Birth Confidence Summit

Do you have an urge to listen to BigBirthas.co.uk founder Amber Marshall talk about high BMI birth for 50 minutes? Surely you’re keen to marvel at how much I waggle my hands around when I talk (because it’s a LOT)!? Well, I’m pleased to tell you your wait is over! I recently took part in a free online Birth Confidence Summit, organised by Birth Confidence Mentor and founder of BirthEssence.co.uk Charlotte Kanyi.

Screenshot of Amber Marshall - founder of BigBirthas talking to Charlotte Kanyi of BirthEssence at the Birth Confidence Summit
Amber Marshall – founder of BigBirthas – talking to Charlotte Kanyi of BirthEssence

Charlotte has interviewed 27 ‘experts’ (her title, not mine) over Skype about many different aspects of birth. Talk titles include Healing from a traumatic birth, Exploring Induction Choices, Dropping the Nice Girl Conditioning – Make Birth Better (which links with) Visibility, Birth and freeing yourself from the Good Girl Archetype, Hypnobirthing for Confidence and more.

It’s a great idea and you can access all the talks for the bargain price of free!

I talk about why I set up the site, research, the difference between absolute and relative risk, looking positively at pregnancy vs the self-fulfilling prophecy, the media, blaming and scapegoating, and a bit about my two pregnancies and births and how I felt about them.

TL:DR?

In my interview I discuss how our bodies are designed for making and birthing babies. That we’re no longer in the minority and therefore shouldn’t be treated as ‘exceptional’ or ‘problematic’, in fact, we should have the same options as anyone else! Yes, carers should monitor the risks and act accordingly, but until something negative arises (and odds are it won’t) we should stay positive! Do your research and don’t expect your doctor to know everything about your personal circumstances and what is best for you. You decide, and you can use the BRAIN acronym to help you ask the right questions.

The Birth Confidence Summit Speakers

It’s a formidable line-up! There are some great speakers here:

Charlotte Kanyi, Confidence Mentor at BirthEssence

Natalie Meddings, Author, doula and birth yoga teacher

Debs Neiger, Independent midwife at Yorkshire Storks

Rebecca Schiller, Writer, Doula and Co Founder of BirthRights Charity

Alexia Leachman, Therapeutic Coach and Host of the award winning Fear Free ChildBirth Podcast

Kemi Johnson, Independent midwife,  KG Hypnobirthing Teacher and Positive Birth Movement Facilitator

Liz Stanford, Owner of the Calm Birth School of hypnobirthing

Clare Ford, Birth Coach and Master Reiki Healer at Beautiful Souls

Mandy Rees,   Pregnancy and Postnatal Yoga Teacher

Mars Lord, Award winning Doula, Doula Trainer at Abuela Doulas and Birth Activist

Phoebe Pallotti, Practicing Midwife and Associate Professor of Midwifery

Dr. Amali Lokugamage, Consultant Obstetrician and Gynaecologist and Author

Samantha Nolan-Smith, Writer, Feminist and Founder and CEO of The School of Visibility

Simone Surgeoner, Mother of four and Journey Practitioner

Jo Bolden, Mother of one and Co founder and professional dancer at One Dance Epic

Emma Svanberg, Clinical Psychologist specialising in pregnancy birth and parenting

Dr. Rebecca Moore, Clinical Psychotherapist in Birth Trauma

Naraya Naserian, Mother of two and Journey Practitioner

Zoe Challenor, Professional Singer and Co Founder of B’Opera and Mother of Two

Lorna Phillip, ​Doula and Mizan Therapist at Birmingham Doula

Jennie Harrison, Energy Healer, Mindset Coach and Birth Trauma Specialist

Joy Horner, Independent Midwife, and facilitator of Positive Birth Movement Group

Kati Edwards, KG Hypnobirthing instructor and Doula at Birth You in Love

Nicola Goodall, Author, Founder of Red Tent Doulas and director of Wysewoman Workshops

Maddie McMahon, Breast Feeding Counsellor, Doula and Doula Trainer at Developing Doulas

Rachel Elizabeth, Mother of four and Doula at Creative Birth

Take a look and big thanks to Charlotte for organising and facilitating!

Festive Fashion If You’re Plus-Size & Pregnant

Finding fashionable plus-size maternity wear can be a bit of a problem at the best of times, but it’s a nightmare before Christmas! So here are Big Birtha’s picks for festive fashion if you’re plus-size & pregnant.

