Does my bump look big in this?

Pregnancy bumps – what an absolute minefield! Complete strangers feel they have the right to pass judgement on your bump, I’ve even heard stories of strangers touching the bump! It is not public property, even us midwives have to ask permission to palpate a baby bump. So here’s what you need to know about your bump.

These days, with so many scans, I wonder are the skills of abdominal palpation being lost? How many of you have had a proper abdominal palpation at an antenatal appointment or in the labour ward? By proper, I mean a good look for scars and stretchmarks, a measurement from top end of bump down to pubic bone, feeling for the head, feeling for the buttocks, feeling where the back is, feeling for the limbs, feeling how far down the head is so that the practitioner can tell you exactly where your baby is lying? And there’s no random guessing of where to listen to the baby’s heartbeat as it should be over the anterior shoulder and if the palpation is accurate then they know exactly where to listen. Now, admittedly, some palpations are difficult in circumstances where the pregnant lady has a high BMI or if it is a multiple pregnancy. This is the first clinical skill a midwife learns in training and still remains one of the most important ones. It is used to diagnose a breech presentation, a high head, a malpresentation, a large baby or a small baby. Before any vaginal examination by a doctor or midwife, a proper full abdominal palpation should be carried out whether in labour or not. You can not get a full clinical picture from a vaginal examination alone. It’s very bad practice. Before a monitor (CTG machine) is put on there should also be a full abdominal palpation.

Recently, I read an article in Maternity & Infant Magazine (Autumn 2016 issue) entitled ‘Are Doctors Too Quick To Tell Women They’re Having a Big Baby?’. The general consensus in the article was a resounding yes (75% of women in a study of 2400 women agreed with the statement). You might ask: so what? Well being told you are having a big baby goes on to influence your labour – you might decide you need an epidural despite not wanting one; you might agree to being induced early or worse you might agree to an unnecessary C-Section. Being told your baby is big (or small for that matter) causes worry and concern, the stress hormones alone can interfere with labour and make it longer and harder. What makes it worse is that in that same study, only 9.9% of those 2400 women that were told they were having a large baby actually had a large baby (more than 9lbs 9oz).

What women need to remember is that your body makes your baby to fit you. Very few babies are too big to be born by normal delivery. My own baby was 10lb 3oz which most people would agree was on the large side for a first baby and a mum that’s a size 10-12 in clothes (but very tall). Yet, I had a lovely normal delivery, no epidural needed and recovered well following it. You can read that story here. My bump was fairly big from what I could see, I usually measured 2 weeks ahead of my gestation at appointments but I still wasn’t concerned. I think if I wasn’t a midwife, I would have been very nervous and anxious and would have probably requested induction of labour (as opposed to refusing it altogether!) and an epidural as soon as possible. So it’s all relative to your mindset… and what the professionals (and your mother, your friend, the stranger on the bus, etc.) tell you. I would also have more faith in being told my baby is large when palpated than from a scan.

Once you are in the third trimester, ultrasound scans are not the best indicator of the size of your baby. This is because they can only visualise a small part of the baby from each angle. The estimated weight by scan gets less accurate the nearer you get to delivery and can be out by up to 20% either way. So if your baby is 9lbs, a scan could show it as being as small as 7lb 2oz or as big as 10lb 8oz. Quite a big difference.

Then on to the general public and all their ‘knowledge’ about your pregnancy and your bump. Did you know that you are public property when pregnant? A great conversation starter for everyone!  It is astounding the comments pregnant women are faced with from absolute strangers as well as their nearest and dearest. I found I got the full range from “you’re so neat” all the way up to “you’re definitely having a 10 pounder there” (I was about 7 months pregnant but that one was actually accurate in the end!). The clothes you wear can make a huge difference to the comments as well – one day you look like you’re having twins and the next day people don’t even notice you are pregnant. And just for the record, telling someone their bump is tiny is not a compliment either, they might have already been told their baby is small and are worrying hugely about it. The sooner we get our heads around the fact that bumps come in all shapes and sizes, just like babies do, the better. Love your bump and don’t comment on other people’s bumps full stop, it’s the safest way to live your life!

