Maintaining a healthy body image during pregnancy
Pregnancy can be a time of great physical change. We look at some ways to help maintain a positive body image during pregnancy.
The transitions that occur in your body throughout a pregnancy are probably the most significant physical changes you’ve ever experienced. While some women embrace and enjoy these changes, others find it hard to maintain a sense of positivity about their body.
Understanding your pregnancy body
Having a positive body image doesn’t mean having a specific body shape or type, it simply means being comfortable with the way you feel about your body. Dr Tim Ross, National Medical Director at Bupa, says it’s important for women to remember that the weight they’re gaining is serving a purpose for their developing baby. “Anyone who gets pregnant is going to put on weight: part of that weight is the baby, part of that weight is the placenta and uterus growing and part of that weight is fluid.”
It's no wonder your body changes dramatically during pregnancy given how much activity is happening, as this infographic shows.
An idealised image of the pregnancy body is often projected in the media and it’s difficult for anyone to obtain. There really is no such thing as a normal when it comes to growing a baby.
Every woman carries a pregnancy differently due to their height, weight and body shape, so there’s no point comparing yourself to anyone else. What one woman looks like at 20 weeks pregnant might be similar to what another woman looks like at 35 weeks. Some women gain weight only around their belly and other women feel like every area of their body has expanded.
Dr Ross advises that “it’s about putting on an appropriate amount of weight compared with your starting weight. Your obstetrician, midwife or GP can tell you what that might be. Then it’s about monitoring and maintaining that, having a healthy diet and keeping up any exercise program that you may be doing.”
Some women find that staying active is a good way to help maintain a positive body image during pregnancy. Dr Ross says if you’re thinking about exercise, anything you’ve been doing prior to pregnancy and that your body is accustomed to is usually good. “If you’re used to going to the gym, you’re used to running, you play netball or do yoga, all those things are fine to do within reason. If you feel it’s making you more worn out than usual, or it’s putting an unfamiliar strain on part of your body, you shouldn’t continue.” Any high-impact sports or activities are also to be avoided.
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If you’re having a difficult time dealing with your new pregnancy body, it’s important to speak to your health care professional. Dr Ross says it can often be helpful for women to receive some reassurance. “Yes, you are putting on weight at a normal rate, your baby is the right size, and while you might feel like you’re not happy with how you’re feeling now, that’s part of being pregnant and it’s a finite period of time.”
You don’t have to love your pregnancy body, it’s only with you for a short time. Seeking some support might help you to shift your focus to the amazing work your body is doing in developing a new human being.