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Weight Stigma During Pregnancy – What Does The Research Say?

Angela Incollingo Rodriguez, Assistant Professor of Psychological & Cognitive Sciences at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, is one of the first researchers to study weight stigma during pregnancy. 

plus size woman in hospital bed experiencing Weight Stigma During Pregnancy

Weight Stigma During Pregnancy

As a researcher whose mother is a nutritionist, Angela thought she would be the one to figure out how to get people to diet. 

After failing for a while, she had an “aha” moment.

As Angela shared, “For lots of different reasons, diets are destined to fail, so why is it then that we’re so desperate for people to lose weight? Why are we still trying to diet?” 

That’s what led her to research weight stigma around 2013 – 2015.

She found there wasn’t anyone researching the weight stigma people experience throughout pregnancy and postpartum. And so, that became the basis of her dissertation in 2017. 

Angela developed a comprehensive survey to explore how weight stigma occurs in pregnancy and postpartum. She looked at many angles to see if weight stigma came from healthcare, friends, family, partners, or the media (spoiler alert – it’s all of the above). 

Around that time, Angela and Jen McLellan, founder of Plus Size Birth and host of the Plus Mommy Podcast, connected. Angela needed research participants, and Jen’s community was eager to participate. 

The results came pouring in! 

At the end of the survey, there was an area for people to share anything else they wanted to say. Angela had never experienced such a high response rate to this question in any previous survey. 

The comments were full of heartwrenching stories, especially shared by people in larger bodies. Their words will forever impact Angela’s work. 

In the end, research showed 2/3 of the study participants experienced pregnancy-related weight stigma from at least one source (healthcare, friends, family, partners, or the media). And many from multiple sources.

Yes, people of all sizes experience weight stigma during pregnancy! 

Angela’s research shows that weight stigma during pregnancy is related to adverse health ramifications, including increased risk of postpartum depression, disordered eating, perceived stress, weight-retention postpartum, and even gestational diabetes.  

Currently, there are research groups worldwide studying pregnancy-related weight stigma. Yet, Angela’s research started coming out in 2019, but there’s still no buzz. 

As Angela says, “The steps from evidence to action is really challenging. We need to blend the research that’s out there with the very clear frustration of the consumer base to figure out how do we parlay this into a real change. It’s not a simple answer.”

The time for these conversations is long overdue!

Listen below as Angela joins the Plus Mommy Podcast to discuss her research and how the findings can positively impact maternity care for people of all sizes.

Recording & Show Notes: Plus Mommy Podcast Episode 160

Transcript happily provided upon request. 

Resources Mentioned On The Show:

Angela Incollingo Rodriguez is an Assistant Professor of Psychological & Cognitive Sciences at Worcester Polytechnic Institute and one of the first researchers worldwide to study pregnancy-related weight stigma. A fervent advocate for health promotion for people of all sizes, Angela now works with several teams internationally to study the phenomenon and consequences of pregnancy-related weight stigma to ultimately change policy and improve maternal-child health.