One of the pluses of being pregnant and plus size is that you often don’t have to restrict yourself just to maternity ranges (whole article on this here). If it’s a loose style with plenty of fabric, give it a try, with the additional bonus that you’ll be able to use it after pregnancy too. Most of the clothes featured here aren’t from the maternity section, so don’t forget to check out the non-maternity lines!

The Killer Christmas Dress

I think this holly print vintage style dress by HellBunny is my favourite of everything I’ve found.

It’s not a maternity dress, but because the style flares out just under the bust line, there’s plenty of fabric at the front. Depending on the size and position of your bump it could be an option. It’s being sold by high street retailer Yours, so with free click and collect and free returns, you can just try it on when you collect and if it’s no good, return it!

Mrs Claus

Not one, but two options here! I have a slight reservation with the Yours one, in that it’s described as a ‘novelty’ dress. This makes me question the quality, but both reviewers have given it 5 stars. The Shein dress is significantly cheaper, but it does say the fabric has no stretch, and it doesn’t appear to be as full as the Yours dress, so if you’re quite far along, it may not be the option for you…

Metallic, Shimmer & Sequins

There’s a plethora of gorgeous shimmery dresses this season, and with plenty of fabric in the pleats, could be perfect for the office Christmas party this year with a bump, and still wearable next year.

(I’d say next year, without a bump, but let’s be realistic!)

Burgundy Satin Pleated Midi Dress

Burgundy Pleated Midi Dress

Metallic Maxi Dress

Black Metallic Maxi Dress

I think the glittery gold dress from Shein looks really opulent. It also comes in silver. Just steer clear of that one if you’re planning on wearing it for Christmas lunch, unless you want to invite comparisons with a foil-wrapped turkey!

As well as glorious shimmery sparkle, it seems to all be about the sequins this Christmas!

Green Sequin Tunic

Green Sequin Tunic

Metallic Collarless Jacket

Metallic Collarless Jacket

Gold Open Back Sequin Top

Open Back Sequin Top

Silver Sequin Wrap Dress

Silver Sequin Wrap Dress

The sequin wrap top with a peplum is an especially popular design this year – almost every site seems to have a version of this, in varying shades.

Christmas Jumpers!

There’s always a Christmas jumper day. But fear not – I’ve found some options here!

Christmas Pudding Sweater

Christmas Pudding Sweater

Jolly Holly Jumper

Jolly Holly Christmas Jumper

Tops & T-shirts

OK, maybe it’s just me, but I keep doing a double take on these ‘Santa Baby’ t-shirts.

I keep reading it as “Santa’s Baby”!

Christmas Pyjamas

For many people, Christmas is all about being snuggly in a cosy pair of pyjamas. If so, fear not – there are some festive maternity options which should see you comfy as you open your presents on Christmas morning.

Elf On The Way Maternity Pyjama Set

Elf On The Way Pyjamas

Maternity Pudding Pyjamas

Maternity Pudding Pyjamas

Whatever you’re doing and whatever you’re wearing, be comfortable! Don’t feel the pressure to try to do everything – Christmas can be exhausting! Take it easy, and let people look after you for once.

Big Birtha x

Pile of laundry by a washing machine, decorated with lights and star to look like a Christmas tree. Festive fashion if you're plus-size & pregnant

Fat Vaginas

I’m sorry. There’s no point beating around the bush. This happened yesterday, and now fat vaginas are on the agenda:

Milli Hill, author of Give Birth Like A Feminist, spoke on BBC Radio Scotland for a discussion about induction rates. With her was Dr Marco Gaudoin, brought in for the ‘expert’ perspective. However, it turns out that Dr Gaudoin’s expertise is in fertility, not obstetrics or gynaecology… which may explain why he said this:

‘With obesity you’ve got increased fat tissue in the birth canal, which makes the birth canal that much narrower, which makes it harder for the baby to squeeze through the birth canal. So you are more likely to end up with what is called an “obstructed labour”‘

Dr Marco Gaudoin, speaking on BBC Radio Scotland 12th November 2019

What’s worse was that this happened at the end of the interview! Milli had no opportunity to challenge the doctor on his statement, or ask for evidence.

Fat Vaginas – Fact or Myth?

