Mar 21, 2019
Diet culture has a nasty habit of targeting women at vulnerable
times in their lives, and this is particularly evident in pregnancy
and birth. This week on All Fired Up!, I am venting with the
incredible Hilary Kinavey and Dana Sturtevant from Be Nourished,
who bravely walked into a medical conference and called out the
rampant weight stigma which is hurting pregnant women. This is a
not to be missed episode, how women in larger bodies are being
treated by the medical profession is just NOT OK. Women are being
told that their vagina is “too fat to give birth”, that they won’t
live to see their babies grow up, that they need to lose weight!
The fact is, most women in larger bodies have healthy pregnancies
and births, but are having the bejeezus scared out of them with
some seriously odious threats. Reclaiming your body and your power
is possible. It’s time to take your body sovereignty back!!
- Hilary and Dana, anti-diet health professionals from Be
Nourished, are utterly fired up about the never ending pressure
that diet culture puts on women at vulnerable times of our lives,
particularly with regards to fertility, pregnancy, and birth.
- They were invited to speak at a conference where they could
talk about body positivity and managing risk in pregnancy. Whilst
an awesome and much needed topic, they were the only speakers to
talk about weight stigma.
- In the medical community there is some acknowledgment that
weight stigma impacts health, but the vast majority of
professionals are seeing weight stigma as a barrier to losing
weight, which is just not reflective of a deep understanding of
- Stigma itself affects health, greatly, and this is not being
researched nearly enough.
- Multiple sources of oppression intersect in pregnancy. Women
are of course oppressed in general in a patriarchal society. Women
of colour, and women in larger bodies who are of colour, suffer the
most from these structural oppressions.
- Women who experience stigma can have a harder time giving
birth, because of the stigma, not their weight alone.
- The history of gynaecology is implicitly racist and sexist.
Early experiments in gynaecology were performed on Black women
without anaesthetic, as it was believed they could not feel pain as
much as white women.
- although we own the bodies that are giving birth, we are often
told that we are ‘not qualified’ to make choices about our
- The concept of ‘weathering’ is when multiple levels of stigma
impact on our bodies.
- Serena Williams’ experience of birth is reflective of this
impact of stigma and the inherent disregard for women’s agency in
pregnancy and birth.
- Higher rates of caesarian sections occur in women with higher
BMI’s. But why? How much of this is due to the belief that as a
woman in a larger body, you can’t deliver safely?
- This idea of ‘colouring’ - that when we internalise weight
stigma, it colours our decisions and choices.
- The midwifery model is to view birth as an event, not an
- The vast majority of women in larger bodies have successful
pregnancies and births. And if something goes wrong, this can be
managed most of the time.
- The actual risks of complications in birth are being
exaggerated by statistical buggery.
- Women are facing systemic discrimination in the area of birth.
Women are often told they can’t give birth in their local hospital,
in rural & remote Australia they are being flown to hospitals
in capital cities. Imagine the impact of this. We are so vulnerable
at this time and we need our support networks.
- Physicians are frequently scaring women and telling them that
their weight means they are automatically a high risk pregnancy.
This is because many health professionals receive training which
views a larger body as a problem or a risk factor.
- If we believe we are not capable of a birth, this will reflect
- Once women pick up the idea that the medical professionals will
judge their bodies, they will avoid pregnancies in order to avoid
judgement, or choose to avoid medical care altogether.
- Society is messed up and your body is not, medical providers
have been given a biased education.
- It is ok to grill your health professionals in order to assure
that you are safe.
- If you do have a complication during birth, it doesn’t mean
you’re a bad person or a bad mother.