Clothing designer, 27, says she felt fat-shamed at 12-week pregnancy scan by NHS staff who joked about ‘throwing the chocolates away’ and raised her weight at every appointment

  • Alexandra Dodds, from Newport, said her weight was at heart of all discussions
  • She was already struggling in pandemic being away from her family in Australia
  • The mother said it was ‘like banter, but I don’t feel like you can banter about that’

A clothing designer says she felt fat-shamed at her 12-week pregnancy scan by NHS staff who raised her weight at every appointment.

Alexandra Dodds, from Newport, Wales, claims a midwife joked about ‘throwing the chocolates away’ for Christmas when she went for an ultrasound last year.

The 27-year-old admitted she was already struggling during the pandemic, and being so far away from her family in Australia.

The mother-of-four told the BBC she felt her weight was at the heart of all discussions throughout her antenatal care. 

Alexandra Dodds, from Newport, Wales, claims a midwife joked about ‘throwing the chocolates away’ for Christmas when she went for an ultrasound last year

‘I didn’t feel like it was said in a spiteful way to try to upset me, it was like banter, but I don’t feel like you can banter about that,’ she said.

‘I didn’t feel this was a person that I could talk to openly [to] support me, so I just left not knowing really what I could do. I was really, really sad.’ 

While expectant mothers with a BMI of 30 or above are encouraged to exercise and eat healthily, the NHS advises women not to try to lose weight during pregnancy, as it will not reduce the chance of complications and may not be safe.

Obesity can cause a number of problems for mothers in pregnancy, including miscarriage, gestational diabetes, high blood pressure and pre-eclampsia, blood clots, the baby’s shoulder becoming ‘stuck’ during labour, and heavier bleeding than normal after the birth.

Ms Dodds’s baby Brianna was born safely and healthy at home last July, but the mother has only now spoken about her experience. 

‘If I feel any level of shame, that’s just a clear indication that I have to talk about it, because it means I’m not the only person and other people will understand,’ she added.

Her comments come after a study into how pregnancy risks are discussed found overweight women felt ‘deeply stigmatised’.  

The Royal College of Midwives said care should be based on respect and understanding of women’s needs. 

Overweight and pregnant: The risks and ways to prevent problems

Being obese when you’re pregnant increases the chance of some complications such as gestational diabetes. Make sure you go to all your antenatal appointments so your pregnancy team can monitor the health of you and your baby..

Your weight during pregnancy

If you are obese (usually defined as having a BMI of 30 or above) and pregnant, do not try to lose weight during your pregnancy. It will not reduce the chance of complications and may not be safe.

The best way to protect you and your baby’s health is to go to all your antenatal appointments. This is so your midwife, doctor and any other health professionals can help with any problems you might face and take steps to prevent or manage them.

Eating and exercise

It’s important to eat a healthy, balanced diet and do some physical activity every day. You should be offered a referral to a dietitian or other health professional for advice on healthy eating and physical activity. Being physically active in pregnancy will not harm your baby.

Try eating healthily (including knowing what foods to avoid in pregnancy) and doing activities such as walking or swimming.

If you were not active before pregnancy, it’s a good idea to consult your midwife or doctor before starting a new exercise plan when you’re pregnant.

Your care in pregnancy

If you are obese in pregnancy, you’ll be offered a test for gestational diabetes.

You may also be referred to an anaesthetist to discuss issues such as pain relief in labour. You’re more likely to have an instrumental delivery (ventouse or forceps or a caesarean section), and it can be difficult for an epidural to be given.

Talk to your midwife or doctor about your birth options. Ask if there are any particular safety concerns for you around giving birth at home or in a birthing pool.

You may be advised to give birth in a hospital where there’s easy access to medical care if you need it. 

Possible problems if you’re overweight in pregnancy

Being overweight increases the chance of complications for you and your baby. The higher your BMI, the higher the chance of complications. The increasing chances are in relation to:

  • miscarriage
  • gestational diabetes
  • high blood pressure and pre-eclampsia
  • blood clots
  • the baby’s shoulder becoming ‘stuck’ during labour
  • heavier bleeding than normal after the birth

You are also more likely to need an instrumental delivery (forceps or ventouse), or an emergency caesarean section.

Possible problems for your baby if you’re overweight in pregnancy

Problems for your baby can include being born early (before 37 weeks), and an increased chance of stillbirth.

There is also a higher chance of your baby having a health condition, such as a neural tube defect like spina bifida.

Although the chances of these problems increase if you are obese, most pregnancies will result in a healthy baby.

Source: NHS 

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