Body image struggles during pregnancy are real! We live in a world where models, influencers, and actresses on TV share images of thin bodies with tiny, perfectly proportioned baby bumps. While this might be the case for some women, it’s not for many.
Whether you are thin with a huge baby bump, curvy with a small baby bump, or anything in between, you are normal. You are also normal for struggling with your changing body and weight gain.
Read on to discover 7 helpful tips to help you navigate the beauty of your changing body!
7 Tips For Navigating Body Image During Pregnancy
1.) Eat consistent meals and snacks.
Although you will be increasing your caloric intake each trimester and possibly experiencing unpleasant changes such as morning sickness and heartburn, it is important to practice intuitive eating. If you’re not sure how to eat intuitively, consider meeting with a dietitian and/or purchasing the book, “Intuitive Eating” by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch.
2.) Find a supportive practitioner.
Find an OBGYN or midwife whose views are in alignment with yours. Someone who will not tell you how much weight you need to gain or lose unless it’s necessary for the health of the baby. Ask your practitioner if they are eating disorder informed and Health at Every Size aware.
Many healthcare professionals practice these principles and want to support you towards improved body image while ensuring the health of you and your baby. Don’t settle for less!
3.) Don’t look at the scale.
Once you have acknowledged and accepted the fact that you will gain weight during your pregnancy, try not the think about the number on the scale. You will be weighed at every prenatal visit and you always have the option to take a blind weight.
A blind weight is where you step on the scale while facing in a direction that prevents you from seeing the number. Tell your practitioner if you want to do this – they might unintentionally tell you the number. You can also talk with your practitioner about other options including fewer weigh-ins.
4.) Continue or consider therapy.
If you have started partaking in habits such as food restriction, binging, purging, or obsessively thinking and planning things around food, it would be best to seek additional support from a therapist or registered dietitian.
You should also inform your practitioner of any of these habits and keep them updated throughout your pregnancy. If you are already receiving this support, continue to do so for as long as you need. It may also be helpful to find a support group or other women that you feel comfortable talking to throughout your pregnancy and into the postpartum season.
5.) Purchase New Clothes.
A harsh reality to face for many pregnant women is the fact that you can no longer fit into most of your clothes. Pants, shirts, bras, shoes, underwear, I mean everything! Some women can still squeeze into their pants throughout some of pregnancy, or use the hair tie trick – but that’s just uncomfortable!
Once you take the plunge and begin to purchase maternity clothes, you will not only feel more comfortable but also feel more confident! This is also true for the postpartum period.
Keep in mind, that there is no specific time you should be wearing maternity clothes. I would recommend starting the first day you begin to feel bloated or uncomfortable in your current clothes even if that’s early in the 1st trimester. That is normal and anyone who suggests that you should wait longer (like many blog posts and pregnancy apps I’ve read) is providing inaccurate and unsupportive information. This is your pregnancy, you do you!
Last thing. Many maternity clothing stores suggest that you purchase your pre-pregnancy size. That may be true for some women, but for many, you will need to purchase a few sizes larger than your pre-pregnancy size. That’s super normal. I mean it… SUPER NORMAL! 🙂
6.) Accept your New Body
This is much easier said than done. I would recommend instead of forcing yourself to accept your body, adopt the idea of working on accepting your body! You don’t have to love it. You may not even like it! But you will find more peace in your life as you begin to accept your new body. The same is true after pregnancy. You have been given a body that is capable of bringing life into this world. With that, comes many changes. Changes that are worth accepting and making peace with.
7.) Practice reflection.
The following questions will provide you with a prompt to reflect on your negative, neutral, and positive thoughts. This is a good practice to continue through pregnancy and postpartum. Writing thoughts out on a piece of paper can help you process your emotions.
1.) What are some fears that have crossed your mind regarding your changing body or weight? (there’s no right or wrong, any fear is valid).
2.) Write down any negative thoughts you have about your body. Do you know where any of these stem from? (messages received in childhood, comments from friends or loved ones, media, etc.)
3.) What are some ways you can replace these negative thoughts with neutral thoughts? (ex: fear: I worry that people won’t like me since I’ve gained weight -> neutral though -> people may not like me and if they do that’s okay, because I am loved and accepted by my Heavenly Father!) the fear is still valid though 😉
4.) Now, write a thank you letter to your body. Try to think of at least 5 things you are thankful for. (I recommend thinking of 5 things that have nothing to do with your appearance. If this is hard for you, that’s okay. You do not live in a culture that helps you be thankful, for your body. Take your time here & ask the Lord what He thinks!)
You’re not alone on this journey. Wherever you are and however you feel, there are many women right there with you. You are valuable, wanted, and so so worthy of love!
Written by Sheridan Glaske, MS, RDN, LD