Content warning: We use the word fat in this post. Did you know that rather than using medically loaded terms like “obese” or “overweight,” many fat activists treat the word “fat/Fat” as a valid and celebrated part of their self-identity, granting neutral and/or positive connotations to the term. As a team with some bigger bodied folks, we also celebrate the use of this term! We fat, we curvy, we bootylicious. Want to learn more about this? Check out our friend Vinny’s amazing work over at Fierce Fatty.
Navigating pregnancy as a fat individual or someone curious about pregnancy should be met with understanding, support, and evidence-based care. Unfortunately, pervasive myths and misconceptions about fat fertility persist, contributing to societal stigmas and potential disparities in healthcare. Fatphobia and anti-fat bias in fertility and pregnancy is real and very harmful for those who experience it. In striving for better reproductive healthcare inclusivity, let’s debunk five common myths associated with fat people and pregnancy, shedding light on the diverse and positive experiences that deserve recognition and respect.
First, let’s break down what fatphobia/anti fat bias is:
Anti-fat bias refers to negative attitudes, beliefs, stereotypes, and discrimination aimed at individuals perceived to have a larger body size. This bias often stems from societal norms and beauty standards that prioritize a specific body type, leading to the stigmatization of those who don’t conform to these ideals. People facing anti-fat bias may encounter prejudice in various aspects of life, such as employment, healthcare, education, and social interactions. This bias can contribute to the perpetuation of discrimination based on body size, body shaming, and unequal treatment. Addressing anti-fat bias involves promoting body positivity, challenging stereotypes, and fostering a more inclusive and accepting society.
Myth 1: Fat People Can’t Conceive Easily
Fertility is diverse, and body size doesn’t inherently hinder conception. Many fat individuals successfully conceive, challenging the notion that higher body weight is a significant barrier to fertility.
Myth 2: Weight Loss Guarantees Fertility Improvement
The assumption that weight loss is a universal solution for fertility overlooks the complexity of individual experiences. While lifestyle changes can positively influence fertility, it’s not the only factor at play, and fertility challenges are multifaceted.
Myth 3: Pregnancy Complications Are Inevitable for Fat Individuals
While some risks may exist, it’s a misconception that fat individuals will inevitably face complications during pregnancy. Proper prenatal care, monitoring, and support contribute significantly to positive outcomes, challenging the stereotype of inevitable complications.
Myth 4: Fat Individuals Have Lower IVF Success Rates
Assumptions that fat individuals have lower success rates with in vitro fertilization (IVF) oversimplify the complexities of fertility treatment outcomes. Research suggests diverse outcomes for individuals of all sizes undergoing IVF, challenging this particular myth.
Myth 5: Fat Bodies Can’t Support a Healthy Pregnancy
The belief that fat bodies are incapable of sustaining a healthy pregnancy is unfounded. Bodies of all sizes can nurture and support a positive pregnancy with proper care, challenging societal perceptions that link body size to pregnancy outcomes.
As Nicola Salmon says “Having a higher BMI can increase the likelihood of complications during pregnancy but it’s much more complicated the narrative of “fat is bad, thin is good”. There is some evidence that shows that as your BMI increases so does the rate of pregnancy complications, such as pregnancy loss, gestational diabetes and pre-eclampsia. But not all the evidence supports this. There has also been no biological mechanism that has been found that explains this possible link. None of the research into risk of pregnancy complication for folks in bigger bodies takes into account the stigma that fat folks face during pregnancy, which has a measurable impact on their physical and mental health, including increasing inflammation and stress hormones.”