“It Would Be Unethical to Help a Fat Woman Get Pregnant”

Janet writes…

Hi, I saw your call for emails re: bad experiences with doctors. Boy, have I had a ton of them. But this is the most recent, and most painful to date.

To bring you up to speed rather quickly, my husband, “Chuck,” and I have been trying to have a child for the past 4 years. We have had two miscarriages. Finally, we were referred to our friendly neighbourhood fertility specialist. We first met him and he was very nice, and incredibly professional. He saw us, we filled in a 14 page questionnaire, and we talked about the situation. He first thought I had PCOS, which turned out to be not the case. Then he did other tests, and failing all that, he concluded that if I lost a bit of weight it might be helpful. He figured that, hearing that advice from him would be the push I would need in the right direction, I guess. So anyway, he sends me away for three months to work on my weight, which I do. I watch what I eat, I exercise, I enjoy life… I am careful. And we try like hell to have a child naturally.

After the three months are up, and we aren’t pregnant, we head back to his office.

Chuck and I had already discussed our plan of action – if there is a significant difference between trying to get pregnant when you are 35 and trying when you are 36, we would forge ahead and get Clomid (the next step in helping us get pregnant). If there was no difference, then we would stop, and consider our next move. I had resolve, I knew where I was going with this. But that was all a lie; I really just wanted to get the Clomid and get the hell out of there.

So, after making us wait an extra 20 minutes, a resident asks us to follow her. She is willowy, probably considered beautiful by the majority of the male population. She gracefully leads us to the back office, where we wait for the “real” doctor to arrive. He comes in, he’s all business. I tell him I haven’t lost weight (like he couldn’t tell by the fact that I didn’t fit into the chair in his office. He is impressed that I am no longer taking coumadin (long story – not relevant), and then he asks what do we want to do. After stumbling over each other, Chuck and I manage to explain that yes, we want to get pregnant, but will it make a difference if we waited until I tried the medical fast. Understand that this was something that had been talked about, and I was willing to try if it meant better chances of success.

I have never seen a doctor more enthusiastic to get me to lose weight. Nor have I ever had a doctor say that he really didn’t want to treat me because it would have been unethical. Wow. Treating me would be unethical. W… T… F? At this point I have melted into the puddle of tears that typically follows huge disappointment. I wanted him to tell me to be aggressive in my fertility treatment. That he would say “To hell with risks – start popping these pills!”, toss me a script and wish me luck. I hadn’t expected to hear him say that, if I were to present to an OB/GYN pregnant at the weight I am now, I would “cause them to grow hair on their chest, man or woman.” Again… WTF??? I don’t really remember what else he said at that point, nor do I remember much of what I said – I was too busy trying to regain my composure under what I found to be the withering stare of that silly cow resident.

Gasping for breath and snorking back the hurt, I asked him for the referral to the weight management clinic. I am going to do the Optifast plan, if they’ll have me. He happily writes down my normal glucose levels, my weight, my BMI, and scrawls the word INFERTILE as the compelling reason that I should starve myself. Great. Lovely. Fan-fucking-tastic.

I am now in the process of consuming less than 1000 calories a day in the form of milkshakes. I do this with one compelling reason in mind. I want to prove to those fuckers that my weight had nothing to do with my infertility. But most importantly, I want a child. Unfortunately the medical system has seen fit to not help me with the problem I originally presented with. All they saw was extra weight, not the fact that I am a woman desperate enough to do almost anything to have a child. If it weren’t for the facts that I am so determined and that my husband has supported me through all this, I probably would have been locked up for suicide attempts a long time ago.

[We are so glad you have your husband’s support and want to remind all our readers that there are resources available to help anyone considering suicide. -Eds.]

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9 Comments

  1. Thorn

     /  July 29, 2007

    Janet, this story has haunted me since I first read it. I am fortunate that I had no problems conceiving, but I remember the quavering fear I felt the first time I went in to meet my OB after that fateful positive home pregnancy test. I was so afraid that he would tell me… well, about what your doctor told you. I was relieved, upon checking in, to look around the waiting room and see plenty of other women who were heavy as well.

    I wish you the best of luck, not just in dealing with this lab-coated shit-stain, but also in your actual goal of one day having a child. There are a few resources out there, which you may or may not already know about: Plus Size Pregnancy and also Fertility Plus.

