I was pregnant and fat shamed by my MIDWIFE

WEIGHT gain in pregnancy is practically inevitable and most mums-to-be can expect nothing more than support.

But that was not the case for Sarah Dunkley.

Sarah Dunkley weighted 16.5st when she fell pregnant with her first child

Sarah Dunkley weighted 16.5st when she fell pregnant with her first childCredit: Supplied

She says she was fat-shamed by her midwife, leading her to drop to a size 10 for her second pregnancy

She says she was fat-shamed by her midwife, leading her to drop to a size 10 for her second pregnancyCredit: Supplied

The full-time mum to Eleanor, four, and Grace, two says she was left feeling like a ‘bad mum’ over her size.

Here Sarah, 34, who lives with husband Ben, 34, recalls being fat-shamed during her first pregnancy…

“I know I was overweight when I had my first daughter. I was a size 20-22 and weighed 16.5st when I fell pregnant, going up to a size 24, weighing 20st by the time I gave birth.

My diet was OK, I didn’t exercise much and I had a sedentary job as a teacher. Otherwise I was healthy and my only concerns about my weight were cosmetic, thinking ‘I wish I looked better in my jeans’.

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Every time I saw my midwife, she would look me up and down, then say ‘can you step on the scales?’ I was constantly reminded that my BMI, which was 32 or 33, was higher than they’d want it to be.

They made me feel like a bad mum before I was even a mum. Like I wasn’t providing the best care I could for my baby. 

I felt like I was being punished for my weight. I was told ‘you should make sure you’re a healthy weight before you get pregnant’ but that was irrelevant by then. They wouldn’t have wanted me to go on a crash diet.

The appointments were all about my weight, I was never asked how I was feeling or how my pregnancy was going, instead they’d say ‘do you want to be referred to a dietician or pregnancy fitness classes?’

Eventually I was referred to consultant care because of my BMI. In my 30-week scan, a locum consultant said, ‘at this girl’s size I should weigh her, she is endangering her child by being overweight’.

I had gained 2st during my pregnancy. The consultant told me I was a risk because of the ‘excess fat clinging to my belly’ which meant ultrasounds and foetal monitoring systems wouldn’t work as well as on ‘normal’ women.

I felt ashamed and embarrassed. ‘Normal’ was a phrase which came up a lot. I’d be compared to a ‘normal’ pregnancy or a ‘normal’ weight. I don’t think it’s fair to class it as an ‘abnormality’, especially in a society where lots of people are bigger.

I had lots of tests for blood sugar and gestational diabetes, which they diagnosed me with right at the end of my pregnancy. I didn’t have any symptoms, I felt like they were looking for something to justify giving me a hard time about my weight.

When I got the diagnosis, I was told ‘you need to get a grip of this now, you’re endangering your baby’, which was really scary and unfounded – because Eleanor was perfectly healthy.

I lost weight after giving birth. I thought ‘I don’t want to go through that again, I don’t want this stigma attached to me and my children’. It came from a very negative place.

By my second pregnancy, I was a size 10 and weighed 10.5st. I was astounded by how differently I was treated. 

I wasn’t weighed once. At my first appointment, the midwife said ‘you look healthy, do you know what you weigh?’ I told her and she just wrote it down, she took it as given. Just because I was slim, there was more trust there.

By focussing so much on a mum’s weight, they are damaging our mental health, which is already fragile during pregnancy. Your body changes so much and it never really goes back.

Obviously it is not healthy to be overweight, I can’t argue for that, but I think staff need to be more sensitive. You can give good health advice without stigmatising us.”

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A spokesman from Dartford & Gravesham NHS Trust says: “Discussions around weight and Body Mass Index (BMI) need to be handled very sensitively. High BMI is important with the potential for significant adverse impact on health outcomes for mother and baby. Our doctors and all health care professionals are passionate about giving people the facts, supporting them to manage their own health and make decisions in their best interests. 

“These messages need to be conveyed in a sensitive fashion and appropriate for each patient’s situation. It can be difficult to get this right all the time and we apologise that Ms Dunkley felt she was being blamed. This was clearly not the intention. We have systems within the Trust to respond to complaints and ensure any learning is shared with other members of the team. We will take the learning from Ms Dunkley’s comments and ensure our messaging to patients remains appropriate.”

Sarah recalled no one asked to weigh her during her second pregnancy

Sarah recalled no one asked to weigh her during her second pregnancyCredit: Supplied

Sarah pictured with her two daughters - she wants staff to discuss weight more sensitively in the future

Sarah pictured with her two daughters – she wants staff to discuss weight more sensitively in the futureCredit: Supplied


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