Fat pregnant people: automatically doing it rong

I’m going to give the award for Most Contemptible Headline on this story to the Herald, with:

Extremely obese mothers “a scary problem” – expert

with an honorable mention for Stuff’s

Greater risk for obese mums-to-be

I know there are plenty of people out there who are going to say I’m just defensive ’cause I’m fat, or Everyone Knows* being fat is basically a death sentence which is unjustifiably not being carried out this very second.

I merely ask those people to look at statements like:

the survey showed 38 per cent [of “extremely morbidly obese” women] had their labour induced, compared with 21 per cent in the general population, and more than half (52 per cent) had a caesarean delivery, compared with 32 per cent of other pregnant women.

And consider that

a)  “Extremely morbidly obese” is apparently determined by a BMI of over 50 – and BMI is bullshit;

b) There is a growing awareness of the fact that lots of the time, women don’t get the hugest amount of choice in having their labour induced, or caesarean deliveries.  Are you honestly going to sit there and tell me that none of this group of 370 women was told, by their supposed medical adviser, that “you should induce because you’re at risk because you’re fat” or “we need to do a C-section because your baby is too fat“?**

Well, you probably are.

But the fact remains that only one of the stories linked above – the Herald one – stated that labour “had” to be induced, and the pregnant people “needed” C-sections.  The fact that language isn’t matched in the Stuff story?  Yeah, colour me suspicious.

c)  Anyway, any article which says “Anecdotally, however, the problem of extremely obese mothers was growing” is probably not one I want to base healthcare decisions on.

It’s sad, you know.  Professor Lesley McCowan of the University of Auckland has gotten all the way to the top in academia without figuring out that the plural of anecdote is not data.  And correlation isn’t causation.

I’m not saying we should stop all research into pregnancy complications or maternal health.  But taking 370 women, based on a stupid, unscientific “measurement”, and then basically saying “see!  Their fatness kills their babies!” without saying “and we controlled for socio-economic status, and we controlled for race, and we controlled for illnesses or medications which might cause weight gain, and we controlled for potential health issues caused by years of socially-encouraged disordered eating” …

It basically makes you a judgemental wank who should stop pretending to do science.

I’m always open to the idea that the media have, as usually happens, completely misrepresented an otherwise balanced, well-designed study.  But when you’re dealing with fat issues?  Odds are against it.

If you yourself feel like a nice cold shower of scepticism when it comes to medical professionals and the plus-size, take some time to read the heartwarming stories at First Do No Harm.  If you find incandescent rage heartwarming.

~

*To paraphrase a Tamora Pierce novel of my adolescence, “I must meet this scholar Everyone.  He seems to be wrong about a lot of things.”

**For more related, outraging reading, the “Birth” tag at Hoyden About Town should see you right.

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