You’re pregnant, showing a bump, halfway to term, and feeling strong. Due to hormones and prenatal vitamins, your hair shines, and your nails grow long. And then suddenly, it happens; you catch a reflection of your full body, and you feel more ‘fat’ than pregnant.
If you are struggling with negative body issues during pregnancy, you’re not alone. While some expecting moms love every inch of their evolving physiques, others struggle with the dramatic changes. Naturally, a transformation during pregnancy is expected, but some women have a love-hate relationship with their expanding figures.
A body during pregnancy is beautiful, and all the curves that add to it should be celebrated. But aside from the protruding belly, it’s the rounder face, the swollen ankles, the fuller bosom, and the wider bottom that some women find hard to accept. And with hormones playing a big role, emotional and physical states are stressed. All of these factors can wreak havoc with even the most confident person’s self-esteem.
Is weight gain weighing heavy on your head? Here are 10 ways to cope when you feel more ‘fat’ than pregnant.
7 Understand Why Your Body is Changing
In most cases, doctors recommend that pregnant women gain weight to reduce complications. The amount of weight you should gain depends on how much you weighed pre-pregnancy. Your health care provider will determine that number for you. In most cases, the right amount of weight gain for a woman with an average build is between 25-35 lbs. Underweight women can increase this range to span 28-40 pounds, while overweight women should stay within 15-25 pounds, unless otherwise directed.
Multiple births usually require more weight gain because two or more babies are often delivered earlier. Twins require an average gain of 35-45 pounds. Weight gains for triplets or higher multiples require specific medical advice.
Let’s say, for instance, you’re having one baby, and you gain 25-35 pounds. If the average baby weighs 8 pounds, where does the extra 17-27 pounds come from? This additional weight includes a combination of elements.
A pregnant woman’s blood supply increases 25-40 percent. By your due date, you will be carrying an extra 4 pounds of blood.
The placenta produces hormones that support life. This flat organ supplies nourishment and oxygen to the fetus. It grows to the weight of 2-3 pounds.
The sac that cushions your baby adds an extra 2-3 pounds.
The hormone progesterone inflates milk glands, increasing breast size. Swelled breasts add as much as 2-3 pounds.
A larger uterus and the additional womb adds 2-5 pounds.
It’s important that you and your baby have a reserve of calories. Additional fat stores serve as nutrients and energy during childbirth and breastfeeding. Fat adds 5-9 pounds to your frame.
The increased volume of bodily fluids weighs 2-3 pounds.
If you feel you are gaining too much weight, talk to your specialist. Generally, pregnancy is not the time for a weight loss diet. On average, a pregnant woman should consume at least 2,500 calories a day, but let your doctor confirm your caloric needs.
The bottom line is, your body is going through a slew of changes to make a healthy newborn. If you’re feeling good while eating healthy, and your baby is developing well, try not to be overly concerned about the rising numbers on the scale.
6 Poor Body Image is a Constant Struggle for Women
Research shows that 97% of women say at least one negative thought to themselves every day. Why is self-deprecation among women so common and so rampant? The media plays a part, and a study by Teen magazine verifies this theory. 50 to 70 percent of girls aged 6 to 12 believed they were overweight, even though these girls were all within normal weight ranges.
In Western cultures, women strive for thigh-gaps, and the bust-waist-hips measurements of 36-24-36. Although it’s not a secret that underweight models in magazines are digitally manipulated, their physiological dimensions are desired by most. Without surgery or extreme diets, these looks are impossible to achieve, yet remain the ideal. If women are trying to attain unattainable goals, self-hatred is virtually inevitable.
This lack of multiculturalism in the media negatively affects how we feel about ourselves.
Persuasion techniques are stronger than ever before. Models, actresses, and singers have the ability to influence women more than their own mothers, aunts, and sisters. When a poor body image is so pervasive, these ingredients can stir up a soup of negative energy.
If you struggled with body issues pre-pregnancy, you may find it difficult to accept motherhood weight gain. Some prenatal changes pop up overnight, leaving women to feel awkward in their own bodies. This can cause mixed feelings for what is supposed to be a joyous event.
Instead of hating our bodies, we should be celebrating them
Try looking at pregnancy from a positive perspective. Realize that you have the same great body, only now, you also have a fabulous new addition. Alleviate the stress on yourself by focusing on the baby in your womb. Think about how wonderful it is that you and your developing fetus share a body. In fact, try to embrace this moment because it won’t last forever.
Someday, you will look back and wish you hadn’t worried about the few pounds you had to gain to start your family. When your hormones settle, and objectivity returns, you’ll remember that your body transformed so a baby could thrive.
