Pregnancy – what an exciting yet challenging journey! Maybe it took a while for you to get here, maybe you were planning it—or maybe not. But here you are, and you will soon have an adorable little baby that will bring much joy and love into your life. Congratulations!
Very soon, your baby will be in your arms, cooing and smiling at you. But for now, your baby is part of you – it hears your voice, listens to your heartbeat, and moves from time to time, reminding you of the miracle it is to become a mother.
It is truly a blessing to be on this journey, but it can also be a little scary, especially if you’re doing it for the first time. A lot is changing, and it will continue to do so – your relationship with your partner, career, social life, and especially your body, so it's extra important to have a positive body image when pregnant.
Disclaimer: Please note that the information provided in this article is not intended to be medical advice. If you are experiencing any mental health issues, it is important to seek help and therapy from a qualified medical professional. This article is meant to provide general information and support but is not a substitute for professional medical advice. Please take care of yourself and seek help if you need it.
Bodily changes during pregnancy
So, let’s talk about all the changes your body is going through. It can be exhilarating to realize how your body is adjusting to grow and sustain your precious baby—especially when your belly is getting bigger and more noticeable, and you can feel your baby kicking and moving.
It can feel truly magical, and it would be great if all the changes your body is experiencing would feel this wonderful. But, unfortunately, a lot more things are happening, and let’s be honest, some of them are pretty rough.
Even though you might recognize that these things need to happen for your baby to develop properly, it might be tough to accept this process fully, let alone enjoy it.
These changes are diverse and affect all your body’s functions, such as
- weight gain
- stretch marks
- breast tenderness
- morning sickness
- hormonal changes
- hair loss
- bladder problems
And these are just the obvious ones—read this article for a comprehensive list of body changes.
Keeping a confident but gentle attitude
It’s challenging to endure these changes and keep a confident attitude and mindset toward yourself and your body. Still, it is healthy for you to try to balance the negative thoughts and emotions that might occur.
But how can one do that? The phrase “stop comparing yourself to other women” first comes to mind. Though it may sound irritating and cliché, its fundamental message is valid and true.
Here are other ways to improve your mental state if you’re experiencing extreme bodily changes during pregnancy:
- Reevaluate your thoughts. What aspect of your bodily changes are you most dissatisfied with?
- Change your perspective, even if slightly. Let this sink in: Your body is creating something so beautiful—it creates life. So, every scar, stretch mark, and inch of cellulite-covered skin will be a permanent reminder of the miracle it is to bring life into the world.
- Practice gratitude. Be thankful for your body as it nourishes the little baby inside you. It might sound strange, but if your body is sustaining your baby, whom you’ll love and adore, then your body is worth appreciating as well.
- Be kind to yourself, try to stop all the negative thoughts you have about yourself during this journey, and accept your body as it changes.
It is also important to remember that pregnancy can cause many psychological and emotional changes, such as mood swings, depression, anxiety, eating disorders, panic attacks, and so on.
It’s understandable why it can be difficult for so many women to accept and love their bodies as they go through pregnancy.
Psychological changes, coupled with some of the bodily changes mentioned earlier that are responsible for causing pain or discomfort, are not always easy to navigate.
So be gentle towards yourself, and know that the journey to self-acceptance might take some time and practice, but it is certainly worth it.
What is body image?
We have already talked about body image, but what does it mean?
Body image refers to a person's thoughts, feelings, and perception of the aesthetics or sexual attractiveness of their own body. It is a combination of the thoughts and feelings that one has about one's body, which may range between positive and negative experiences.
Did you know that body image can be measured using more than 40 instruments (tests, questionnaires, constructs)? So, science weighs in with hard, complex data regarding body image. In short, body image is influenced by internal factors such as personality and external factors such as the social environment.
On the one hand, body image refers to how you view yourself: the image you have about your body, features, and overall physical appearance. It’s what you objectively see in the mirror.
On the other hand, it refers to the feelings and beliefs you hold towards your body. It’s what you subjectively make of what you see in the mirror.
What research states about body image
A 2015 study highlighted how body image could be negatively impacted during pregnancy, leading to a high rate of body dissatisfaction in pregnant women. The study shows that, during pregnancy, women have three main areas of concern:
- how their appearance would change when their belly becomes noticeable
- which part of their body were to experience the most significant change
- how easy it would be for them to bounce back to their old self
- Because of these concerns, some women might eat less while pregnant, which can result in severe issues for both the mom and the baby.
It is heartbreaking that women experience eating disorders lest they put on too much weight. Remember that your body must undergo all these transformations to sustain your baby’s life and keep it safe and healthy.
A 2019 study at the University of York shows that a woman’s ability to connect with her unborn child can be predicted by her relationship with her body during pregnancy.
Also, women with a more positive perception of their bodies are likelier to have a better relationship with their spouses. Additionally, they report lower anxiety and depression scores. This is proof that body image affects the mother’s well-being in the long run.
Another research article discusses the link between psychological well-being and body image in pregnancy and how body image satisfaction increases self-esteem, positive relations, and self-acceptance. As a result, psychological well-being is improved.
But this works both ways because people who are more content with their lives and have increased emotional welfare are more comfortable with their bodies.
Some women may feel pressure to conform to societal expectations of how a pregnant woman should look, which can exacerbate negative body image. However, remember that every woman's pregnancy is unique, and there is no "right" way to look during pregnancy.
Body dysmorphia and a negative body image
Let’s dig a little deeper and discuss another serious issue that causes negative body image: body dysmorphia.
Body dysmorphia is a mental health condition that occurs when someone has a distorted body image and spends a lot of time worrying about their appearance, especially their flaws.
