If you are a plus size woman, I’m sure you’ve heard countless times that the answer to preparing for pregnancy is to simply lose weight. This post is NOT going to say that. One, weight does not equal health. Two, a lot of times this “instruction” is given without any type of depth into why it is important and how to achieve similar benefits without focusing on weight. During my polls last week on IG stories, 70% of you stated you didn’t have kids. Out of those respondents, 69% of you said that you do want children in the future. I received a request to discuss preparing your body for pregnancy and childbirth from the perspective of being plus size. However, these tips are beneficial for everyone! Unfortunately, women who are larger are often given different information when talking to a healthcare provider and made to feel as if their weight is solely to blame for their issues. As a plus size woman myself who desires pregnancy and a Nurse Midwife with education on the topic, I wanted to provide a resource that didn’t place blame yet offered tangible tips to prepare.
1) Prenatal Vitamins
If you are thinking about becoming pregnant, start taking prenatal vitamins now! In fact, even if you are not thinking about it, it is a good idea to take a daily multivitamin as 50% of all pregnancies are unplanned. Many women do not realize they are pregnant until way after 1 month, which at this point, neural tube development has already occurred. The neural tube serves as the foundation for your baby’s spine and brain. Folic acid is extremely critical to ensure the tube develops without defects, such as with spina bifida. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that ALL women of childbearing age (basically those having periods) take at least 400 mcg of folic acid daily. A good multivitamin or prenatal will meet this requirement, as well as adequate levels of other necessary vitamins. These foods also have high levels of folic acid:
· Green leafy vegetables, such as spinach and kale
· Citrus fruits, such as oranges
Here is the link to the prenatal I personally take:
2) Switch to Whole Grains
Speaking of rice and pasta, it is a good idea to switch to whole grains now. I have completely altered my diet to only cook brown rice, whole wheat bread, and whole grain pasta. Now when I go out, it’s a different story lol, but I only buy these items so that when I eat at home, I’m cutting out white starches. This is important because during pregnancy, women’s bodies become more resistant to insulin, which can cause diabetes. It’s so common that we screen all pregnant women for diabetes at the beginning of the third trimester. Consuming lots of white starches and sugar only contributes to making the body more insulin resistant. Although you can do everything right and still end up with gestational diabetes, it definitely helps to avoid it if you stick to whole grains. Also, many plus size women have PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome), which also increases your risk for diabetes. If you have PCOS, you will complete the screening for diabetes early in the pregnancy as well.
3) Be Active
This will mean different things to different people, but do what is manageable for your body. It can be something as simple as walking or swimming, which are actually the most recommended activities during pregnancy. Physical activity decreases insulin resistance and lowers your blood pressure. There is a condition in pregnancy called pre-eclampsia, which is marked by elevated blood pressures, liver and kidney malfunction, and neurological effects, such as headaches and seizures. Research is still not sure what may cause this. However, if you have high blood pressure BEFORE pregnancy, your chances of developing this risky condition significantly increases. Taking steps (literally) to be active can help you to not develop issues with your blood pressure before, during, and after pregnancy. Also childbirth is a marathon, so increasing your activity level can equip you with more stamina and energy to make it through a strenuous experience. Lastly, yoga is a great way to relieve back pain, enhance flexibility, and open the hip muscles, which will all be beneficial while carrying life.
4) Get a Check Up
Due to insurance issues, some women do not visit a health care provider until they are already pregnant. However, if you have insurance, I definitely recommend going in for a preconception visit. At this visit, your blood pressure will be evaluated, and you will be able to discuss any concerns with your provider. If you have irregular periods, request hormone testing and an ultrasound to determine the cause. Some women have underlying issues that can prevent them from becoming pregnant, such as a thyroid disorder, PCOS, large fibroids, or a polyp in the uterus. It’s also important to have a Pap smear done, which is a cervical cancer screening. I go into detail about the test here, but if your cervix isn’t healthy, work on resolving this before getting pregnant. If you do not have insurance, consider visiting your local health department, which often offers a sliding scale.
Stress can make it difficult to conceive by throwing off your period, making ovulation a mystery. Severe forms of stress can also contribute to miscarriage and preterm labor. It’s important to learn how to manage stress now. I mentioned yoga earlier under being active, but it’s also a great way to learn breathing techniques and can be a great gateway to practicing meditation. Incorporating even a 1-minute meditation every morning can be a great way to set the tone for the rest of your day. Other forms of stress relief are:
· Warm bath
· Listening to soothing music
· Creating healthy boundaries with others
· Quality time with loved ones
There you have it, 5 ways to prepare your body for pregnancy without worrying about a silly number on a scale! Like I mentioned earlier, these are great practices for everyday life as many pregnancies are unplanned and/or not discovered until a few months past conception. As always, stay informed and be strong!
xoxo, Global Midwife