So with all that in mind, here’s a few quotes from ladies about pregnancy and comments they got:

“I’ve had almost every inappropriate comment thrown at me but the rudest was ‘haven’t you heard about contraception?’. Still boils my blood to this day”. Kellie Kearney, My Little Babog blog.

“You are not ugly in the face so you are definitely having a boy” Eve, Meath

“When in Penneys buying stuff for my hospital bag, girl at till said ‘oh my god, you’re so big, are you having twins?’ Me – ‘No, just one and I still have 10 weeks to go’.” Laura, Dublin

“I was in Mothercare 4 days after giving birth, shop assistant patted her belly and pointed at me in the queue and said ‘ohhhh are you going again?'” Cliona, Lean Mean Momma blog

“From a very young age, I have always wanted to be a Page 3 girl! Page 3 na perhaps? Geddit? Anyhoo, I waited and waited for my goods to grow but sadly I took after my Father in the chest area. However, when I was preggers WOW WEE! I grew the most amazing pair. Will said ‘I gave you a free boob job. Twice!’ I’m just grateful I was off the drink when I got ‘em as I’m a terrible show off and I could have gotten myself in a lot of trouble with those bad boys!” Triona McCarthy, (She also had another quote but I’ll put it on snapchat! :-)) 

“People asking how long you have to go and when you tell them 5 weeks, they GRIMMACE and say ‘oh bit to go yet so’.” Eimear The Two Darlings blog

“Man referring to my bump at 20 something weeks- ‘You’re gonna need a wheelbarrow to carry ‘that’ around soon'” Edel, Mayo

“Mother-in-law told me on my first ‘it better be a boy, I already have 3 grand-daughters and I don’t want any more’ she wasn’t joking either” Anon, Dublin

“When I was having my first baby, she was born at 5.35pm; the midwife that gave pethidine in the early hours of the morning came in the following day asking ‘what did we have?’ and after reading cot card- ‘girl, 8lbs 2oz, I don’t know where she was hiding’. Then she looked straight at me and said ‘oh luv, I do, you were huge here yesterday!’.” Denise, Limerick

“I was being scanned at almost 38 weeks, doctor says ‘Um, and are we expecting a big baby?’ The 9 and a half pound buster was delivered by CS 3 days later” Mary, Cork

“I had one teeny old lady say to me ‘ah, you’ll get very old very quick now’ as she walked away after a chat about the belly” Anon, Dublin

“I was told by a Lithuanian woman ‘Oh no no no, you’re too old! You’re too old!’ She had her kids at 22 and 24, she was horrified at the thought of me having a baby at 38.” Mary-Anne, Dublin

“I was maybe 2 weeks post baby, in Dunnes Stores buying baby gros and vests and feeling all proud of myself for being 1) dressed and 2) out and about, when someone came over and asked…. ‘When are you due? I see you’re getting all organised’. My face dropped, I finished as quick as possible and raced home feeling more than a little sorry for myself” Naomi Clarke, The Style Fairy blog

“A woman stopped me one day to ask me when I was due, think I was about 30 weeks, and said to me ‘You’re blooming everywhere'” Caroline (mum of twins), Laois

“’Well Tracy SAID you were huge but I didn’t think you were THIS HUGE!’  (Yup.  For this one, I had to kick my sister under the table to stop her from DESTROYING the unintentionally offensive woman.)” Maria,  Secrets of S-Mum Blog

“When I was pregnant with my little girl, a colleague told me I was having a girl because ‘girls take your beauty'” Deirdre, Dublin

“I’m quite petite so a lot of people were unaware I was pregnant. I was seven months before anyone could physically spot my bump. I heard a lot of ‘Oh what a small bump’; ‘you’re tiny’; ‘you’d never know’; ‘I didn’t realise’. This all sounds great but added to my anxiety as doctors had already told me I was carrying a small baby which makes any mum worry about the outcome and development of the baby” Geraldine, Over Heaven’s Hill blog

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