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Are you struggling with negative body image during pregnancy?
As an eating disorder survivor, and mom of 4, I understand first hand the struggles with negative body image during pregnancy.
The internal battle between feeling blessed to be pregnant yet struggle with accepting all the physical changes it brings to your body can be very difficult.
And to be honest, I have struggled with how to write this post for months.
Not because I lack the understanding of negative body image but because body image these days is a very touchy subject.
In today’s society, loving your body, especially during pregnancy, almost feels mandatory.
Yet many moms feel trapped in their feelings and fear expressing their struggles with not loving their pregnant body.
Pregnancy was an incredible journey to self love and body acceptance but it didn’t come without A LOT of work and self reflection.
In this post, I address what exactly “body image” means and share tools to help you work through negative body image during pregnancy so you can enjoy this precious time!
The Dangers In Forcing Body Love During Pregnancy
Pressuring expecting moms to simply “love their body” during pregnancy or the postpartum period, is potentially harmful and fails to address the internal struggles with confidence and self worth they may be feeling.
Negative body image is more of a reflection about how we feel about ourselves on the inside than how we see ourselves on the outside.
And failing to address these feelings can lead to depression and anxiety.
What is “Body Image”?
In order to better understand negative body image during pregnancy, let’s define “body image.”
The medical definition of body image is:
“…a subjective picture of one’s own physical appearance established both by self-observation and by noting the reactions of others.” (source)
Subjective meaning that how you see your body is your own personal perception, thoughts and feelings about it.
These perceptions, thoughts and feelings are most often influenced by environmental and/or personal factors.
Simply put, Your body image is NOT your body.
The way we see ourselves compared to the way others see us is not the same.
Your body image is not influenced by a number on the scale but rather your self-esteem and past experiences.
Identify Why You Have Negative Body Image During Pregnancy
One of the first steps to improving your body image during pregnancy is to identify why you have these negative thoughts to begin with.
Negative body image is not just about hating your body.
It is often a result of deeper feelings and issues we are facing.
We tend to see ourselves negativity on the outside when we are struggling with negative feelings on the inside.
Take some time and reflect on why you may be experiencing these negative feelings about your body during pregnancy and write it down.
Here are some examples:
- Are you comparing your body to other pregnancies you see on social media and feeling insecure?
- Are you feeling out of control in how your body is changing?
- Are you feeling out of control in your cravings and eating habits?
- Do you feel anxious and worried about what your body will look like after pregnancy?
- Are you feeling anxious about the health of your baby?
- Are you stressed about how you are going to financially support you and your baby?
- How is your relationship with your significant other? Are you feeling secure or unsure?
These are all things that can contribute to poor body image.
Common Causes of Negative Body Image During Pregnancy
Even if the pregnancy was planned, you still may find yourself struggling with all the changes and uncertainty that pregnancy brings.
These things can make it more challenging to love your body and accept the rapid changes.
Here are a few reasons why you may be struggling with accepting your body during pregnancy.
No matter how excited you are to bring a new life into this world, it can still feel scary.
From financial worries to the fear of losing your independence, these fears can make you feel uneasy and uncertain about your future which can result in a negative body image.
Loss Of Control
Pregnancy is a period of time in your life where you might feel like you are losing control.
Everything from your emotions, fatigue, physical discomforts to how the baby will enter this world can feel very uncontrollable.
Personally, this was my biggest struggle during pregnancy.
Hormones can really mess with your emotions and influence how you feel about yourself and the pregnancy.
It is important to recognize that many of the feelings you may be experiencing could be the result of a drastic shift in your hormones.
Fear About What Your Body Might Look Like After Pregnancy
As your body changes and morphs into a new body, you may have a fear of what it will be like after pregnancy.
This constant worry can result in negative body image during pregnancy because it can feel scary to see these changes.
Related: 21 Things That Shocked Me About My Postpartum Body
With the rise of social media and people sharing their “fit pregnancies”, you may find yourself comparing how your body is changing compared to others.
This can be challenging to avoid but it truly is a recipe for disaster in your effort to remain positive about your body during pregnancy.
Why It Is Important To
Love Accept Your Body During Pregnancy
Studies have shown that maintaining a healthier relationship with your body during pregnancy can lower your risk for poor eating or behavioral habits that could complicate the pregnancy or development of the baby.
In general, people with positive body image will also have a higher level of physical and mental health.
They are less likely to feel pressured by unrealistic expectations and images on social media or feel pressured to look a certain way.
Having a positive body image during pregnancy will help you have a higher level of physical and mental health.
This means, the more positive you feel about your body and your pregnancy, the more likely you will be to take better care of it by nourishing it with healthier foods and staying active.
How Can I Better Accept My Body During Pregnancy?
I think it is very important that we do not force moms to “love their body’s” without first addressing why they may be struggling with body image to begin with.
If you are lacking confidence, feeling anxious or depressed or even have thoughts of worthlessness, you may be more likely to have negative body image.
Here are some tools to help free yourself from negative body image during pregnancy.
Not only can staying active during pregnancy help you feel stronger, more confident and even empowered, it also releases those feel good hormones that help combat depression and anxiety.
Movement is medicine and this is especially true during pregnancy.
Staying active can also help relive aches and pains that can make you feel more miserable.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gyneclologist recommend pregnant women engage in at least 30 minutes of exercise a day throughout their pregnancy.
Avoid the urge to exercise as a means to control your appearance but instead as a way to stay strong during pregnancy.
And always be sure to discuss your exercise routine with your health care provider.
Related: 21 Most Frequently Asked Questions About Exercise During Pregnancy
Use This Time To Focus On Healthy Eating Habits
Despite popular belief, pregnancy is not the time to “eat for two”.