5 Stop Comparing Yourself to Other Pregnant Women
One study from the University of London got the skinny on mothers. Researchers discovered the ideal body images of pregnant women, were that of nonpregnant women. In other words, these pregnant women preferred the bodies of women who weren’t pregnant.
When did pregnancy become a competition? Maybe it was when pregnant Hollywood celebrities upped the ante. Their fashionable ensembles, flawless faces, bouncy hair, and ‘barely there’ bumps are misleading to what the average pregnant woman looks like. How are soon-to-be moms supposed to measure up? By comparison, you may feel inadequate, self-conscious, and downright depressed.
In our celebrity-obsessed culture, pregnant women can easily fall victim to vanity. There is a common feeling for women that is known to arise in the 20th week of pregnancy. Week 20 is when some expecting moms worry if they look pregnant or overweight? The halfway mark seems to cross this threshold between ‘feeling pregnant’ to ‘feeling fat.’
Your body is not an elastic band, so have real expectations with your pregnant and postpartum body
Add to the fact that everyone has an opinion when you’re expecting. It’s funny, or not-so-funny, how perfect strangers think your body is open for public discussion because you’re having a baby. Thoughtless questions, such as ‘Are you having twins?’ can be constant reminders that you are being judged by societal beauty standards. When people learn to say ‘You look beautiful,’ and leave it at that, pregnant women everywhere will breathe a collective sigh of relief.
Until then, remember that every pregnant woman is unique. Her road to weight loss and weight gain is her own path. Resist the urge to compare yourself to co-workers, friends, family members, or neighbors. And definitely do not size yourself up to celebs. They have an entourage of helpers, including nutrionistists, and personal trainers.
Having an instant beach body after delivery is an unrealistic expectation. Postpartum weight loss, like prenatal weight gain, will be a gradual process. Now is the time to focus on being as happy as possible for the health and welfare of you and the your baby.
4 Ditch Your Ugly Clothes
Your pregnant body may take some getting used to because the way your clothes fit changes daily. You may be tempted to throw on anything that fits, but getting dressed in an old, shapeless thing isn’t the way to go if you looking to uplift your mood.
In her research, Professor Karen Pine found your clothes greatly affect your state of mind. Depressed people tend to wear exhausted jeans, and baggy tops. If you’re bumming around the house, loose T-shirts, and baggy sweat pants are a cozy go-to. We all have those days when we just want to cover up. But if your oversized clothes are old and sloppy, these relics will block you from feeling attractive.
Go shopping and spoil yourself with a new fabulous outfit
There’s a popular misconception that bigger clothes hide your flaws. The truth is, bulky clothing adds weight to your frame. It may feel like you’re hiding your trouble spots, but oversized clothing makes you look like you’re trying to conceal yourself with fabric. Choose garments that are fit to your size so you’re not drowning in your duds.
Pregnancy is also a perfect time to purge your closet. The golden rule is, if you haven’t worn it in the last 12 months, it’s time to get rid of it. You may still like it, but there’s a reason why you don’t wear it. If you plan to resurrect the piece after childbirth, then give it a second chance. If not, donate it to a thrift store. Better yet, organize a clothing swap with your friends and family.
The clothes you wear don’t define you, but confidence boosters made of fabric can help you weather a rainy day.
3 Buy New, Flattering Clothes
While you’re replacing your old clothes, buy some brand-new ones. You’ll need dressier items for those times you have places to go, and people to see. When you hit the “nothing fits” stage, you’ll appreciate having new, stylish options in your closet.
When you’re buying new items of clothing, pay particular attention to the pieces that will modernize your wardrobe while helping you look longer and leaner. Like art and photography, illusions can be created with clothing.
Invest in a supportive bra
Most ladies claim to know their bra measurement, yet 85% of women wear the wrong bra size. Undergarments make or break the outfit. It’s the first step in dressing slim.
If your bra fails to lift or shape, you’re only attracting negative attention. Before you spend money on expensive outer garments, invest in foundation garments. A custom-fitted bra can do wonders to magically take off weight, and there are a few reasons why.
First, it’s important that your chest looks perky under clothes, not sagging. Droopy breasts give the impression of fatty tissue, making you look overweight. Second, when you wear a bra that pulls you in at the sides and lifts your bosom, your bust and your waist appear smaller. Third, a worn out bra will allow gravity to take its course, whereas a supportive bra will prevent sagging. A good fitting bra will not only make your clothes fit better, but you will improve your shape, posture, and self-confidence.
If you were professionally measured pre-pregnancy, it’s a good idea to have your bra measurements taken again. You’ll be amazed how a proper bra can provide an instant breast lift.
The next time you reach for a sweater, pick one with a V-neckline. In fact, choose T-shirts, cardigans, dresses, and any other article of clothing you can find in a V-neck because this cut is positively eye-catching.
