The One Body Image Struggle I Never Expected to Have During Pregnancy – and How I’ve Coped With It
Body Image and Pregnancy, Part 2
“Oh my gosh, you’re due in March?! But you’re so TINY!”
“You haven’t put on any weight since your last appointment; I really would like you to put on a few more pounds” (~doctor)
“Your breasts are so large!”
“You’ve hidden your pregnancy so well—You can barely tell!” (PS: I’m not ‘trying’ to hide anything)
These are all comments I have heard in the past few weeks. How is one supposed to respond? Ummm…thanks? Are any of these familiar to you? Or perhaps the analysis of your belly sounded a bit different than what I am experiencing.
No matter who you are, when you’re pregnant people can’t help but make comments of some form about your body, shape and size and overall how you look. These comments, while well-intentioned, most likely will have an evaluative or comparative piece to them—large, small, healthy, unhealthy, looking great, looking fat. They can leave an impact.
In my previous post about body image and pregnancy, I discussed the various ways our bodies grow and change during this special time in life, much out of our own control, and with the potential to cause discomfort and body image struggles.
Today I want to shine a light on the impact of external sources on how we feel about our bodies
during pregnancy, whether those are comments by others, things you read, the shape of another pregnant woman’s body, or expectations placed upon you.
While I felt I was well-prepared to face my own potential body image struggle during my pregnancy, the one I am actually experiencing is much different than I would have imagined.
When my doctor advised me to put on weight, I had a mixture of reactions. One was shock: “Wow, I’ve never been told that before. I am more accustomed to hearing from the voice in my head that I need to lose weight, not gain it.” A second was “But how can I eat more? I am trying my best to get a good, healthy assortment of foods.”
Yet another was a deep sense of failure. Was I failing my baby by not being able to gain weight like I ‘should’ in pregnancy? Was she healthy and happy in there? There were no indicators that she wasn’t, but I still worried.
This one comment from my doctor sent me on a rollercoaster of anxiety, fear, worry, and ultimately acceptance.
The voice that I ultimately chose to listen to: I’m doing the best I can. Which is amazing.
Then, a few days ago someone told me how shocked they were to learn I was only a little over a month away from my due date. I was just that tiny. I’m not that tiny. I’m an 8.5 month pregnant lady. But again, that comment triggered a deeper fear that there’s something wrong with me. There is something deficient about my body…it is failing somehow.
Body Image During Pregnancy
I work with my clients every day to address these types of fears, helping them to recognize that they are not based in truth, but at the time they can seem incredibly real.
Our thoughts can run rampant if we don’t become mindful of them and the effect they can have on our deeper selves. When you are in a vulnerable time of your life, whether it is during pregnancy, during early stages of a relationship, or after a big move to a new city, words are powerful. They can have the fortitude to change your whole day. Which words do you want to internalize and truly listen to?
As a pregnancy develops and women’s bodies grow in such amazing and unprecedented ways, the comparison monster can easily rear its ugly head. Pictures posted on social media, seeing a woman walking down the street; we can’t help but compare our bodies to others’ — how ‘should’ we be looking, feeling, changing? Take a moment and think back to the last time you compared yourself in some way to another person. How did it feel?
Whether it’s thinking that your belly is ‘too large’ or ‘too small’, or tasting any other flavor of the not-good-enough-potion, most pregnant women have gone through some version of their own journey with accepting their changing bodies. How we look can seem to be first and foremost in other people’s minds, sometimes even before how you are feeling or how healthy your pregnancy is. It’s tough to not let that seep in. How do we cope?
Remember, every woman’s body is different. We are built differently, and we will experience changes to our bodies differently. There is no “right way” or “wrong way”. There’s just YOUR way. And you’re doing great.
Here are three methods that I have chosen to help me cope. I hope they can also help you or someone you know:
- Remember that size does not equal health – of you, or of your baby.
- Set strong boundaries with external influences – put down the pregnancy books, sign off social media, and reconnect with yourself in a way that feels refreshing and genuine.
- Keep the end goal in sight – your baby. Pregnancy is a unique and magical time of a woman’s life and while it is uncomfortable in many ways, it is all for a very good reason. Try to picture gazing at your little one and in that moment nothing else will matter.
Share your tips! Have you been pregnant or are you pregnant and can relate to this? Share in the comments below ways that helped you cope. Connecting together and supporting one another can make a huge difference in mental and physical health!