This mindset can lead to unhealthy weight gain, gestational diabetes, preeclampsia and premature birth.
Not to mention, a diet lacking proper nutrients for both you and your baby will leave you feeling more tired, weak and irritable.
Prenatal nutrition is imperative for optimal fetal development as well as helping your body stay healthy during pregnancy.
If you need help with pregnancy nutrition, I highly recommend this budget friendly course about prenatal nutrition for optimal fetal development.
Find Positive Distractions
Take this time to focus on things like getting the nursery ready for your baby, work on financial planning for the future, or start using a pregnancy journal to document your experiences through pregnancy.
Taking these courses before you baby is here will help you feel MUCH more prepared.
Trying to learn these things with a newborn is much more challenging!
Finding positive distractions that make you more excited about meeting your little one will help shift the focus off how you feel about your body and instead, give you excitement about meeting your baby.
Change Your Mindset
Instead of trying to get to a place of loving your body during pregnancy, focus on getting to a place of acceptance and appreciation.
Accept the changes your body is going through as part of the process.
Then be thankful that your body is strong enough to create life.
I was MUCH more capable of appreciating and respecting my pregnancy when the focus shifted from body appearance to body strength.
Avoid Feeling Guilty about Negative Body Image During Pregnancy
Know that it is okay and even normal not to love your body during pregnancy.
Pregnancy is tough and feeling guilty for not loving the added weight gain, stretch marks and wider hips is not going to make it any easier.
Accept that you are uncomfortable with these changes but appreciative of how strong you are to go through the process.
Stop Comparing Yourself To Others
A small study showed that women who compared themselves to other pregnant moms on Facebook had a lower body image.
If you find yourself searching for other pregnancies on social media, avoid getting caught up in comparing how your pregnancy and body are progressing compared to theirs.
While it has become normal for moms to share their pregnancy journey’s online, it can come with the risk of causing other moms to have negative body image during pregnancy.
If social media is causing you to have negative body image, consider a social media detox and focus on YOU and YOUR pregnancy alone.
Treat yourself to a pedicure or pregnancy massage.
Or maybe take a bath, catch up on journaling about your pregnancy or maybe go on a mini shopping spree.
Showing yourself some love will help you feel more relaxed and comfortable in your pregnancy.
Remember, your body is doing hard work and pregnancy is a great time to pamper yourself!
Remember, This Is Only Temporary
Pregnancy may feel like it will never end but I promise you that your baby will be here before you know it.
Pregnancy is temporary, motherhood is forever.
Instead of focusing on the fact that pregnancy may feel neverending, keep your eye on the prize.
Use a pregnancy journal to countdown the days until you get to meet your little one.
Focus on how much time you have left instead of wishing for it to be over.
Pregnancy will feel like a distant memory soon enough.
Set Goals Around Health Rather Than Weight
Instead of focusing on the scale, focus healthy habits such as swaping processed foods for more nutritious foods.
Instead of exercising for weight management, exercise because of the benefits it provides for both you and your baby as well as reducing pregnancy discomforts.
Having health centered goals is much more realistic, sustainable and enjoyable than focusing on your weight.
Share Your Struggles
Keeping your feelings bottled up inside will not help you better cope with negative body image during pregnancy.
Studies have shown that women who feel more emotionally supported by their significant others are more likely to gain a healthy weight during pregnancy.
Let your partner know how you are feeling so they can hopefully provide you with the support and encouragement you need.
Don’t Avoid Intimacy
It may be tempting to avoid intimacy with your partner when you feel insecure in your pregnant body but it is also a great way to stay connected and help improve body image.
Intimacy will become much more challenging after pregnancy so now is a great time really connect with your partner.
Not to mention, pregnancy hormones make for great intimacy with your partner!
Keep a Pregnancy Journal
Journaling is one of the best ways to help work through mental clutter and negative self talk.
Use a pregnancy journal that keeps you up to date on the weekly changes your baby is going through then journal about your experiences and feelings each week.
This is a fun thing to look back on after your pregnancy is over and if you have another pregnancy, it would be fun to look back on the differences of each pregnancy.
Keep Your Eye On The Prize
Pregnancy is not always easy but keeping your eye on the prize will help you through those challenging times!
Final Thoughts on Body Image During Pregnancy
Negative body image during pregnancy is completely normal.
It does not make you a bad mom for not loving every change that your body is going through.
I regret wasting so much of my pregnancy feeling dissatisfied in my body because it did rob me of a lot of enjoyment too.
If you find yourself deeply struggling with body issues during pregnancy or feeling inscure in your pregnant body, I strongly suggest reaching out to someone to help you through it.
Hang in there mama, you are strong than you know, both physically and mentally!
FACT CHECKStruggles of a Fit Mom uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within it’s articles. Read my editorial process to learn more about how I fact-check and keep my content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
Cheng, E. R. (n.d.). The Influence of Antenatal Partner Support on Pregnancy Outcomes. PubMed. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26828630/ (1)
Measuring body image during pregnancy: psychometric properties and validity of a German translation of the Body Image in Pregnancy Scale. (n.d.). NCB. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6626371/ (2)
Is That Mom in the Mirror Really Me? (n.d.). The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/16/parenting/postpartum-body-image.html (3)
Pregnancy and body image. (n.d.). Office of Women’s Health. https://www.womenshealth.gov/mental-health/body-image-and-mental-health/pregnancy-and-body-image (4)
Brooke is a certified Prenatal and Postnatal Exercise Specialist with a Bachelors of Science degree in Kinesiology-Exercise Science. She is also a mom of 3 girls with more than 15 years of experience in health and fitness. Brooke’s goal at Struggles of a Fit Mom is to help motivate, educate and inspire other busy mamas who struggle with finding time, energy and motivation to take care of themselves in the chaos of motherhood.