The exposed skin in a V-neck draws the eyes up. The inverted triangle creates a high center of attention. The V gives the illusion of a longer neck, and a taller, more slender upper body. In the opposite way, turtlenecks cut off the vertical line at the chin, creating the illusion of a shorter neck, and fuller face.
A V-neck is a popular neckline for all body types because it adds a graceful proportion. Just make sure your cleavage isn’t falling out of your shirt. You don’t want to overdo this style. A plunging neckline with a full bosom can look tacky.
Minimize with a monochromatic look
There is a popular belief that the all-black-everything look makes you appear long and lean. While it’s true that black has a slimming effect, an outfit consisting of similar shades achieves the same result.
Create an outfit of one color. Matching tops and bottoms make a continuous vertical line. On the other hand, when there are contrasting colors between the upper body and lower body, the middle becomes the focal point. Stick with one shade for a longer line.
Choose skinny jeans
Contrary to what you may think, you can look good in skinny jeans—that’s skinny, not skin tight. The “painted on” look will highlight every lump on your leg. You want clothes to skim your body, not choke you to death. Forget the number on the tag, and buy what fits comfortably.
A relaxed, streamlined pant has a slender silhouette because of the tapered leg. They shape your bottom, making your posterior appear more toned. A shoe-skimming, dark wash is the most flattering, and adds a modern look. Avoid jeans with adorned pockets, or extra embellishments.
A stretchy waistband makes these pants a classic, but comfortable option. Leggings offer the same comfy silhouette, but they are not for every occasion. A sleek, slim leg pant will go a long way in your wardrobe.
Invest in a shirt dress
You want an outfit that never goes out of style? Buy a shirt dress. This silhouette complements most body types, especially a pregnant figure. It’s polished without being too formal, and it suits day or night. It’s a look that is effortless.
Try to wear clothes that make you feel good about yourself, and donate the ones that don’t.
2 Stay Active and Get Fit
There are many physical health benefits to exercise. Fitness build bones, improves muscle tone, and it maintain a healthy weight. Exercise has mental health benefits, too. Studies show that regular exercisers are upbeat, and more relaxed because it allows feel-good chemicals to course through your veins.
While working the heart, endorphins, dopamine, and serotonin flood the bloodstream. These happy chemicals alleviate depression, while triggering enthusiasm, and happiness.
Before you jump into an exercise routine, consult with your doctor. Working out while pregnant will need a new approach, particularly in later trimesters. Once you get the go-ahead, get moving, but start slowly.
There are many workout options for pregnant women.
These exercises are safe, and offer maximum mental health benefits:
Yoga calms the mind while building a connection to your body. Prenatal yoga offers gentler moves, and promotes relaxation.
This activity is a favorite among pregnant women because the buoyancy of the water is easy on the joints. Swimming offers more than fun splash time. This exercise can help relieve swelled feet, and sleepless nights.
It’s amazing how a 30 minute walk can clear your head. Whether a brisk walk or a quick stroll, this exercise will improve your mood right up until your due date.
Prenatal massage may not be an exercise that gets your blood pumping, but this activity offers positive effects. The University of Miami School of Medicine found prenatal massage decreased anxiety, while relaxing tense muscles. Find a registered therapist who is trained in prenatal massage techniques. Or gently massage your own skin to build a bond with your baby, and love your body.
If exercise isn’t keeping your weight in check as much as you would like, don’t sweat it. Every expecting mother would love to give birth, then instantly be back into her prenatal body, but this is not realistic. Ten months of weight gain won't disappear in a flash. Give yourself the same ten months to shed those pounds.
1 Talk to Someone, Anyone
For the most part, body image is an important matter to women, and carrying a child can make it a major concern. If you’ve been devastated by your bodily changes, it’s important to remember that pregnancy is a process that is necessary to support the life inside of you. Getting bigger is just a part of that, so the development you’re seeing is good.
Plus, your figure is in a temporary state. Immediately after delivery, you won’t lose all of the weight, but you will shed the baby’s weight, the placenta, and amniotic fluid. And slowly but surely, your body will bounce back if you do your part.
Don't allow a negative body image stop you from living your life, take control
If anxiety is piling on with every pound, let someone know how you’re feeling. Engage your partner, visit with close friends, or share your struggle with your doctor. If negative thoughts are getting in the way of your happy life, consult a therapist. Thoughts of hurting yourself are signs that you need immediate help.
No matter what anyone says, your feelings are valid. Bottling up your frustrations will only aggravate the situation, so don’t feel afraid or embarrassed to share your feelings. Whether talking to friends or a professional, being completely honest will help you cope.
There is no shame in asking for advice. If you need support, it’s the bravest thing you can do to find comfort for you and your baby.