Beat that pregnancy anxiety! Gaining weight, no matter how logical the reason, is triggering for many women. Not to mention the rapid speed at which it happens during pregnancy, the influx of hormones and anxieties associated with birth, raising a human and being a parent in general.
It’s not surprising that for so many women, being pregnant can bring up a whole host of conflicting feelings. On one hand, they’re excited to feel the miracle that is their baby growing inside of them, on the other hand, they worry about the stretch marks, saggy bits and ‘mummy-tummy’. My clients often tell me how guilty they feel for thinking about whether they’ll ever get their old body back, or feel attractive and confident again, concerned by how superficial and selfish they sound.
If you’re experiencing something similar, keep reading because below I’m going to give your six suggestions for easing your body related worries.
Familiarise yourself with the relationship you have with your body…
We all have a unique story about how a woman should look, feel and behave. It can be stressful and upsetting when we, or others, don’t fit neatly into our own ideals.
Understanding what events and experiences shaped the beliefs and expectations you have of yourself and others will help you recognise why some situations feel more difficult for you than others. Write, talk or think about how you came to view your own body and what expectations you have for yourself. From there, identify which beliefs help you feel better, and which are a source of pressure.
Validate your feelings
“I shouldn’t feel like this” or “I don’t want to be like this” are perhaps the most common phrases I hear during therapy sessions with both my pregnant and non-pregnant clients.
We are attached to how we should feel because ‘should’ implies there’s a right and wrong way to feel. So when we don’t feel the way we should, it can trigger feelings of shame and guilt, which at their core make us feel like we’re bad people.
When this happens, it’s likely we’re forgetting the purpose of our feelings – to help us identify our physical and emotional needs. For example, feeling cold means we need to get warm. When we don’t allow ourselves to feel our feelings, we cannot recognise or respond to our needs.
Instead of feeling bad for how you feel, try to validate your feelings by naming them out loud, writing in a journal or, talking with a loved one or therapist. Most importantly, remind yourself that you are more than your feelings.
Practise self-care routines and rituals that work for you
Motherhood, particularly in the early years, when your baby depends almost entirely on you, can be physically and emotionally exhausting. It’s therefore very important to know what you can do to fill your own cup. Maybe it’s a workout, calling a friend or having a relaxing bath without any visitors.
Remember, what works for some won’t work for others so it’s important for you to be sensitive to what truly makes you feel better, even if it seems different from others.
Surround yourself with body-positive support
During pregnancy, your support network might include friends and family, along with your obstetrician, midwife or doula. Working with people who take your physical and emotional well-being can have a positive impact on your experience within your body during pregnancy.
It’s important to feel able to express all of your fears and worries, no matter how irrational they might sound, with your support network. The more you talk about what’s on your mind, the more professional support you can get, and the less alone, embarrassed or ashamed you’ll feel. Remember, if you’re experiencing a weird smell, colour or sensation, it’s very likely someone else has experienced it too.
Prepare for when the negative thoughts come
We live in a world that puts pressure on women’s appearance. From beauty products to an array of adverts implying the road to happiness and acceptance is perfection and an ever present smile. Unfortunately, being pregnant doesn’t automatically disqualify us from this impossible competition.
Instead of trying to force yourself to be happy and positive all the time, create a plan that will help you move through the moments where you feel insecure and uncomfortable in your body. Drawing on the tips in this article is a good place to start.
Reframe the changes in your body
It’s easy to become trapped in the mindset that weight gain is bad. Especially when it’s unfairly associated with negative traits such as having no self-control, or being greedy or lazy. When someone struggles with their weight, it’s rarely because they’re lazy. It’s far more likely they use coping strategies that contribute to weight gain, such as eating to soothe or suppress uncomfortable emotions.
Understanding why you’re gaining weight during pregnancy, such as your growing baby, placenta, amniotic fluid and increased blood volume, can help you feel less judgemental and more curious about your changing body. Certainly, if you’re eating to make yourself feel better, recognising that as your way of soothing yourself can help you reduce the shame you may feel and become the starting point for finding more helpful ways to feel good.
Being sensitive to your own physical and emotional needs will have a significant impact on your baby. Not only will your baby learn how to care for themselves by watching how you care for yourself, when you feel loved, accepted and supported, so too will your baby.
You’ve got this Mama.
About the Author: Nikkita Hope-Brown is a psychotherapist and personal trainer who has over twelve years experience helping women feel confident in their bodies, careers and relationships. She is passionate about helping women thrive in all areas of their lives and specialises in body confidence issues, disordered eating and struggles with self-expression.