    My heart goes out to you, and I wish you the best of luck. I hope one day to see an update from you sharing happy news.

    Reply
  2. CJ_in_VA

     /  November 7, 2007

    Janet,

    I’m just seeing this now so I do not know what twists or turns life has brought you. I wanted to respond anyway because I know this can be done and I wanted to share my story.

    Reader’s digest version: when my husband and I first realized we probably were going to need help to conceive, we were working with a doctor who hid his fat bigotry very well. After tests and removal of some polyps in my uterus (non-cancerous at the time) I had hoped we could forge ahead with more aggressive therapies. His response: Pregnancy is supposed to be beautiful and natural and it can be neither at your weight. I suggest you lose 100 pounds then come back.

    I never went back.

    We moved to another state and on the advice of many wonderful people on the internet, I asked questions before I agreed to work with doctors. My first question: I’ve dealt with doctors who will not help me because of my weight. How do you feel about working with me at my current weight? I knew I’d found the right reproductive endocrinologist when he chuckled softly after my question and said, “Mrs. P, if it weren’t for full sized women I wouldn’t have a practice. I’ve worked with women far larger than you.” When it came time to refer me to an ob/gyn after I’d gotten pregnant, I asked the question again – first of the RE, then of the office staff of the ob/gyn he recommended. Again, I got the same reaction – we are happy to welcome women of all sizes to our practice.

    My daughter is 6 now. I truly hope you have found the help you so rightly deserve.

    Reply
  3. "Janet" aka Linds...

     /  January 29, 2008

    Hello ladies & gents,

    This is posted by way of an update.

    I am not pregnant yet, but we have managed to get a little bit further down this road. I am in the process of doing my fourth clom.id cycle, but I am still being told that there is no way they will consider more advanced treatment protocols (such as IVF) unless I reduce my BMI (heh) below 30.

    It’s so sad to see so many stories of neglect/abuse of people because of their size… but I am glad to know I am not alone. Thank you Thorn and CJ for your comments.

    Reply
  4. Lucy Gillam

     /  February 20, 2008

    Janet,

    I hope you read this at some point, because your fertility specialists are so full of the contents of my science-created daughter’s diapers that they *squeak.* Yes, being overweight is generally not a good thing for fertility, sure. But my BMI (eyeroll) is 40, and I had wonderful, amazing fertility specialists who didn’t even remotely harp on my weight. We never went as far as IVF (I got pregnant on the last IUI attempt), but they were in fact prepared to do so.

    I’ve got to go pick up said science-created daughter right now, but if you want a fat woman’s fertility perspective, please, email.

    Reply
  5. Thanks for posting this. My BMI is 34, and my doctor thinks I shouldn’t get pregnant without losing weight first. The stupidity of it is stunning. I restrict my eating, lose some weight, get pregnant, can’t restrict anymore, then quickly gain all of the lost weight back again plus pregnancy weight on top of it. Sounds like a recipe for a heart attack.

    Reply
  6. oh yeah – and I’m 38, with no reason to think I’d have fertility problems, but in a few years, who knows?

    Reply
  7. Jake

     /  December 21, 2009

    Listen, what the doctor said was completely fucked up. But fat bigotry? what the fuck is wrong with you people? No one should be discriminated against because of their weight, or appearance, or any other shit like that, but if someone makes fun of you for being fat, either be the bigger man and walk away, be the petty fuck and throw a punch, or be the sadistic asshole who leaves them lying in a puddle of their tears because of some excellent psychoanalyzing. But don’t be the whiny little bitch who assumes the person is a bigot and a completely terrible person because he acted like The Big One hit when you walked by. If you have self-confidence problems because of your weight, either lose it or get over it. And don’t say it’s not possible for people to lose weight and keep it off. My three best friends all weighed over 200 pounds six years ago, now the heaviest one weighs 170. It’s copmpletely fucking possible to lose weight and keep it off, if it’s not working for you then too fucking bad, but don’t assume that even though you try as hard as you can and still can’t lose any wi]eight it’s the same for everyone else, and if you’ve got a problem with anything I say email me. And yeah I’m a dude, but I’m not a mysoginist, and if you assume that all “fat bigots” are mysoginists, even if you assume the majority are, then you’re probably the true sexist. Seriously though, email me. I look forward to it. And I don’t mean that in a creepy way, I just enjoy a good argument.

    Reply
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