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!!


Show Notes

  • 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 these issues.
  • 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 births.
  • 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 emergency.
  • 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 on outcomes.
  • 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.


Resources Mentioned: