Tuesday, April 14, 2009

On Bellies and Looking Pregnant

One very common fear I've heard women mention many times over the years is:

How will I look in my pregnancy? Will I just look like a giant blob or will people be able to actually TELL I'm pregnant? Will I have the cute pregnant basketball belly too?

And the answer is......it TOTALLY varies. Some fat folk look TOTALLY pregnant and some never do. Some don't look pregnant until near the end.....and some look pregnant right away.

A lot depends on your particular shape and size. If you are a "pear" you will probably show your pregnancy more quickly and obviously than an "apple."

If you have a rack o' doom, your pregnancy might not be as obvious because the boobs tend to overshadow the belly.

Women who are much larger tend to show less obviously than those who are closer to "average size"-----but I've seen very large women who were obviously pregnant and very petite and small women who didn't show their pregnancy much at all. You never know.

A lot depends on the position the baby is in, too.

If your baby is posterior (head-down, but the baby's face towards your tummy), then the baby's rump doesn't stick out nearly as much and you tend to look less pregnant, even at term.

But if your baby is anterior (head-down, baby's face towards your back, which is a WAY easier way to give birth, believe me!), then you tend to get the "basketball belly" look, because baby's rump is hanging out more forward.

[And actually, knowing the position of your baby is really important because fetal position does influence how easy or hard your labor is, and whether your baby fits easily through your pelvis. Poor fetal position is a cause of many cesareans......but more on that in a future post. Just know that it's good to be aware of your belly shape because it can tell you important things about your baby's position before labor.]

Really, whether or not women of size "look" pregnant and at what point depends on so many factors. And even those are generalities; not everybody follows the "rules." You just have to wait and see how you carry.....but in general most fat women actually DO look pregnant at some point. It's just not always right away.

One strategy to avoid the "Is she pregnant or is she just getting fatter" looks is to get some cute, obviously maternity shirts and start wearing them right away.

Empire waist or babydoll-style tops and dresses make you look more "pregnant" than tent-y shirts, which tend to just make you look elephant-ish.

Later in pregnancy, slinky silky knits tend to cling to the baby belly and accentuate it; these were some of my personal favorite pregnancy outfits.

If you are one of those folks who can't bear the cutesy nature of a lot of maternity clothes (and who could blame you?) yet who still dreads the "Hmmmm, is she pregnant or not" looks, don't worry about maternity clothes.....but put your hand on your belly and mention the pregnancy prominently any chance you get. That will get the message across too.

Certainly you don't need to conform to anyone else's perceptions about what you "should" look like or dress like when pregnant, so don't feel the need to do this kind of thing if you don't care what people think....but I know from my email that many women of size do worry about this kind of thing, a lot.

If it makes you feel better, go ahead and wear a maternity-ish shirt early or subtly remind people through words and gestures that yes, you are pregnant as well as fat.

And enjoy the beauty of your baby belly, whatever it looks like. Baby bellies are amazing and blessed miracles, whatever their shape and size.

*Photo from my friend Lexi at www.birthislife.blogspot.com.


Lori said...

Great post. I wanted to add that, particularly if it's your first pregnancy, if you don't show for quite a while it may have nothing to do with your being fat and more to do with it being your first pregnancy. I know a lot of women of all sizes who didn't show until their sixth month with their first pregnancy. So not showing through much of the second trimester is normal for first-time moms, even thinner ones, and isn't something that only fat women experience.

It's really amazing how differently women of all sizes look during pregnancy. I'm a larger person, and I was so big at seven months that people were assuming I was due any day; I have a very petite neighbor who I didn't even realize was seven months pregnant (with her third child!) until I saw her a few months later with her new baby!

Alexis said...

Hi, I am a stranger here, but thought I would offer my experience to throw in the mix.
I weighed about 195 before getting pregnant and gained about 50 lbs. My daughter weighed 10 lbs 13 oz at birth. I was an hourglass pre-preg, but didn't "show" until about the 7th month. Before that it was the "is she pregnant, or is she fat?" game (as a side note, I always wanted to have a tshirt made that said, "I'm not just pregnant, I'm fat, too!" in response to those "not fat, pregnant" tees that irk me so). So, my experience was that even as a fat on the lower end of the spectrum with an hourglass figure, I never had the basketball belly.
Thanks for posting this!

