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How to Find a Size-Inclusive Healthcare Team
October 20, 2021

How to Find a Size-Inclusive Healthcare Team

By Laura Adom
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How to Find a Size-Inclusive Healthcare Team.
How to Find a Size-Inclusive Healthcare Team

The moment you become pregnant it’s likely your mind begins to fill with a bunch of questions you may not have the answers to. Each pregnancy can vary greatly so it’s not uncommon to wonder what this journey will look like. Never had acid reflux in your other pregnancies? It’s possible you might in this one. Didn’t feel the baby’s kicks until later in the pregnancy the first time around? You may feel them a few weeks earlier during this one.

Who you choose to have as your support system during your pregnancy, through labor, and throughout your postpartum journey is, perhaps, one of the biggest decisions you’ll have to make during your pregnancy. It’s important to have people you can rely on, ask the important questions to, and get help from each step of the way—particularly when it comes to your healthcare providers.

If you are an expectant parent in a larger body, having the right support team is even more crucial. A study published by BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth notes that nearly 1 in 5 women reported experiencing weight stigma in healthcare settings. This means that, due to their views and beliefs of people in larger bodies, many healthcare providers may withhold certain information, suggest certain modifications or lifestyles they wouldn’t normally suggest to people in average-sized bodies, or not put as much effort into building a trusting connection with their larger-bodied patients. It’s unfortunate, but some medical providers have an implicit bias against people in larger bodies. Weight stigma is actually the fourth most common form of discrimination in the United States.

Even more alarming, recent studies found “stigmatizing attitudes among maternity care providers, including high levels of discomfort, intolerance, and feelings of repulsion” in caring for larger-bodied pregnant people.

Needless to say, expecting parents have enough to deal with throughout their pregnancy journey, and dealing with biases, stigmas, or criticism from a healthcare provider shouldn’t be one of them. Read on to learn a few tips and things to look out for when finding the right healthcare team for you.

1. Decide how you’d like to be cared for by your healthcare team

As a pregnant person, you have more say and choice in how you are cared for than you may assume. As the patient, your healthcare team is there to support you, and one way to ensure that you are taken seriously is to first be clear about what you want and what you expect.

Many people write birth plans for labor and delivery, but you can also make a pre-birth plan that includes your care preferences before you give birth. This not only helps you to clarify the things most important to you, but can also assist in starting a conversation with your chosen provider in order to make sure your needs and wants are addressed throughout the pregnancy. You want to make sure you and your healthcare provider(s) are a team, working together towards the same goals and outcomes and that starts with honest communication.

2. Interview your healthcare team

While this won’t be a formal interview, it’s important to ask questions to read your providers’ reactions or hear their care plans surrounding certain issues when you’re beginning your pregnancy journey. A few of these questions might be:

  1. Do you consider yourself & this healthcare practice to be size-inclusive?
  2. Does the weight I’m currently at cause you any concern for this pregnancy?
  3. I would like to see this pregnancy through to full-term (vs. being induced early) if possible, are you okay with that?
  4. Do you have any BMI or weight restrictions for the care you provide?
  5. I would like to be weighed as few times as possible/not at all/ or not be told or shown my weight at appointments, does this practice support that?
  6. Have you and your care team had experience with other plus-sized pregnancies?
  7. Do you have size-inclusive items for me such as a proper supportive bed, larger gowns, appropriately sized blood pressure cuff, etc.?
  8. Does the hospital or birth center where I would deliver have weight-restrictions on any items needed to support labor and delivery?

Of course, these questions are simply a jumping-off point to get started. You may have other questions that are more specific to you and the type of care you’re hoping to get. Pay attention to how your provider reacts to your questions and care plen—if they seem apprehensive, concerned, or hesitant in any way, it could be a red flag—and see if there is a mutual ground you can agree on. If not, this may be a sign to begin your search for another provider in your area.

3. Recognize good, supportive care

While we’ve often led to believe our healthcare providers know it all, we must remember they are still human beings who are capable of having stigmas and biases. You deserve to have safe, supportive & positive healthcare no matter the size of your body in and out of pregnancy. You have the right to be heard, taken seriously, made to feel safe, and not told your body is wrong or a problem simply because of your weight (though there could be reasons your body composition may come into discussion during your pregnancy, the entirety of your healthcare shouldn’t revolve around weight).

A good, supportive provider will offer individualized care, based solely on you, your holistic health, and the nature of your pregnancy. They will be compassionate, honest and gentle. They will be aware of their personal biases and will not make assumptions about you based on those. They will treat you with respect and dignity.

You know you have found the right care team for you when you leave your appointments feeling all of your questions have been answered, knowing you have medical experts who want to help you deliver a healthy baby as close to your birth plans as possible and you’re not being judged simply because of the size of your body.

If you are ever made to feel less than, know you have the right to walk away from that provider or to get a second opinion.

To get started on your search for a size-inclusive healthcare provider near you, talk to your friends, neighbors and other trusted people for recommendations. If you need somewhere to start looking for doctors, midwives and doulas, check out this starter list by Plus Size Birth.

Laura Adom

Laura is a writer living in Columbus, Ohio with her son, Oliver, husband, Albert & a daughter on the way. She is passionate about sharing the unfiltered truths of navigating the twists and turns of motherhood and womanhood.

This information is provided for educational and entertainment purposes only. We do not accept any responsibility for any liability, loss or risk, personal or otherwise, incurred as a consequence, directly or indirectly, from any information or advice contained here. Babylist may earn compensation from affiliate links in this content. Learn more about how we write Babylist content and review products, as well as the Babylist Health Advisory Board.