Pregnancy and Body Image

During pregnancy, body image is of particular concern to many women. Some women welcome their pregnant bodies, while others feel ashamed and out of control. Why do some women love their pregnant bodies, while others hate them? How can your body image affect your pregnancy? How can you boost your self-esteem and learn to enjoy your pregnancy? Here are some great tips on how to accept your body as it changes with your pregnancy.

Two Different Viewpoints
Most psychologists find that pregnant women tend to fall into two camps: those that love their pregnant bodies and those who simply can't stand them! Many women come to appreciate the curves that pregnancy offers them. Voluptuous breasts and a feminine stomach help some women to feel ultra-feminine, strong, and sexual. Other women, though, simply hate the added weight, stretch marks, and big stomach that pregnancy often entails. Many women fight with their bodies continuously in order manipulate and control them.

However you happen to feel about your body, it is important to recognize that pregnancy affects every woman differently. You may find that your body image changes on a monthly, weekly, or even daily basis. Some days you'll love being pregnant but there will also be days when you'll wish you weren't pregnant at all. Whatever anyone says to you, it is important that you recognize your feelings and take them seriously. Your feelings are genuine and should never be overlooked or bottled up.

Changes in Your Body During Pregnancy
However uncomfortable it may make you, pregnancy means a host of changes. Just on the physical level, your body is going to be different than it was before you were pregnant. Hormone fluctuations will cause your uterus to expand, your breasts to grow, your feet to enlarge, and your skin to break out. You may suffer increased fatigue and incredible food cravings. You may have to resort to varicose vein treatment to get rid of newly-swollen veins. Naturally, as your baby grows, so will your stomach.

Pretty much every woman will find these changes challenging at one time or another. It takes a while to get used to change, and, lets face it, nine months isn't really much time at all. You may feel out of control or totally lost inside your body. But try to remember, you haven't lost your old self completely. Frame things positively - you are still you're the same person, just with some great new additions! It may also help you to remember that your body is changing in order to take care of your baby. Your body is a special place for you to share with your child and it is important to embrace that idea.

Emotional Changes that Come with Pregnancy
Sometimes, unhappiness with your body may be a result of emotional forces at work. Pregnancy causes your hormones to shift rapidly and this may result in intense mood swings. From time to time, you may feel a little bit depressed and many women often displace this mood by focusing on how much they hate their bodies. But it isn't really your body that you are dissatisfied with - it is just your mind playing tricks with you.

The stress of pregnancy can also make changes with your body difficult to bear. You are already working, doing the household chores, and are responsible for a million other things. On top of all this you are a pregnant woman who has to carry around a baby for nine months. The last thing you need in the morning is for your clothes not to fit. Taking on too many commitments during pregnancy can really take a toll on your body image. It is important to take time for yourself, even if this means passing commitments onto other people. It may sound like a little thing, but reducing your stress level can have a resounding impact on your body image.

Cultural Factors Involved in Body Image
We can't help but be influenced by the standards that society sets for us. In pregnancy, too, we are manipulated by societal expectations. In past years, pregnant women were expected by society to hide their pregnancies. They had to stay at home, wear balloon-like outfits, and limit their activities. While society has gradually accepted that pregnant women are people too, it still expects an awful lot from pregnant women.

Media has long dictated what our bodies should look like. Recently, the media has begun to glamorize pregnancy more and, unfortunately, this has not come without ill effects. Constant media coverage of pregnant television and movie stars has created an unrealistic view of the pregnant body. These Hollywood starlets have the most glamorous outfits, the best makeup, and, naturally, the perfect pregnant bodies. As a result, a lot of women hate the fact that their bodies just don't seem to match this "ideal." And this can be a real pregnancy downer.

Society's continual obsession with thinness also contributes to some women's hatred of their pregnant bodies. Society has taught women to strive for a body that is long and lean, no matter what their natural shape. Eating disorders, like anorexia and bulimia, are often caused by perceived societal expectations for the female body.

During pregnancy, weight gain is essential to nurture your growing baby, but many women are afraid to gain weight for fear they will be perceived as "fat." As a result, many women don't follow a healthy eating diet or respect their bodies during their pregnancy. It doesn't help that total strangers feel they can comment on your body if you are pregnant. Being told you look "huge" may just remind you that you don't match up to society's ideal.

Working to Improve your Body Image
Changing your body image is a pretty tough thing to do, especially if it's low to begin with. It's important to remember that, to change your body image, you don't change your body. Instead, change the way you think about your body! Here are some things you can try to help you love and accept your pregnant body:

  • Everyday, find at least one thing you like about your body. Accentuate this one thing, and you will feel a whole lot better.
  • Concentrate on your baby. Your body is changing in order to help your baby grow and develop. It is a natural process.
  • Express your feelings. Talk with your partner, family, or friends about how you are feeling. Keeping your feelings bottled up will only make you feel worse.
  • Try to get out for some enjoyable exercise. A light swim or walk can help you clear your mind and get the focus off your body.
  • Take up prenatal yoga. Yoga focuses not on how your body looks, but on the link between your body and your mind.
  • Practice self massage. Touching your own body will help you to become more familiar and accepting of it.
  • Learn as much as you can about pregnancy. By educating yourself, you will know what to expect and feel more in control.
  • If you are really having serious issues, ask your health care provider about psychiatric medications that are safe to take during pregnancy.
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