If you’ve had ‘the talk about everything that could go wrong with your pregnancy because you’re fat’, you may be thinking that it’s very unlikely that you’ll have a straightforward labour and birth. Some hospitals (and some medical professionals) are good at having this talk sensitively and rationally. Some are not, and merely leave the pregnant woman feeling wretched, guilty and worried.
You may even (by very insensitive clinicians) have been told that you, or your baby, or both, are more likely to die, at a time when you can do nothing much to improve the situation, other than keep your stress and anxiety levels to a minimum – something which their disclosure is not likely to help, when actually, although the death rate is higher, we are still talking very, very, very small numbers!
You’ll have been told that your labour is likely to last longer, is more likely to suffer problems such as the baby’s shoulders getting stuck (shoulder dystocia), you’re more likely to have an instrumental delivery with forceps or ventouse, you’re more likely to have problems with anaesthetic, and you’re more likely to end up having a caesarean section. As if that weren’t enough, afterwards your wounds are less likely to heal, you’re more likely to have a haemorrhage, more likely to struggle with breastfeeding and more.
All of these outcomes, while statistically more likely for a bigger mum than a woman of ‘healthy’ BMI, they are still not common! Big Birtha has had the easiest two births of anyone she knows, healed fine, and breastfed fine! Have faith. Your body was made to do this.
Thinking and planning positively about your birth experience has to be the first step. Anxiety is the enemy of natural labour, and worrying about potential problems may erode confidence and actually make problems more likely, or make you less confident to challenge or explore options presented to you and just ‘do as you are told’. While having a professional-led birth should lead to safe outcomes, and some women are only too glad to have someone else take over and tell them what to do, afterwards it may lead you to feel a sense of loss about your birth experience.
We know that one intervention can lead to another, and another, and another. All too often women regret this loss of control, wish afterwards they’d trusted their body more, pushed on a bit longer to see if they could do it by themselves, wished they’d explored alternatives first, feeling that ‘if only’.
Some of us change personality completely when we are in labour; the strongest, most capable people can become meek, quivering wrecks! It’s really important that we are fully armed with the facts and make sure our birthing partner(s) are ‘on message’ and ready to fight our corner if we’re not able to. Some health professionals are less supportive of bigger women, and believe less in our ability to birth our own babies. Their subconscious lack of faith can then be reflected in treatment which can subtly undermine your body’s natural instincts and the flow of your labour. Don’t let their negativity bring you down!
For more information, please see the Labour & Birth sub-pages.