How to Have a Healthy Body Image During Pregnancy

healthy-body-image-pregnancy
Sometimes when you pick up your child you can feel the map of your own bones beneath your hands, or smell the scent of your skin in the nape of his neck. This is the most extraordinary thing about motherhood – finding a piece of yourself separate and apart that all the same you could not live without. 
— Jodi Picoult

For many women, pregnancy can bring a new meaning to the concept of beauty. Seeing how our bodies are able to create new life is a miraculous transformation. However, for many women (myself included), observing these radical changes during pregnancy can be difficult to embrace, accept or even understand.  

As an eating disorder survivor, pregnancy definitely brought about mixed experiences for me: from feeling victorious and empowered in my own body to despondent or even disconnected from myself, I seemed to go through it all at different points of my pregnancies.  

If you too have found it difficult to connect with, embrace, or accept your changing body during pregnancy, know that you are not alone! Some days may feel easier than others, in terms of how you are able to care for and nurture yourself. You may even feel frustrated or negative toward your body and the changes you are observing as your body grows your baby. Learn to be patient with yourself wherever you might be on your journey.  

Consider practicing these simple steps of self-care to support your confidence and an overall healthy body image during pregnancy:

Change Your Mindset

Many of us may come into pregnancy with certain expectations of how our journey may unfold. Being faced with unmet expectations with our pregnancy experiences can feel disheartening. Maybe you imagined yourself feeling much more confident or excited about your changing body, only to find yourself struggling with negative body image. In the age of social media, it can be easy to fall into the comparison trap of how other women might be experiencing their pregnancies.

Just remember that your journey is unique to yourself, and part of what makes this process beautiful are the ways that not only your body is changing, but the way your entire life is being transformed. If you are having a difficult time with the concept of “body positivity” during pregnancy, aim for something that might be more realistic, like body neutrality. Find and focus on the ways you can appreciate your whole self throughout your pregnancy, not just your body.

Nurture and Connect

Neglecting self-care can become a means for disconnecting with your changing body. Find practical ways to nurture yourself in ways that might allow you to reconnect with your body during pregnancy. You deserve to be kind to yourself and intentionally treat yourself well. Even if your feelings toward yourself are negative, you can begin to transform this mindset through simple acts of kindness. This might include some of the following:

  • Dress For Your Body Now: Make sure you are dressing yourself in clothes that fit the body you have now and that allow you to feel comfortable and beautiful. Investing in a few staple items that are versatile and that feel good on you can make all the difference in boosting your mood and body confidence. Take a few minutes each day to get yourself ready as a simple step of self-care.

  • Nurture Your Whole Self: How are you caring for yourself throughout the day? Are you feeding your body foods you enjoy? Are you taking the necessary time for rest? Are you engaging in movement or exercise that feels good to you? Being intentional about how you nurture your whole self, physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually, can support your ability to be kinder to yourself.

  • Skip the Scale: Weight gain during pregnancy can be triggering for many women. Even if you are feeling comfortable in your body, seeing numbers fluctuate on the scale can sometimes be upsetting or hard to cope with. Consider the alternative and skip the scale entirely! Talk to your healthcare provider about having blind weights during your checkups or skipping the weight discussions altogether.

Find Your Village

Having a positive support system around you can make a world of a difference when it comes to building a healthier body image. This is important not only during pregnancy but afterward too. Surround yourself with others, be it family members, friends, or professionals, who encourage you to make positive choices throughout your motherhood journey.

Remember, asking for help is not a sign of weakness, and growing a family really does take a village. If you are struggling with poor body image during pregnancy, consider reaching out for professional support by working with a therapist and/or nutritionist. You don’t have to go through this journey alone!

Navigating the many changes of pregnancy can feel overwhelming. Finding ways to nurture your whole self and connecting to support can build a healthier body image and positive mindset during this transformational season of life.

Crystal Karges, MS, RDN, IBCLC

Crystal Karges Nutrition

Crystal Karges, MS, RDN, IBCLC is a San Diego-based private practice dietitian helping others embrace their health for themselves and their loved ones.  Focusing on maternal/child health and eating disorders, Crystal creates the nurturing, safe environment that is needed to help guide individuals towards a peaceful relationship with food and their bodies.