Are you struggling with body acceptance during pregnancy? I’m here to tell you that it is completely normal and actually expected. Despite what you see on social media, on tv, or in magazines, not everyone loves pregnancy 100% of the time. I am more than willing to admit that I had my fair share of difficult moments while watching my body change. Now, I’m hoping to normalize the conversation on body image challenges. This should help promote body acceptance while your body is growing and changing.
It’s true that there are many ‘positive side effects’ during pregnancy like growing thicker hair, developing a pregnancy glow, and the larger breasts. If you are anything like me, you might even come to love that you no longer feel the need to suck in your stomach all of the time (if you even still can suck it in!).
But, many negative changes come along as well. Bloating, acne, stretch marks, pigment changing, and Linea Nigra (the dark line that can develop on your stomach) are all normal changes. It can be discouraging watching the number on your scale go up and realizing you no longer fit into your pre-pregnancy clothes. Noticing a size increase in areas outside of your belly, such as arms or legs, can be unexpected. You may even have other health conditions that you are potentially concerned about. Spending all of this energy thinking and worrying about your body can be overwhelming!
Body Acceptance Struggles During Pregnancy
Not surprisingly, all of these changes with your body can impact your body image. Depression can creep in. Anxiety can start to pop up in your life. You might feel guilty for not loving pregnancy or feel as if that means you love your baby any less (newsflash: loving your pregnancy body and loving your baby are not mutually exclusive).
Having a negative body image or feeling self-conscious can lead to not wanting to leave the house or see others in fear of judgment. Losing that connection with the outside world and our support system can be detrimental in the transition to motherhood. Taking, posting, or sharing photos of your growing body might be incredibly unappealing when you no longer feel comfortable in your skin.
When to Seek Help
It’s important to know that struggling to accept your body during pregnancy can happen to anyone. Negative body image does not just affect those who struggled with their body image before pregnancy. If you’ve struggled in the past with any eating or body image disorder, it would be beneficial to seek out a mental health provider for additional support during this time. I was in therapy during my entire pregnancy for body image along with other mental health reasons. Please know that you are not alone in struggling to embrace your new and ever-changing body. However you feel is ok and normal.
Make sure you speak with your OB, midwives, or a specialist during your pregnancy. They will ensure that your health, mental health, and weight are on track. Getting on a scale and discussing your weight every time you go to your check-ups can be daunting. Don’t refrain from talking about your body image issues and worries. There are many women who struggle with this. Not only does your health care provider hear about these concerns often, but they can also provide you with great resources to cope and adjust during this time.
Promote Body Acceptance During Pregnancy
Let’s talk about some of the ways that you can take charge of accepting (and hopefully embracing) your body. You will be in this changing body for 9 months, whether you are loving it or hating it. It’s better to accept it than try to fight any of the changes outside of your control. If we can get you to a point of embracing your growing body, even better!
Check-In With Yourself
How do you feel negative body image impacts your self-worth? Do you hold too much value in how you feel your body looks? Would you feel less worthy of love, attention, or respect if you are not the size you want to be?
Try to remember that your value and worth are not determined by the way you or anyone else perceives your body. And it most certainly does not come from a number on a scale or clothing tag. You are worthy, you are enough, you are strong, and you are beautiful. Would you tell a friend that their value has been lowered because their body has changed?
What happens when you focus all of your attention on the flaws you see in your own body? Does that allow you any room to focus on anything uplifting?
I’m a firm believer in positive affirmations. Take a minute to love on yourself each time you pass a mirror. Compliment yourself. Remind yourself that you are worthy and you are enough. Tell yourself that your body is doing a good job creating this magical life within you. That is strength! It is true beauty!
Along with positive affirmations, be aware of the language that you are using when discussing your body with your partner, others, or even in your own mind. Instead of using degrading terms or phrases, try reframing your words in a more positive and loving way. My husband and I banned the use of “large” or “big” when describing my belly. We replaced it with “healthy” after a friend suggested that concept. By exclusively referring to my belly as a “healthy belly”, it created a feeling of pride in the growth that was happening. It also reminded me that it’s healthy for my belly to grow.
Ask your partner or a friend to be your “accountability buddy” and call you out when you are being negative. If my husband catches me saying something less-than-kind about my body, he will call for a “30 Second Empowerment Break” where I have to listen to him compliment me without disagreeing.
