Shamed by ob/gyn – health not important, weight more important for pregnancy.

Emily writes
I am 5’4″ and weighed about 153 lbs before my current pregnancy (I’m about 8 weeks along). When I went to my doctor in December and mentioned to her that my husband and I would be trying for baby #2, she immediately told me that I should lose a little weight because I was carrying a little too much and that it would help me get pregnant.

I felt terrible about that for several weeks. I have been trying to get back to my personal ideal weight of around 135 since baby #1, and it’s been a struggle, even though I pretty easily got back down to my pre-pregnancy weight of 150. I also resented the fact that she brought up my weight when talking about pregnancy since my husband and I have never had any problems with fertility. (Three pregnancies within a month of starting to try, with one healthy baby, one miscarriage and my current pregnancy). I weighed about 150 pounds all three times. My doctor was basing her comment on absolutely nothing that had to do with me, as she doesn’t know my eating habits (very nutritious) or my exercise habits (I run 12 to 20 miles per week).

When I went back to my doctor for the pregnancy confirmation appointment this week, she told me that the maximum ideal weight for my height was 126. She seemed to be using the chart as the bad guy so she wouldn’t have to tell me directly that she thought I was fat. I told her that was ridiculous and that my personal ideal weight was around 135. She then told me that living in an overweight culture means that your view of normal gets skewed. Again, I told her I was in my absolute best shape at around 135, and asked if she would say that meant I was fat at that weight. She said “I wouldn’t use that term. I would say overweight.”

I sobbed in my car for 10 minutes and I am now feeling like I’m doing nothing right. I have already switched doctors, but this woman’s bugaboo about weight (when again, she knows NOTHING about my level of cardio health, nutrition, etc) has really hurt me and made what should be a joyful time stressful and unhappy.

Thank you. I’m so glad your website is out there. I felt so isolated and ashamed after this happened, and because I’m not yet revealing the pregnancy to friends, I also felt as though there was no one I could tell about this.

Leave a comment


  1. (((Emily)))

  2. Jennifer Hansen

     /  January 31, 2013

    Bravo to you for kicking that doctor to the curb. Massaging the doctor’s neurosis is not in the patient’s list of responsibilities, that’s for darn sure!

  3. The Real Cie

     /  February 1, 2013

    I beg of you, don’t torture yourself this way. I was around the same size as you (a bit taller, a bit heavier, five foot six and around 165 pounds) when I got pregnant. I was already bulimic, although not actively so while pregnant. You have a perfectly healthy physique. Whatever you do, don’t fall into the yo yo dieting trap. It will ruin your life. I feel so very sad when I hear stories of this nature. It is no wonder that so many young women have eating disorders, when even women of average builds are made to feel “fat.”
    Best of luck to you.

  4. What a narrow-minded, hurtful person. The level of body-related judging that gets thrown around is utterly ridiculous. Your weight is your weight; your doctor should be concerned rather with your HEALTH.

    And agreed on the wisdom of never ever setting foot in that doctor’s office again. She’s shown you conclusively that she cares more about policing an arbitrary, limiting, controlling culture of body shame over, say, helping you be healthy. Because doctor.

    UGH. It pisses me off to no end when health care practitioners prattle on enforcing social stigma while not even bothering to take a second to listen to their patients. That is not okay.

  5. Olivia

     /  February 1, 2013

    That doctor should not be practicing. Clearly her prejudice against weight is affecting her ability to care for all patients.

    I am 5′ 4″ and weighed 250 both times I got pregnant (both on the first month TTC). I had healthy pregnancies with no medical problems at all, and both my births were uncomplicated.

  6. lsstrout

     /  February 1, 2013

    *HUGS* Kudos to you for changing doctors. I don’t know if you have seen this blog:

    Also, those charts were created for the purpose of studying a population, not individuals:

    I find it appalling that they are used the way they are.

  7. finchfeather

     /  February 1, 2013

    I can so relate to your feelings of devastation. My first midwife shamed me about my weight early in my pregnancy to the point that I restricted food intake and ultimately lost weight between two first-trimester appointments. I was relieved to transfer to a better provider, but her comments really rattled my self-confidence and the shame lingered throughout my pregnancy. I still feel anxious and angry when I replay them in my head.

