Body image in pregnancy

Everyone is different – and the way that our bodies grow, change and shape themselves to hold and carry our baby during pregnancy can vary greatly from one person to another.

Despite the fact that we are often inundated with images of expectant mothers with perfect baby bumps but otherwise unchanged body proportions, for most women this is simply not the reality.

It is important to acknowledge that, while there are a number of positive ‘side-effects’ of pregnancy (like stronger hair and nails and glowing skin), unfortunately there can also be some less-than-pleasant aspects, including weight gain on other areas (besides your tummy), swollen legs and varicose veins – just to name a few.

I have loathed my new body and it has contributed to my PND. My self worth has definitely been affected. 

This is all part and parcel of pregnancy – and is completely normal.

Many mothers, however, struggle with the fact that during pregnancy, the changes to your body size and shape can result in people making comments about your appearance. Whether it’s “Are you sure there’s one one in there?” or “You’re so tiny for six months!” this can increase the focus on your body image and compound your own feelings. But while you may feel pressure to look a certain way, it is important that you try to view pregnancy within this realistic context.

When you’re pregnant, you do feel very vulnerable and self-conscious about your body, and I did feel pretty awful about the comments and the pictures … But then I thought ‘you know what, bugger it, I’m growing a baby’.

Sarah Harris

Too often we can place unrealistic pressures or expectations on ourselves about how we should, or will look throughout pregnancy.

 While it is important to eat well to provide nourishment to yourself and your baby, it can be very difficult if you’re not feeling comfortable with your changing body.  Here, it is helpful to keep in mind and appreciate the amazing ability of your body to create a little person. Reflecting on this can certainly help keep things in perspective and focus on the positive.

It amazes me what a woman’s body can do.  My wife doesn’t understand it because she’s self-conscious about it but, when I see her body, I think it’s so beautiful.  It’s a sign of what a woman can do in all her glory and all of its extraordinary capabilities that men will never have.  I find it incredibly sexy.  

Keeping it all in perspective

Pregnancy is a time to be nurturing to both your physical health as well as your emotional health and wellbeing.  You can do this by:

  • Eating well – good quality food will nourish both you and your growing baby
  • Exercising sensibly – even a gentle walk can be great for maintaining mental wellbeing by stimulating those endorphins which have  positive impact on your mood, as well as giving you a sense of achievement
  • Being aware of your expectations around body image – are these realistic or are you putting pressure on yourself?

I wish there wasn’t so much pressure on mums to “bounce back” right after having their baby. I felt like a failure for not being able to fit into my pre-pregnancy clothes and hated having to buy a new wardrobe because nothing fit.

Your number one priority right now is to provide a nurturing and nourishing environment for your baby, and you can do this by taking the pressure off and maintaining a realistic, and healthy outlook.