Body Image During Pregnancy

Pregnancy is usually a happy and joyful time during which you are preparing for your new arrival! But pregnancy is also a time of scary changes, both physical and emotional. Many women find it difficult to deal with all the different changes going on in their lives and in their bodies; others seem to relish in these changes. Body image is of particular concern during pregnancy. Often, how you feel about your pregnant body will directly impact how happy you are during your pregnancy. Why do people feel so different about their pregnant selves? Can body image affect your baby’s growth and development? How can you boost your self-esteem while you are pregnant? Read on and find out great ways to accept your changing body.

Two Sides of the Same Coin
Most pregnant women seem to fall into one of two categories: those who love their pregnant bodies and those who hate their pregnant bodies. Some women find that pregnancy brings them a body they love and never want to give up. Big breasts and a curvy stomach make many women feel sexual, strong, and truly feminine. Other women, though, cannot stand their body during pregnancy. Added weight, the appearance of stretch marks, and that constant fatigue can really make some women uncomfortable and unhappy.

Whichever category you happen to belong to, it is important to realize that every woman feels a different way about herself during her pregnancy. You may find that your body image changes from week to week or even on a daily basis. Some days you may feel great about yourself and other days you may wish you weren’t pregnant in the first place. These feelings are genuine and should be taking seriously – never let anyone tell you how you are feeling isn’t important.

Body Changes During Pregnancy
Being pregnant means that you are in store for a lot of changes. Simply on the physical level your body is not going to be the same as it was before you were pregnant. Changing hormones cause your breasts to swell, your uterus to expand, and your skin to break out. You hair may fall out and you may suffer from some unimaginable food cravings. And of course, your belly will grow as your baby develops.

Most women will find these changes challenging to accept at times. Nine months isn’t really long enough to become accustomed to you new body. Given this short time period, it isn’t surprising that some women feel out of control, lost, or at war with outside forces. It is important to remember that you haven’t lost your old self completely – this is still your body, only with some great new additions! It may also help if you remember that your body is only changing in order to nurture your child. Your new pregnant body is a special place for you to share with your baby – it is something to embrace and to love.

Emotional Changes During Pregnancy
Emotional changes can often be responsible for shifting your body image. During pregnancy, your hormones will change constantly causing mood swings ranging from delight to rage. You may feel a little bit depressed from time to time and it is easy to displace this mood by focusing on how much you hate your body. Yet often it really isn’t your changing body that is the culprit but what your mood happens to be at the time.

Stress also tends to make all those body changes even harder to manage. You have to go to work, do the housework, and carry around a baby for nine months – the last thing you need is for your clothes not to fit. Doing too much or taking on too many commitments can really make it difficult to have a good body image. It is important to stay relaxed and delegate extra commitments to family and friends. You may be surprised at how much this can contribute to a healthy body image.

Socio-Cultural Factors in Body Image
The way society feels about pregnancy often impacts on our body image during pregnancy. In the past, pregnant women were expected to do as much as possible to hide their pregnancies. They wore shapeless outfits, stayed home from work, and never dared to work out. These days society is beginning to accept that pregnant women are people too. Goodness knows, at least the maternity outfits are better! But society still expects a lot from pregnant women.

There is a huge media influence on body image. The constant media coverage on pregnant movie and television stars can be very negative. These Hollywood darlings have the perfect outfits, the perfect makeup, and of course, the perfect pregnant body. Many pregnant women hate the fact that their bodies just don’t seem to match up. Being bombarded by images of the "perfect pregnancy" can really be a downer.

Society’s obsession with thinness also causes some women to hate their bodies during pregnancy. Women are constantly struggling to achieve that "ideal" body, which society tells us in tall, thin, and lean. Of course, during pregnancy you experience some weight gain. This is in order for your baby to develop properly. Some women are so scared that they will be perceived of as "fat," that they refuse to eat properly or treat their bodies with respect. It doesn’t help when some stranger on the street tells you that you are "so big"! This is just a reminder of the fact that you aren’t society’s ideal.

Improving Body Image
It can be very difficult to improve your body image if it is already pretty low. Improving your body image involves changing the way you think and analyze situations. Here are a few things that you can try to help you love that beautiful pregnant body!

  • Find one thing that you like about your body and accentuate it. It will give you a confidence boost.
  • Focus on your baby. Remember that your body is changing to help your baby grow, and that is the most important thing.
  • Look for support. Tell your partner, friends, or family members if you are feeling down about yourself. They can give you the psychological boost you need.
  • Exercise. Getting out for a walk or a swim can clear your mind and help you feel like a new person.
  • Try yoga. Yoga will help you to develop a connection between your body and your mind.
  • Practice self massage. Self massage can get you familiar with your body, which is the first step to accepting it.
  • Educate yourself. Read as much about pregnancy as you can so you know what to expect and feel more in control.

Want to talk about your body image with other pregnant women? Then visit our What to Expect forum!

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