    I wish you all the best in your pregnancy and I’m beaming you lots and lots of empathy.

  8. Emily, your doctor should know that words mean things. “Overweight” in a medical context has a very specific definition: a BMI of at least 25 and less than 30. At 5’4″, a weight of 135 would give you a BMI of 23.2, in the “normal weight” category. At your current weight of 153 you are less than 10 lbs into the “overweight” category.

    It’s bad enough when doctors use the BMI system to threaten and scare their patients when they’re just following what they’re taught. Making up their own system makes me think that they’re just on a power trip.

  9. Here from Shakesville.

    “She then told me that living in an overweight culture means that your view of normal gets skewed.”

    The irony if this is that the BMI chart she was using as a bad guy is actually massively skewed and puts a large number of healthy people into the “overweight” (where overweight = unhealthy) range… Living in a skinny culture means that her view of normal is skewed.

  10. LizCase

     /  February 1, 2013

    Wow. In addition to being rude and insensitive, she’s also wrong, by the standards of BMI (which is not an awful standard but the one that most doctors use). 135 is absolutely within what the BMI charts call “normal”. I hope you find a doctor who is more concerned by your and your baby’s health than an arbitrary number.

  11. Congratulations on your new pregnancy. Way to go mum to be! (again) 🙂

  12. This OB doesn’t even know what she’s talking about. 135 at 5’4″ is a BMI of 23.2, smack in the middle of your official “healthy weight” range. Even 153 is only a BMI of 26.3, which is barely into “overweight” per the CDC. Now, we may or may not buy BMI as a good measure of health, but what she’s telling you is actually wrong even by the conventional wisdom about weight. She may have some really disordered attitudes about weight or she may just not know the ranges and be making up a number that sounds good to her. It’s good you escaped her. I always arm myself with knowledge about what my official “normal weight” range is in case I encounter something like this.

  13. JS

     /  February 2, 2013

    Are the made up charts shrinking faster than they can keep track of them? At 5’1″/5’2″ the maximum ideal weight used to be around 125. Suddenly everyone that was in the “healthy range” is now overweight based on a chart if made up numbers? Talk about not even following their own rules! You are not overweight now and you certainly wodnt be at 135. Think about your pregnancy and get excited for the baby, don’t dwell on this stupid doctor’s nonsense.
    This also points out just how bad it can be. Imagine if you were actually in a true “overweight” range! 100 pounds you are working to get rid of but still only gaining? The doctor would do more than “gently” shame you, I bet. The world should wake up.
    Please be happy about your baby and forget this whole problem! Congratulations on your pregnancy!

  14. Congratulations on your pregnancy! Don’t let this fat-phobic doctor take the joy away from your pregnancy. Eat healthy, continue your exercise, and enjoy this time with your baby. You are fine just as you are.

    Remember that eating disorders run strong in the medical community, especially among many women doctors. See this as a reflection of HER own issues, and don’t take them on for yourself. Shrug it off and find a midwife who is size-friendly instead.

  15. mamatree

     /  February 3, 2013

    This really bugs me. When I was 17 (5’1″ and 124 lbs), my doctor told me that ideal weight for my height was 108 and average weight was 120. Where he pulled these numbers from, I have no idea but the message was that I was a fat ass. This was over 20 years ago and there was less awareness about eating disorders (which I did go on to develop – thanks doc). The reason I’m telling you this is I’m just sickened that it is still happening. I’m so sorry that this happened to you and I hope you switch doctors.

  16. erin

     /  February 3, 2013

    Please. At 5’7″ my ideal weight is an overweight 160lbs. That’s when I’m eating very healthy and working out every day. At that weight I wear a size 8, and for my height, I think that looks amd feels very well balanced. Fuck the charts that say healthy women are fat.

  17. corasong

     /  February 4, 2013

    Congrats on the pregnancy! And good for you for getting this inept doctor out of your life. Although you could always schedule another appointment in which you ask her how many miles SHE runs each week and then challenge her to a lap duel around the clinic and see who gets winded first. That would be about as scientifically accurate as the BMI chart, but it would give you the satisfaction of knowing that is a doctor who is either 1) seriously entangled in her own physical self-loathing or 2) would rather spout off old fashioned fat shaming than actually dispense medical advice or 3) (and most likely) some combination of both.

