Most of us struggle with body image at least some of the time. (Honey, do these pants make my butt look big?!) But the dramatic changes your body goes through during pregnancy can lead some women to develop a negative body image.
It’s not uncommon for moms-to-be to worry about gaining too much weight, to feel out of control, unhealthy or unattractive at times. However, research has found that pregnant women with negative body images are at a higher risk for depression and excessive weight gain. Studies also show that new mothers who are dissatisfied with their bodies are less likely to breastfeed, and more likely to suffer postpartum mood disorders.
If you’re pregnant and feeling badly about yourself or your reflection in the mirror, first, remember you’re not alone. Lean on your partner, family and/or friends for support. Talk to your doctor if you have continuous negative thoughts or begin seeing an unhealthy change in the way you eat. Even if you aren’t showing signs of depression, just talking to your doctor or therapist can help alleviate stress and get you through a period of low self-esteem.
Here are a few more steps you can take toward a more positive body image.
Eat well and stay active
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends pregnant women exercise at least 30 minutes a day throughout their pregnancy, unless your doctor advises otherwise. Light to moderate exercise such as walking, swimming, pilates or yoga can help you feel refreshed, fit and strong. Staying healthy with exercise can also mean a speedier recovery after birth. Before starting any exercise program, be sure to check with your doctor.
Be intimate with your partner
Hopefully your partner reminds you how beautiful your changing body is! (If not, ask for positive feedback.) If the thought of intercourse makes you uncomfortable at this stage, be intimate in other ways: hold hands, hug, exchange massages.
Don’t forget to take care of yourself, and make sure to get enough sleep! Try to do things regularly that make you feel beautiful, whether that’s getting a manicure, trying new lipstick, wearing sexy underwear or taking a bubble bath. Ditch the baggy clothes and get dressed up for a date night with your partner.
Join a pregnant moms group
Who better to commiserate with than other moms-to-be? They totally get the emotions you’re going through. You can join a purely social group, or try a parenting class, pregnancy yoga or babywearing group.
Forget the numbers
If you’re worried about becoming fixated on your weight, stop looking at the numbers. Tell your doctor you’d prefer not to see or discuss your weight unless it becomes a health issue. Step on the scale backwards, and tell medical personnel you don’t want to know the number.
Remember the goal
Remind yourself that your body’s changes are all a necessary part of making new life and expanding your family. On days when you’re feeling low, focus on what’s happening inside your growing belly – your baby’s development. Also, think about what you want to teach your child about body image and self-esteem. How can you be the best example of that positive attitude?