong, and the adjustment buckle and ring attachments are both sturdy metal. There is also a triple row of hooks on the back fastener, with six closure positions for adjustment.

To my surprise, when I put it on it was not tight at all. Remember, I was supposed to have ordered a 44GG according to my measurements! I have actually only worn it on the tightest setting, but it is sooooo comfortable. I would even go so far as to say that it is possibly one of the most comfortable bras I have ever worn.

It doesn’t move around during the day, my boobs are held in a great position, the shoulder straps don’t dig in, and more importantly, I had no issue with the shoulder straps folding in half – which is something that occurs on some wide-strapped bras in my experience, completely negating the point of having a wide strap in the first place. This didn’t happen. Those shoulder straps are serious engineering!

The cups have a little stretch in them, so would cope well with the ebb and flow in size of breastfeeding breasts. (Again, I feel the GG is more generous than I need. If I order another I think I could be tempted to go with my usual size of 40G). The nursing clips can easy be fastened and unfastened with one hand.

My only issue is that with this design, the cups come quite high up the chest, and while I don’t wear particularly low-cut tops, my clothing choices were restricted because the bra could be seen at the neckline, but it’s a small niggle. I can always wear a different bra on those days.

All in all, I have been very impressed. Hotmilk are not the cheapest bras on the market, but you certainly get what you pay for, the quality is second to none.

You can buy direct from Hotmilk Lingerie, or their bras can also be found in varying designs, prices and sizes at other retailers such as:

Figleaves

Amazon

House of Fraser (up to 38HH, but some on sale)

Nursing Bra Shop

Bras 4 Mums

I’m off to buy a 40GG Dawn Black before they’re out of stock…