  18. Stephanie

     /  February 4, 2013

    As far as I know, bmi charts state that 135 is healthy for 5’4″. I think that’s about average. This is my height and weight, and I work out regularly. 126 is healthy, but slim. Not all of us can get down to that weight and feel well. I got down to 125 a couple of years ago and felt like crap. I wasn’t getting enough calories for all the running I was doing, so I ate more. There’s something wrong with that doctor.

  19. I go in to get my cancer diagnosis confirmed and the doc spends half of my appointment telling me I’m fat, which, surprise-surprise, I already knew. He finally got around to telling me I might live if I started treatments right now but I really need to lose some weight. (I was looking forward to cancer helping me on my dieting quest.) That was three years ago. Still alive. Still fat. Still trying to lose. It happens to men, too.

    • vesta44

       /  February 5, 2013

      Churl – What your doctor never considered is maybe that extra weight is what helped keep you alive. Cancer has been known to cause people to waste away, and sometimes it’s the weight loss and lack of nutrition from inability to eat that kills people, not the cancer.
      A friend of mine had a sister who had had a mastectomy and years later her cancer returned, this time in her bones and brain. She was 5′ 6″ and weighed around 200 lbs, so she was sorta kinda fat. When she died 2 years later, she weighed 195 lbs. We took care of her at home, and we enticed her to eat with all the fattening foods she loved – mashed potatoes and gravy, milkshakes, ice cream sundaes, corn bread with real butter, soups made with real cream and butter, etc. Her doctor was amazed that she hadn’t lost much weight and that she had lived for 2 years after her diagnosis (he had given her six months). I firmly believe that if she hadn’t been fat, and if we hadn’t enticed her to eat, she probably would have died in that doctor’s time frame. I don’t know if we did her any favors or not, but I do know that having that “extra” time allowed all of her family to visit her before she passed.
      So be glad you have that cushion of extra weight, it may have helped you survive (along with your indomitable will to survive, of course).

  20. Aislin Kageno

     /  February 5, 2013

    I’m pretty sure that your doctor, in addition to being incredibly rude and thoughtless, is also just plain wrong. The last time I went to the doctor, I remember panicking because I was borderline overweight when I calculated my BMI based on the poster on the wall. I am 5’2”, and I weigh 135 these days. I thought I was doing okay, but this poster was telling me I was almost overweight. So for your doctor to say that you – being taller than I am – have a *maximum* ideal weight of 126? That cannot be right at all.

    You are doing just freakin’ fine, and thank you so much for saying something to that doctor! Lots of love from the internet. 🙂

  21. Been there, done that. At 5’10” and 195(ish) pounds when I got pregnant, I was told that I needed to be very careful about gaining “the appropriate amount of weight” during the pregnancy, as if I had so little self control that I would gain hundreds of pounds in a few months. Then, when I lost weight during my first trimester (brutal morning sickness), I was berated for that, too. Sometimes there is just no winning.

  22. violetyoshi

     /  February 16, 2013

    I heard this claim from someone who I was debating on the topic of health online. That people don’t know what normal is, because everyone now is “obese”. Seems to me society has forgotten that normal means the same as average. Therefore if the majority of people are overweight, it’s likely that what has been classified as overweight is a healthy and normal weight for most people.

    Yet society has claimed what is abnormal for most people, meaning being thin, is now normal. Like in 1984 society is telling is us we must state that 2 + 2 = 5, if we do not, or claim that 2+2 = 4 we are to be humiliated and ostracized. We have to start telling the doctors, thin does not always equal healthy, and that 2 + 2 indeed equals 4.

  23. WTF?! 153lb at 5’4” isn’t even fat!

    “living in an overweight culture means that your view of normal gets skewed”

    No, living in a culture obsessed with numbers on a scale means nobody bothers to take height, activity level, bone structure, diet etc. into account and everyone’s still stuck on the BMI chart.

  1. Weekly Feminist Reader

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: