Why this woman started a 'fat fertility' movement

Nicola Salmon has started the #fatfertilitymatters movement [Photo: Nicola Salmon]
Nicola Salmon has started the #fatfertilitymatters movement [Photo: Nicola Salmon]

Trying to conceive a baby can be a stressful time, particularly if you’re suffering with fertility issues.

While there’s plenty of support for women who have a medically diagnosed condition which could be impacting their ability to get pregnant, it’s a different story for those who are overweight.

But one woman is trying to change that.

Meet Nicola Salmon, a fertility coach, who believes women should be provided the same fertility support and treatment options, no matter their weight.

Nicola is concerned that the emphasis placed on encouraging women to lose weight when they are trying to conceive could lead to them developing unhealthy relationships with food and ultimately impact their mental health.

The mum-of-two is so determined to raise awareness about the subject she has started a movement #FatFertilityMatters, which aims to encourage more thought about the challenges women with higher BMIs face when trying to get pregnant.

“It’s so important to raise awareness about fat fertility because it is such a taboo subject,” she tells Yahoo UK.

“We are told as people in fat bodies that it is wrong for us to want to get pregnant, that it is irresponsible and that it may harm our pregnancies and future babies.

“There is so much judgement and shame for women who are going through this that they don’t feel able to stand up and ask for the support and treatment that they deserve as fellow human beings. These women feel so alone on their journeys and that there is nowhere they can turn for help.”

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It’s the start of Fertility Week here in the UK. So many fertility taboos are being broken down as more awareness is created around infertility and people feel more able to talk about their fertility struggles. . But one taboo still remains. And it affects a huge proportion of our population. . Fat fertility. . If you are fat, the chances of you being able to get access to support and treatment for fertility issues are dramatically reduced when compared to others. . The advice you’re given? “Lose weight” . The problem with this advice is threefold. . You are assuming that the fat is causing fertility issues. . You are assuming that losing weight is easy. These women have more than likely been trying to lose weight their whole lives. 95% of diets fail. It’s not the fault of the women, it’s the fault of the diet. . Typical weight loss strategies such as calorie restriction and excessive exercise are actually detrimental to fertility. . We need to change the conversation around fat fertility. . Being fat does not mean that you are any less worthy of being a mother. . Being fat does not mean that you are any less able of getting pregnant, having a healthy pregnancy and healthy children. . Being fat does not mean that anything more than you have fat cells on your body. . It’s time to stop weight bias and inequality around fertility support for fat women, non binary and trans folk. . Support #fatfertilitymatters by sharing this illustration . Illustration by @hannahpresdee

A post shared by Nicola Salmon (@fatpositivefertility) on Oct 29, 2018 at 2:43am PDT

Nicola says her own pregnancy and parenting journey inspired her to set up the movement.

“I’ve struggled with my fat body my whole life and at 16 I was diagnosed with PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome – a metabolic and hormonal condition) and the doctor told me I wouldn’t be able to have kids,” she says.

“When me and my husband were ready to start trying for a family, I was at my heaviest weight and my periods were extremely irregular. But it was easy for us to conceive both our children and it made no sense to me. Why was it so easy for me?”

“When my eldest son was older, I realised that all my issues around food and my body were bound to rub off on him unless I did something about it, so I vowed to never weigh myself or diet again.”

Nicola believes accepting her own weight has given her the courage to stand up for other women with larger BMIs and fight for equal support for their own fertility journeys.

“It’s only this year that I’ve been able to make peace with my body enough to step up and support other fat women on this journey without dieting and body shame. I want it to be as easy for them as it was for me,” she explains.

Nicola’s own experiences inspired her to create the movement [Photo: Nicola Salmon]
Nicola’s own experiences inspired her to create the movement [Photo: Nicola Salmon]

So what does she hope to see change?

“I want equality and non-judgemental healthcare. I want everyone to have access to the same support and treatments regardless of their size. I want fat women to have the pregnancies, the births and the babies that they want without being shamed for it,” she says.

The NHS includes being overweight as a risk factor in terms of affecting women’s ability to get pregnant.

“Being overweight or obese (having a BMI of 30 or over) reduces fertility; in women, being overweight or severely underweight can affect ovulation,” the site reads.

The recommendation is that anyone trying to conceive should fit into the ‘healthy weight’ category, meaning a BMI between 19 and 25.

The NHS also states that weight an impact pregnancy as well. “Being overweight increases the risk of complications for pregnant women and their babies.”

These complications include miscarriage, gestational diabetes, high blood pressure and pre-eclampsia, blood clots, the baby becoming ‘stuck’ during labour, and post-partum haemorrhage.

But Nicola believes that for plus-size women, the trying to conceive process and indeed pregnancy itself can be too focussed on a patients’ weight and what they’re eating.

She hopes that #FatFertilityMatters will hope to change the narrative surrounding the emphasis placed on a woman’s weight.

And the response to the movement has been overwhelmingly positive.

“I’ve had hundreds of message from women all over the world sharing their stories about fabphobic healthcare professionals and being treated so cruelly when all they want to is to live their dream of being a mama,” she says.

“Each woman was so grateful to finally be seen and realise that she is not alone in her struggle.”

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