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Plus-Sized, Pregnant and Healthy

Dianna Graveman |18, February 2012


In today's body-conscious society, plus-sized women must work harder to maintain a healthy self-image. This is especially true during pregnancy, as weight gain is an inevitable part of that experience.

This is no time for a woman to begin a strict diet and exercise regimen. But women who have struggled with weight control all of their lives may now also struggle with the fact that they will and should gain some weight during pregnancy.

If you are a plus-sized mother-to-be, remember that your body is doing a marvelous thing--nurturing a brand new life. Surround yourself with supportive friends and family who will not judge you. Make healthy food choices, talk with your doctor about risk reduction, and enjoy your pregnancy.

Remember, too, you are not alone. According to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), about half of all women ages 25 to 55 are plus-sized. The good news is that maternity wear manufacturers are beginning to notice, and more clothing choices for moms-to-be are becoming available. While pregnancy literature has traditionally focused on the negative in regard to plus-sized women, today more and more information is being released that focuses instead on how to reduce risks and enjoy a healthy, confident pregnancy and birth.

Your Health Care Provider

One of the most important steps you can take is finding a health care provider who will meet your needs positively. This pertains to his or her office staff, as well. If you are not comfortable with those who are treating you, you will be less inclined to ask honest questions about weight gain and other issues related to your size.

Weight Gain

Plus-sized women are typically told they should only gain about 15 to 20 pounds during pregnancy. This is because they already have more adipose tissue than a smaller woman before becoming pregnant. However, always consult with your own health care professional to decide what is personally best for you. While doctors usually suggest that you gain the weight slowly so as not to gain too much over the course of the pregnancy, most also suggest that no pregnant woman, regardless of pre-pregnancy size, should attempt to lose weight at this time. Make healthy food choices, avoid empty calories, but don't diet. Both you and your baby have nutritional needs that must be met. Don't forget to exercise to help maintain muscle tone and lift your spirits. The American College of Gynecologists and Obstetricians recommends that pregnant women exercise moderately for 30 minutes each day. Try taking walks when weather permits. Light swimming is another alternative, if you have access to a pool.


As a plus-sized mom-to-be, you may be at higher risk for some conditions, and your health care provider will probably suggest additional screenings for gestational diabetes, heart defects, and pre-eclampsia. Some studies have shown plus-sized women have a slightly higher risk of giving birth to babies with neural tube defects, so talk with your doctor about the benefits of taking more folic acid--even prior to becoming pregnant.
Another study has found that plus-sized women may belong to a group who is at risk for Group B Strep (GBS). GBS can be passed to the baby during birth, but a simple test completed between the 35th and 37th week of pregnancy will detect the condition, which is treated with antibiotics.

Childbirth Choices

Remember also to talk with your doctor not only about pregnancy risks, but about the birth process itself. Some health care professionals believe plus-sized women should automatically be given epidurals during labor because they are more likely to have a cesarean. While studies have shown that plus-sized women tend to have longer active labors (the part of labor when a woman's cervix dilates from about 4 cm to 10 cm), many plus-sized women have vaginal deliveries, and some even choose natural childbirth. If you feel strongly about not receiving an epidural, talk candidly with your health care provider and together decide what is best for you.

Related Articles

Eating for Two the Healthy Way

Is BMI Enough to Determine a Healthy Weight Gain?

Mommyrexia - Dangers of Dieting While Pregnant

Minimize Pregnancy Weight Gain By Moving More

Pregnancy Weight Gain - When Should My OB Be Concerned?


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A Happy Pregnant Mom Nov 24, 2014 08:28:20 AM ET

This is my second pregnancy, and I actually am smaller than when I had my first child. However, I am still considered plus size. Sometimes, I worry about my weight rather than the right things like the health of my baby, and that I am a temple for a living being. I am THANKFUL that I am able to have a child, and will focus on the things that matter more.

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number5 Jun 6, 2014 11:43:59 AM ET

I'm a big woman, and now I'm pregnant with my fifth child. I'm scared of gaining too much weight. I'm always hungry and I don't no what to do. I'm 17 weeks.

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Guest Apr 2, 2014 02:37:26 AM ET

Wow. Having a starting BMI of 25.3 gets me called "plus sized", "bigger", and in possession of "more adipose tissue." I get that I was 3 lbs overweight. But, the risks are NOT the same as being obese.

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