I am currently 22 weeks pregnant and probably in the best health I have been in years. Unfortunately instead of enjoying it I’m finding myself for the first time wanting to skip medical appointments because I am totally fed up with dealing with the worst fat-prejudice I have ever encountered in my life.
Except it’s not just fat prejudice (although this is how it is expressed in my case). I have discovered it’s more the systematic bullying of nearly every pregnant woman I’ve met, no matter her age, weight, overall health or whatever by the medical profession.
You see there is no perfect ideal pregnant patient. We’re all doing something wrong.
In my case, I tick a lot of high-risk factors – I’m overweight, over 35, became pregnant through IVF and have a mother who died of a diabetes-related illness. About the only risk factor I don’t tick is being of indigenous descent. So I totally get that the doctors want to keep a close-eye on me during my pregnancy and this is fine. It’s just the way they do it.
During my 16-week appointment the doctor said (and I swear I’m not making this up although I may have got the words a little wrong): “Your blood pressure is good, your kidney function is normal, you have good iron levels, low cholesterol and normal insulin levels BUT you are carrying too much weight to have a healthy pregnancy.”
As evidenced by what???
If he had just said: “All your medical tests have come back fine but I still want to keep a close eye on you because of your high risk factors” it would have been fine. It would have been better than fine.
Instead I get “It’s really important that you don’t gain any more weight during this pregnancy. I don’t want you coming back in a month another four kilos heavier.”
So are you are saying that I shouldn’t report for medical check-ups if I’ve gained any more weight?
It’s actually really really important that I get regular check-ups – whether I gain, lose or maintain my weight – especially given my high-risk factors. We need to ensure that if my blood pressure soars or that develop gestational diabetes – both very common conditions that can affect pregnant women of all ages and weight – they are caught early and treated appropriately, both for my health and the baby’s. In fact all pregnant women should be encouraged to have these check-ups. I met a 21-year-old within the ‘healthy’ weight range who delivered a 10 pound baby because her doctor didn’t think she was at risk of gestational diabetes. Which shows that you can never tell just by looking at the outside.
So I keep returning for my check-ups because I am interested in keeping an eye on my health, whatever my weight is that week.
I vent my frustration to my other pregnant friends and discover I am not alone in dealing with insensitive doctors. One friend who had a higher than average risk of Downs Syndrome was being hounded by her hospital to have a diagnostic test that carried with it a 1/200 risk of causing a spontaneous miscarriage. She had worked for 3 years with severely disabled children and knew what she was saying when she told them “I don’t want the test as there is no way I’d abort the child even if it is disabled”. In the end the phone calls only stopped when she sent them a legal letter via her GP who explained that she had “informed consent” regarding this decision.
Another friend, who had twice been hospitalised for mastitis (severe infection of the breasts) was told off by the breast-feeding police for her decision to go straight to formula-feeding with her third. Didn’t she realise that she was putting her newborn’s development at risk? The fact that she had every medical reason not to breast feed (how healthy is pus- and blood-filled breast milk anyway for a bub?) and that she thought it more important to be a healthy mum able to care for all three kids at home was of course irrelevant.
And so on. There are 100s of stories each worse than the first, but us overweight pregnant women come with a ready-made condition to be bullied with. The dietitian cross-examines me over a glass of apple juice I had at breakfast (the first one in nearly a year I might add). Don’t I know what harm I could be doing to the baby?
Probably not as much as the harm you are doing, madam. You see there is one pregnancy statistic that all the studies around the world have confirmed time and time again. While gestational diabetes and high blood pressure are definite risks, if they are caught early and managed properly there is little or no impact on the developing baby. But stress, anxiety or depression during pregnancy all carry with them a very high risk of impacting negatively on the development of an unborn child. So why do so many doctors and nurses and other medical professionals act in a way that increases the likelihood of this happening through their bullying of pregnant patients?