Remember that this does not equal self-obsession but rather a severe condition that can greatly impact someone’s life.
Although it is normal and common for future moms to gain weight during pregnancy, it becomes a source of anxiety for the mother if the changes are too sudden or drastic. This sudden change can lead to body dysmorphia during or after pregnancy. Additionally, this problem can be amplified by a history of eating disorders.
Problems with body image can affect both men and women. Unfortunately, women are more prone to body dysmorphia because, compared to men, women pay more attention to how their bodies look—even more so during pregnancy, when drastic changes take place.
How social media intensifies body dysmorphia
Let’s tackle another important aspect: social media and its harmful effects on body image, especially during pregnancy.
It is easy to scroll on social media and see other mothers and pregnant women looking absolutely perfect in their posts. But you have to remember that how people present themselves on social media is often not how they actually look in real life.
Pregnant celebrities post content to sell or promote certain brands, so they have an entire team helping them achieve the picture-perfect body. This can be detrimental to those pregnant ladies who feel like they do not measure up. They compare themselves to those “perfect” celebrities, thus creating unattainable expectations for themselves.
Research shows that mothers with a Facebook account were more worried about their body image than those without one. Higher body image issues are also linked with increased social media use; 56% of women with a Facebook account said they compare their bodies with other women on the platform.
Another study conducted on 881 university women in Ohio says that social media is harmful because, more often than not, it involves people you know personally, such as your friends or family. The comparison is much more significant since it involves the people you know.
Mamas, you must be careful in navigating social media, especially during such a vulnerable time.
Seven ways to develop a positive body image when pregnant
So, we’ve talked about the importance of having a positive body image, but what can you do to become more confident and comfortable with your pregnant body?
1. Start by being more compassionate towards yourself
Your body does so many wonderful things for you, and it is helpful to spend just a few minutes every day focusing on the body parts you genuinely love – your beautiful hair, your skin, your smile, and so on.
Look in the mirror and try to look past your imperfections.
A great way to put things in perspective is to imagine yourself as a little girl and then remember all the mean things you think about yourself. Could you tell all those mean remarks to that little girl? Probably not. So, think about what you would say to her instead—encouraging and validating her—and tell them to yourself.
2. Protect yourself from rude comments about your changing body
For some reason, many people find it acceptable to comment on a pregnant woman's body, which can create a lot of negative emotions for you. Don’t allow anybody to shame you or make you feel terrible about the way your body is growing to accommodate your little one.
3. Avoid toxic content
Unfollow all the people you’re comparing yourself with, and remember that the perfect posts you see from them are the product of careful preparation and curation.
4. Accept yourself as you are
This one is difficult because it can take some time for you to love your body. It might be tricky because, for so many people, their bodies carry years of trauma and self-loathing, so be patient with yourself.
5. Choose body neutrality
Some people find body positivity challenging to achieve because it can feel forced. Plus, constantly combating negative thoughts with positive ones can be tiring. This is where body neutrality comes in.
Body neutrality focuses on what your body can do, not how it looks. It removes the pressure of loving your body if you don’t feel that it is a genuine emotion.
Body neutrality doesn’t ask you to force self-love; it only asks that you accept your body the way it is and that you value its capabilities.
Self-acceptance comes with time and practice, and we each have our own pace. Don’t be discouraged if this journey might take a while. Just give yourself some grace and keep practicing kindness towards yourself.
6. Opt for professional photography
Professional maternity photography aims to capture the uniqueness of each pregnancy in the most flattering way and helps shift the narrative surrounding beauty standards.
The maternity photographer plays a vital part in boosting your confidence by suggesting how to pose and carry yourself in front of the camera. Stephany is an award-winning newborn and maternity photographer who knows how to capture your most beautiful self and create a safe environment for you. In this no-judgment zone, you can be yourself and truly shine.
Photography can create a wonderful and freeing experience for the person in front of the camera, especially for a pregnant mama who might not feel her best after so many months of suffering physical discomfort and emotional turmoil.
To alleviate some of that discomfort and offer you an unforgettable experience, you get a pampering session with professionals for hair and makeup. Choose a beautiful gown from an exquisite collection of over 100 couture designer gowns for maternity photography sessions.
7. Get keepsakes to look back on your pregnancy
Professional photos can help you feel as beautiful on the outside as you are on the inside. Take it one step further and consider deluxe keepsakes of your maternity session.
Keepsakes of fine art photography are especially wonderful for pregnant ladies and future mamas since they are a great reminder of their changing bodies. Pictures on the wall help you see yourself as the beautiful, worthy, capable, powerful, gorgeous woman and mother you are.
Here are some custom artwork options: heirloom albums, keepsake portfolio boxes with museum-quality fine art prints, modern acrylic art pieces, museum-quality handmade canvases, framed wall art, wood art pieces, and wall collections.
Pregnancy, though beautiful, can be challenging due to all the psychological and physical changes that affect the mother’s body image and emotional well-being.
Among the many ways body image can be improved, professional photography has tangible results. A professional shoot can enormously impact your confidence, and it’s not just for a short moment. It can alter how you view yourself and help you slowly rid yourself of all the internalized body issues you may not even realize you’re carrying.
The outcome of a professional photo shoot is especially beneficial if you are struggling with body image issues. Try it out and see how Stephany works her magic to make you shine. Schedule a session indoors in our studio in Hickory Creek, Texas, or outdoors throughout the Dallas/Fort Worth area.
All in all, professional photography can be a perspective-shifting experience. You will be glad you did it since photography is an excellent approach to promoting body positivity.