Body Image During Pregnancy
Think about this. A pregnancy is, generally speaking, 10 months from the time of conception to the time of birth. That’s 40 weeks. 280 days. And in that short period of time, your baby goes from a fertilized egg, which is roughly 0.1mm (not even visible to the human eye), to a full term, living, breathing human who on average weighs around 7.5lbs at birth.
WHOA. Talk about mind. blown.
When you think about that objectively, isn’t that amazing? Considering the changes a woman has to go through in this blip of time; it’s no wonder that body image issues often happen during pregnancy.
One day you’re going to 3 spin classes a week, and in the span of just a few weeks your jeans no longer fit, you’re too exhausted to even think about getting on a bike, and you’re volleying between nauseated to wanting to eat all the carbs.
These are big changes, friend.
Your emotions and perception of your body can often be at war during pregnancy, even if you’re happy to be pregnant. It’s important to remember that body image isn’t just what you see in the mirror; it’s a combination of attitudes, perceptions, and behaviors in relationship to one’s appearance.
There is no award for “Best Pregnancy Weight”
It’s important to know that during this time when your body takes over, and you don’t recognize your own metabolism that there is no gold standard for pregnancy. Your provider will give you weight guidelines based on your initial pre-pregnancy weight, and even those can change throughout the pregnancy based on you and/or your baby’s needs.
It is a well researched fact that there is a direct correlation between body image dissatisfaction and postpartum depression and/or anxiety. This means it extra important to report any feelings of body dissatisfaction you may have to your provider. While some feelings of dismay about your changing body are normal, obsessive comparison and checking on your weight several times a day is not.
There is no "ideal body shape" during pregnancy
That well-meaning cashier at the store who insists you must be carrying twins is not the person you should listen to. That celebrity who is 8 months pregnant walking in stilettos with no visible cankles is a wonder of Photoshop. But, it’s not always easy to fight those feelings of doubt when your hormones are racing through your bloodstream.
Self-Care, Positive Self Talk and Talking to Others is Critical
When you find yourself thinking negative thoughts about your body, turn that narrative outward. Would you say the same thing about a friend who is pregnant? As women, we are often harder on ourselves than others, and during pregnancy, it’s the time to show yourself some grace.
Taking care of yourself can be a warm bath, taking time for quiet mediation, or connecting with your partner, letting them know how you feel. Sometimes just getting out and getting a cute new outfit or a pedicure can lift your spirits.
Online or in-person moms’ groups can help too. Talking it out with people who are having similar feelings and doubts can make you feel less alone and normalize your feelings about your changing body.
There will be no other time in your life that your body is going to do so much in so little time. Embrace it as much as you can, and if you are struggling, please reach out for help from your provider.