How Pregnancy and Childbirth Affect Your Body Image, and What You Can Do About It

While some women are in awe of their pregnant bodies, some get shocked by the changes it brings. This feeling is heightened when hormonal fluctuations lead to your uterus expanding, breasts to swell or grow, feet to enlarge and skin to break out everywhere. In some cases, pregnancy can also lead to stretch marks, varicose veins, lumbar pain, and mood swings.

What happens to your body during pregnancy?

Let’s try to understand the changes your body must go through. Your body begins to go through the pre-pregnancy changes as soon as your egg is fertilized and implanted in your uterus. The baby’s fetal life-support system consists of the placenta, amniotic sac and the umbilical cord. The hormones produced by the placenta are necessary to prepare your breasts for lactation, to support the baby, and are responsible for other changes in your body. The “pregnancy glow” is a result of the increase in blood circulation that is needed to support your placenta. With the expanding of your uterus, the amniotic sac is filled with amniotic fluid to protect your baby from any bumps or falls. And because of the growth of the baby, your metabolism will increase. Your food cravings are because you require more nutrients to feed both of you.

What you should be doing

While popular culture promotes unhealthy food choices during pregnancy, and minimum levels of physical activity, doctors suggest pregnant women should exercise for 30 minutes at least, unless their health care provider has specifically asked them not to.

Body image

Experts suggest loving your body and being comfortable in your skin can help a pregnant woman get through the physical and emotional changes during her pregnancy. Having a positive body image does not depend on how you look, but how you feel about yourself. Concentrating on your body, and understanding that the changes mean your body is helping your baby to develop, initiates the embracing process.

During pregnancy and postpartum, women’s dissatisfaction with their bodies are likely to increase, even if they possessed a positive body image prior to pregnancy. A negative body image can make a woman compare her body with others, refuse to step out because of self-consciousness, and often cave in to the social pressures of losing weight. Testimonies declare that pregnant women who are negatively affected by their body image are more susceptible to losing critical weight, and developing unhealthy eating habits. Eating disorders that are developed during pregnancy can lead to a number of complications. Some of the most common problems associated with eating disorders during pregnancy include respiratory problems, delayed fetal growth, increasing your chances of having a cesarean delivery, low birth weight, likelihood of premature labour and gestational diabetes.

The physical transformation of the body, psychological stress of giving birth, and the external societal projection of unrealistic body and beauty standards make pregnant women feel depressed and unattractive. In these cases, negative body image can lead to weight retention and an increased risk of obesity postpartum. Experts also suspect body image to play an important role in depression, during pregnancy or postnatal.

The health and psychological impact of body image on pregnant women and new mothers is varied, but research suggests that a preoccupation with how your body looks can be unconsciously passed down to your children. There is a never-ending pressure on women to be thin all the time. A study published by Journal of Nursing & Care found 87.2% women to be satisfied with their body image before, and 51.3% stated that they were unhappy with the changes during pregnancy. A big part of this dissatisfaction is also the language that is used during pregnancy. When you are pregnant, everyone automatically assumes the right to comment on your body.

It is therefore, ironic that pregnancy is the only time in a woman's life when weight gain is expected and encouraged. Yet, looking at the pervasive sociocultural pressures that reinforce the desire for thin-ideals even in pregnancy contributes heavily to the formation of a negative body image. What is needed is the willingness to accept the physical transformation as a part of pregnancy, not something that brings fear and dissatisfaction. One must never forget what their body has been through in the process of giving birth. After the birth of your baby, your body needs time to recover and adjust to not being pregnant anymore. Your uterus takes time to shrink, so your flat stomach will return in time.

About the Author

Neha Ramneek Kapoor

Advertising | Marketing Consultant | Blogger| Singer | Emcee | Soft skills trainer. Lifestyle, Fitness, Travel, Fashion, Makeup, Dogs, Feminism, Poetry, Life.