It’s no surprise that Milli had never heard this before, because there is NO EVIDENCE for Dr Gaudolin’s words whatsoever. They echo a theory suggested in a research paper back in 1997, and no-one has provided any evidence for it since.

It’s just more fat shaming.

Fat Vaginas: a display of inside-out purses looking remarkably like a selection of vaginas.
Vaginas come in a plethora of different shapes and sizes… image courtesy of The Vagina Museum

Ugh. Makes me want to beat some people over the head repeatedly with a copy of Give Birth Like A Feminist. Shame it didn’t come out in hardback.

You’d really hope that a qualified doctor would stick to established, evidence-based information. Sadly (too often, in my experience) when some doctors feel under pressure, they dredge some half-truth they heard somewhere from the back of their mind and present it as fact, rather than admit they don’t know.

It’s why I recommend anyone embarking on a high BMI pregnancy journey do their research and ensure they’re informed.

I have spoken to countless midwives (who have extensive experience of actual vaginas giving birth) and most agree that with the right support, there is no reason why a high BMI pregnancy shouldn’t proceed as with any other. Indeed, most of them do.

What Happened Next?

On Twitter, plenty came forward to challenge the “expert’s” ill-informed and misogynistic statements.

Then to my surprise, for once, the print media responded positively to the story! This may be thanks to Milli Hill knowing the right people to approach, but it was a refreshing change! The resulting article was comprehensive and well written.

Screenshot of Grazia online article on fat vagina comments.

Then other media outlets picked up on the story, including the Sun, who got an actual expert in obstetrics and gynaecology to comment!

Dr Virginia Beckett, consultant obstetrician and spokesperson for the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists clarified that having an “obstructed labour” has nothing to do with “fat vaginas”. Which we knew, but it is nice that someone well qualified to address the issue has done so.

Screenshot of the Sun online article about fat vaginas

Next Up to fight our corner was the Daily Mail!?

Yes, really! Asking lots of people with much more experience and expertise… and me. So, yeah. That happened. I was tempted to be indecent and suggest that if our vaginas are so ‘restricted’, how lucky must our husbands and partners be? But I behaved myself. And contrary to my expectations, the journalist didn’t twist or change what I wrote at all, bar removing a paragraph that had already been covered by a previous interviewee. You can read what I wrote here:

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-7680527/Doctor-claims-obese-women-fatter-vaginas-likely-experience-obstructed-births.html

Jaw on floor.

The article came with the usual stock headless belly image, naturally! But as soon as I realised and offered an actual picture to replace it, it was quickly swapped.

Of course, the article goes on to report the bloody relative risk stats rather than the true percentages, as always. So there’s still a way to go, but feeling strangely positive at how this story has turned out, for once!

As I have said before and seem to need to keep saying; having a higher BMI while pregnant is associated with a slightly increased risk of some less desirable outcomes. But there is also evidence that the precautionary way high BMI labours are managed may contribute to this.

There is no evidence that fatter people have fatter vaginas. There is no evidence that having a fat vagina (if such a thing exists) is a cause of birth obstruction.

If you want to read more about how micromanaging our births can cause a spiral of negativity and interventions – see article I wrote on The Impact of Negativity on Labour and Birth.

‘Encouraged’ to delay contraceptive removal

Are you thinking about removing your long-acting contraceptive method (coil/implant) because you’d like to try for a baby? Did you make an appointment to have it removed, only to find instead you were ‘encouraged’ to delay contraceptive removal and lose weight? I’ve been hearing murmurs lately that this has started happening in the UK, and it’s taking people by surprise.

Researchers at Cardiff University and Cardiff and Vale NHS University Health Board are conducting a study and are really interested to find out from anyone who is or has been overweight and has used a contraceptive implant/coil/rod their thoughts about this.

If you complete their online survey you could also be in with a chance to win £100 worth of high street vouchers.

3 larger women smiling - ad for Plan-it study about being encouraged to delay contraceptive removal

The study has ethical approval and has the support of the National Institute for Health Research. It’s not very long, so isn’t too arduous to complete. There are lots of free text fields for you to voice your opinions!

The survey portal will be open until December. So if you have an opinon on the appropriateness of being encouraged to delay contraceptive removal, please act quickly! It’s important we don’t miss the opportunity to make our voices heard!

Click here to go to the survey (opens in a new window):

https://cardiff.onlinesurveys.ac.uk/plan-it