SuSuseriffic said...

I tend to hover around 200 give or take 20 up and down for pregnancy...I am actually looking forward to no one knowing for sure if I am pregnant or not for the 3rd possible pregnancy. Even with a 3 mo old infant some people assume you are pregnant if you are fat. (as they did me) Remember the fat jiggles around the baby belly which is rather firm. I also got the "I can't believe you have 2 more months, you are huge!" but they always say that!

Anonymous said...

I have the rack-o-doom and I didn't start showing really well until a few weeks ago (I'm 38 weeks now). I started off at 212 lbs and I've gained 24 lbs so far. Off and on I'll lament that I'm not a cute pregnant lady but DH just rubs my belly and tells me he thinks I'm cute. I still have this dip where my waist was but I've found out that if I pull my pants up really high (sounds great huh :P) then it smoothes out my shape and I look more preggy. When I've mentioned my shape issues to my midwife she just tells me I must have some super abs that are keeping me from showing. I love her.

Anonymous said...

Wow, I'm so glad I came across this! I'm 'trying' and was thinking how will I look when I succeed? This has hit the nail on the head for me- I'm no longer afraid of looking like I'm piled on the pounds when I'm finally pregnant! :-)

spacedcowgirl said...

Thank you for this! I am forgetful/lazy so I never compiled a list of questions about pregnancy, but this entry is great and I'm also looking forward to the one about fetal position.

Anonymous said...

For me, I didn't have the perfectly round beach ball belly that so many women seem to get. I have had 2 surgeries in my belly button (lap surgeries), and the scar tissue prevented my belly from rounding out. I looked like I swallowed a wedge pillow, rather than a ball. I was much bigger above my belly button than below. And when you mentioned fetal position, it really struck a chord with me- I didn't know what position she was in (besides head down), but never seemed to show much. But looking back, I think she was posterior until delivery. I could "see" her feet, not her butt, and when I went into labor and my water broke, I felt her spin around. I had an easy birth, so I am sure she was anterior! Now I know what to look for in #2! I also definitely felt more "preggy" when I wore maternity clothes, but I couldn't afford a lot of cute maternity clothes, so I wore my husbands old work t-shirts and some hand-me-downs from my cousin. I have already bought some really cute maternity tops for baby #2, who hasn't even been conceived yet! I can't wait to wear them!

Anonymous said...

Wow! I don't think there's any way I can convey how encouraging this post is to me. Thank you so much!


orodemniades said...

Funny you should mention this. As an infertile woman, the one thing I wanted to hear when I got pregnant was Oh! How far along are you?

Yeah, you know where this is going.

I just got the 'Omygodisshefaaaat' looks, and gods help me when I went out to eat. I know someone who calls it having a stealth pregnancy...which would be fine, but I'm mixed race and my son doesn't look anything like me, so now I get the 'when was he adopted?' question. Ah, infertility, the gift that keeps on giving.

The weird thing is that even with the big belly, rack o' doom, and big butt, I started showing by month 4. I never wore pregnancy clothing because not only could I not afford what I liked, most of it didn't come in my size anyway (because fat women don't have sex, get pregnant, etc, etc).

Evenspor said...

Oops, I guess I should have read farther before commenting. You covered my rant above pretty well in this post.

As for what to wear, it's taken me two pregnancies to figure out that with the size of my chest (rack o' doom as you call it) maternity clothes and empire waists actually don't help me get the pregnant look. Regular old t-shirts have been my most pregnant-looking clothing up until now. At 34 weeks, I finally look pregnant in a maternity shirt.

Pregnancy Symptoms said...

Just wanted to add that, particularly if it's your first pregnancy, if you don't show for quite a while it may have nothing to do with your being fat and more to do with it being your first pregnancy.