Fertility struggles are something women of all sizes face. Yet, women who are plus size have a unique set of obstacles, including a societal bias against people of size. Below we’ll break down some of the myths about plus size fertility in an effort to help plus size women feel less isolated while navigating their fertility struggles.
Before we dive in, we need to first address how body sizes are categorized. The Body Mass Index (BMI) Calculator is what all care providers use to classify people as the following; underweight, normal weight, overweight or obese. If you don’t already know what your BMI is, you can find out here. If your BMI is over 30, you’ll be classified as obese (but we prefer to say plus size).
Now it’s time to break down some myths about plus size fertility. You deserve to know what’s real and what’s… well… not!
Myth 1: Because I’m plus size, I will automatically have a difficult time conceiving
It sure can seem this way when you’re actively trying to conceive. Despite this all too common feeling, the reality is that it can take any average, healthy couple a year to conceive. So, if you’ve been seeing that dreaded single line on pregnancy tests for months on end, you might just need more time…and a little more practice.
Though for some plus size women, regardless of how much practice or how many ovulation predictor kits they use, there are real reasons why they aren’t able to conceive. Being overweight can cause hormonal imbalances that can play a role in disrupting your menstrual cycle. In addition, ovulatory disorders can make conceiving either more difficult or near impossible without medical interventions.
Fertility complications for plus size people aren’t limited to just women, as men who are obese can have lower testosterone levels as well as complications with producing healthy sperm.
With all of this said, many plus size women conceive without any difficulty at all! Do your best to enjoy the journey while trying to conceive but know that it’s also okay to seek support when you think you might need it.
“When my husband and I made the decision to start a family, a lot of the information we read online made me fearful of how long it would take. I was pleasantly surprised to find out we were expecting three months after we started trying!” – Sarah
Myth 2: If I have PCOS, I’ll never be able to have a child
We mentioned hormonal imbalances above and Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) is one of the most common female endocrine (hormone) disorders. PCOS is also the leading cause of female infertility for women of all sizes, but it should be noted that plus size women do have higher incidences of PCOS. This condition can cause irregular periods, mood swings (including depression), weight gain, acne, facial and body hair growth, as well as hair loss. PCOS can also prevent a woman from conceiving by causing the absence of ovulation called anovulation. Sadly, women with PCOS face a higher rate of miscarriage for which the exact reason is unknown.
While all of this can be difficult to read, having PCOS doesn’t mean you won’t be able to have a viable pregnancy. Many women require assistance with medication or other interventions to become pregnant so if you’re previously diagnosed, don’t be afraid to ask your care provider about your options.
“Finding out I had PCOS was extremely emotional but with the help of a medication called Metformin and a supportive care provider, I’m now 8 months pregnant.” – Tiffany
Myth 3: I have to lose a significant amount of weight to increase my odds of becoming pregnant
Significant weight loss is often the standard recommendation when a plus size woman talks to her care provider about conception. Yet, when women go to extreme measures to lose weight, they can cause harm to their bodies, including dehydration, physical fatigue, hunger pains, gallbladder disease and so on. Weight loss surgery also has many risks and a required wait time of one year before becoming pregnant following surgery.
Studies do show that even a 5% or 10% reduction in weight can improve fertility. One suggestion that many women have found helpful, is to start treating their bodies as if they are already pregnant while they are trying to conceive. Focus on eating a nutritious diet, being physically active and taking daily vitamins. These efforts toward overall health, whether they lead to weight loss or not, will support optimal mental and physical health before, during and after conception.
Myth 4: Infertility doctors won’t help plus size women
While this is technically a myth since doctors do work with women of size, the sad truth is many refuse to do so.
“Finding a fertility specialist willing to support me was really hard. I was turned away a few times but when I finally connected with a size-friendly provider, I got the help I so desperately needed to start a family.” – Janet
As Janet shared, connecting with a size friendly-provider was the key to getting the support she needed. If you’re in search of a size-friendly provider, you can start by calling local fertility specialists and inquiring about any BMI restrictions they may have. Consider asking your plus size friends about their experiences with care providers and fertility specialists. Websites like plussizebirth.com and haescommunity.org have lists of size friendly providers as well.
If you happen to connect with a care provider who makes you feel ashamed of your size or is unwilling to support you, remember that you have the right to fire your care provider at any time! Everyone has the right to be treated with dignity and respect.
Myth 5: I shouldn’t become a mother if I’m obese
It’s upsetting that this even needs to be listed; however, some women are told they shouldn’t become mothers because of their size. We often experience judgment from our family, the general public, even from ourselves because of our size.
Furthermore, it’s still socially acceptable to (publicly or privately) shame people of size. This doesn’t just happen via social media but also within doctors’ offices. That’s why, once again, we’ll reiterate the importance of connecting with a size-friendly care provider who will support you.
Please read these words carefully – you have just as much right to become a mother as everyone else! Your yearning for motherhood is something you’re absolutely entitled to. Your body is not flawed. Your body is amazing!
Your body truly is incredible and we hope this article helps you along your path to motherhood. Remember these myths are really just that – myths. You are not a statistic and your fertility experience is as individual as you are, plus size or not! Above all, we believe you should have fun practicing, focus on good nutrition, find a physical activity that makes you feel good about your body, and connect with a size-friendly care provider!