Who is Big Birtha?
Big Birthas came about after my first pregnancy, where my BMI on booking was recorded as 45+. It was a healthy, unremarkable pregnancy, and a healthy, unremarkable birth. But in the hospital, my high BMI pregnancy status meant I was treated as if I was a ticking bomb…
I found I was sent for a battery of tests and referrals because of my size, and I spent a lot of my pregnancy doing research; reading guidance and policies galore in order to be fully informed. I hadn’t been able to find one single source which collated this information for a UK audience, though I did read a lot of the excellent US blog Well-Rounded Mama.
Often it transpired that I was better informed about the specific health risks of being overweight than the health professionals supposedly advising me. This wasn’t always popular!
The situation in the UK is different to the USA, and so I felt other people might as well benefit from the work I’d done bringing resources together. And so, the concept of setting up a website for people to get honest, evidence based information on high BMI pregnancy in the UK was born. This was 2010.
Taking Back Control
After having had such an easy time of it with baby number 1, I wanted more control with my second pregnancy. Most importantly, I wanted access to the pool that I’d been promised, and was later denied, while labouring in hospital with my first.
As a first time mum you’re in at the deep end. We have a tendency to do as we’re told because, honestly, we’re scared, have no idea what to expect, and no faith in our bodies. This is true for most of us, whatever our size. But if we’re repeatedly told we’re probably too fat for everything to go right (as is often implied, and sometimes even stated!) then when it does go well, and then you later find out to your surprise that statistically there was always a pretty good chance this was going to be the case, you decide to remove yourself a little more from those negative influences, if you can. Turns out this is not unusual! Check out our Parenting Science Gang research results!
Baby Number 2 – Home Birth Time!
My second pregnancy saw a BMI of 44 recorded at booking. I ditched the midwife at my local GP and sought out a more supportive one at a nearby SureStart centre I’d met postnatally with my first. I changed hospital teams when I heard on the grapevine that a different hospital to the one I previously birthed at had a good reputation for supporting bigger women to have home births.
After doing my research, I planned, I argued with anyone who didn’t respect my autonomy, I stood my ground. I met with the local Supervisor of Midwifery (SoM), who was very lovely, totally respected my decision, told me she believed in me, and that she had no reason to suspect that everything wouldn’t go just fine, and signed off my home birth plan. I signed the disclaimer saying that I understood a home birth was against medical advice. This wasn’t at the SoM’s insistence – her hands were tied; hospital policy.
I’m pleased to report my home birth was everything I’d hoped it would be, and the pool was too!
Why Big Birthas?
Big Bertha was the nickname of a massive cannon in WWI. It soon became synonymous with anything unusually large. It resonated with me, and could be adapted to fit with the ‘birthing’ theme, and the domain was available! I know not everyone likes it as a name, but you can’t please all the people all the time! At least it’s memorable!
Being bigger when pregnant is associated with greater risks, it’s true. It would be naïve to ignore those risks. And when those risks do come to pass, extra care is needed, as with anyone. But my perspective is that those risks are becoming all consuming. They’re overexaggerated, and misrepresented, and our treatment is becoming overmedicalised as a result.
Many overweight pregnant women go on to have prefectly normal pregnancies, with no complications. Yet we’re not treated accordingly; as any other normal pregnant woman. Aside from my personal feelings about this, it is a shame as doing so could save the NHS a fortune!
My Womanifesto for High BMI Pregnancy:
If we bigger women want to be treated normally, we need to:
- take control of the facts and information available, and
- fight our corner to get the births we deserve and are capable of
If you’re looking for support, we have a lovely Facebook group you can join to talk to other Big Birthas. We don’t always have all the answers, but we can definitely help with the questions! Day or night, post a question, pour your heart out, rant to your heart’s content, we’ve got your back. It’s a closed group, so the post will not appear on your Facebook wall for all to see.
Whatever you’re experiencing, whatever you’re going through, it’s likely that someone else will also have been through the same or similar thing. Even if they haven’t (unusual!) we’re there, we listen and we give the best virtual hugs! https://www.facebook.com/groups/bigbirthaspsg/
Pregnancy is a magical time. Your body was made for this. You can totally do it. Have faith in yourself. Hold your head high. You are awesome.
You can contact me here.