Take photos of your pregnancy! Even if you don’t post them or send them out. Watching your belly grow, even during the beginning stages of pregnancy when it doesn’t feel like it has “popped” just yet, can help you see the beauty in the growth.
These photos may seem uncomfortable or painful at this moment. I can almost assure you that you will look back on these and feel nothing but love for the creation happening in your body. Personally, my weight has fluctuated throughout my life. I know when I look back on photos of myself in high school or even pre-pregnancy, I am amazed at how beautiful I was. I definitely recall not being able to feel it at that moment. At the very least, you can have these photos to show your child when you tell them stories about your pregnancy.
Move Your Body
It can be frustrating to adjust to your body’s new limitations while you progress through your pregnancy. You may notice this while exercising, doing yoga, or just going up a set of stairs. Even walking around the house felt like a challenge for me sometimes. Speak with your health care provider about what types of exercise are right for you first. If you can, continue to move your body throughout your pregnancy. It will not only help you stay physically healthy, but it will do wonders for your body image and confidence.
Dress to Impress Yourself
Find clothes that make you feel confident, sexy, and beautiful. Some of these aren’t always “maternity” clothes. But, keep in mind that maternity clothing is specifically designed to fit your growing body through all of its beautiful stages. Buying new clothing can be exciting, but, more importantly, having clothes that actually fit will promote confidence and body acceptance during pregnancy. Don’t fight your growing body in clothes that are not meant to fit you right now.
There were some pieces of clothing that I was surprised to find still fit me, even past the 6-month mark! A lot of my high rise leggings and pretty much every summer dress already in my closet still fit comfortably. I started out buying basics like leggings, a pair of jeans, tank tops, nursing bras, and new underwear. I was able to mix and match some clothing that I had with those, like a t-shirt tied up to hit above my belly. I actually found myself rocking more crop tops with my high waisted leggings than I ever did before pregnancy! I am by no means endorsed or affiliated with these brands, but I was a huge fan of Motherhood Maternity, Pink Blush, and Gap for clothing.
Monitor Social Media
Be careful about the type of social media content you surround yourself with during this time. Social media has been proven to increase anxiety and depression and decrease self-esteem. Knowing this, it might be worth scanning through what you are seeing in your newsfeed to check for people or posts who are not promoting body positivity for you. Are you seeing a lot of posts or articles promoting that you should “lose weight” or “get your body back”? While promoting general health is always acceptable, some messages are very harsh and meant (whether intentionally or not) to shame you or make you feel like your value and happiness lies in your body size.
I also want to address the people who say they want to or can help you “get your body back”. You never lost your body. It’s unacceptable for anyone to put that incredibly unhealthy thought into your mind.
Even if your social media isn’t flooded with posts about weight loss or changing your body, you may be seeing a lot of people who are heavily editing photos. This might include tweaking their body shape and sets unrealistic expectations. You don’t get to see the reality, you only see the finished picture. But the comparison that you create in your mind is based on this unattainable image.
It’s important to fill your feed with all different types of bodies that help make you feel better. Find pages that show off stretch marks, rolls, curvy bodies. All bodies are beautiful! Once you start seeing your feed filled up with so many different and beautiful sizes, you will be able to quit comparing yourself to those photoshopped bodies that even the model cannot attain. Body acceptance during pregnancy will feel much easier once you do this.
Monitor Your Social Network
Along with monitoring your social media for posts that evoke negative thoughts or feelings, you should also monitor the people you surround yourself with. I had someone who I thought was a friend comment on a picture I’d posted (where I clearly stated that I was pregnant with one child) that it “looked like twins”.
Many women have to suffer from hearing people tell them they look chubby or about to pop, even if they aren’t nearing a full-term pregnancy. How would this impact you? What seed is planted? Do you want to water this seed? Probably not. You don’t need that negativity in your life while you are already struggling with your own body acceptance during pregnancy. Block them, delete them, or better yet, stand up for yourself. It’s completely acceptable to tell someone they are out of line and have said something rude or inconsiderate.
Impact of Body Acceptance in Your Children
After practicing some of these actions for self-love and acceptance, try to use what you have learned to positively impact your own child. I did not grow up with a present mother so I might not have had the same experience as others. But, I do recall her making comments about my weight that have repeated in my head and stuck with me for years. You are passing along messages to your child just as your parents did with you. Understand the weight that your words hold in the eyes of your little ones. If your children see and hear you loving your body, they will grow up with that same healthy mentality, and have you to thank for it!