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What The Media Gets Wrong About Plus Size Pregnancy Risks

Content warning for perinatal death when discussing plus size pregnancy risks.

A recent health alert on Good Morning America spread misleading information about the increased risk of stillbirth and infant death plus size people face during pregnancy.

ABC’s Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Jen Ashton, said this during the segment, “What this study found is that when women were in those categories [overweight or obese BMI] if they were overweight, they had a 22% increased risk perinatal death rate, again for the infant. And if they were obese, that risk went up to 55%. So we’re talking stillbirth or risk right after delivery.”

The 22% increased risk for overweight people and 55% for obese people represents the relative risk of someone in a larger body compared to someone in the normal BMI range. And without more context, those statistics lead people to believe that plus size pregnancy risks are astronomical.

Dr. Ashton never once stated how the actual risk is very low, as you can see in the graphic from the study.

News reports like these leave people feeling scared and further perpetuate a false narrative that plus size people don’t have healthy outcomes during pregnancy.

As I stated in the Instagram video below, it’s time for the media to do better.

And this video’s comments say a lot about how people feel the media misrepresents plus size pregnancy risks.

As Dr. Christine Sterling commented, “What’s the benefit of freaking people out like this?!?! I’m so irritated!!! For anyone wondering— let’s say the risk of perinatal death in a “normal” BMI population is 1% (that’s not the actual number but this is for easy math), and let’s say this news report is accurate (haven’t checked the citation myself) and it’s 55% higher in those with a higher BMI. You can say it like that— 55% higher (oh my!) or you can say it’s 1% vs. 1.55%. Both are true but one gives much needed context and the other doesn’t.”

So, where do we go from here? Listen to episode 163 of the Plus Mommy Podcast to learn more.

Recording & Show Notes: Plus Mommy Podcast Episode 163

Transcript happily provided upon request. 

Resources Mentioned On The Show:

BRAIN Acronym

B – What are the benefits?

R – What are the risks?

A – What are the alternatives?

I – Always listen to your intuition!

N – What happens next or if we do nothing?

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Monday 2nd of May 2022

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Bill Fabrey

Thursday 31st of March 2022

Thank you. I have a low opinion of CNN news.

Bill Fabrey

Thursday 31st of March 2022

Oops, I meant to say, GMA. But I don’t like CNN either.