A pregnancy changes everything in our lives. Not only the fact that we will be mothers in a couple of months, but it also changes us physically: breasts, hair, nails, belly. And this often brings issues of self-esteem and body image for pregnant women. The question is: now, how to deal with it?
How pregnancy changes our bodies and physical appearance
During pregnancy, your body undergoes many changes as your baby grows and develops. These changes can affect your physical and emotional well-being, and it’s important to take care of yourself to ensure both your safety and emotional health, as well as the well-being of the baby. Some of the changes are:
Weight Gain: It’s normal to gain weight during pregnancy, usually about 10 to 15 kilograms. Weight gain is necessary to support the baby’s growth and prepare for childbirth.
Belly: The belly grows as the baby grows. This can lead to changes in posture and back pain due to the body’s imbalance in supporting the weight.
Breasts: As the body prepares the breasts to receive and produce milk for breastfeeding, the breasts may become larger and heavier during pregnancy, with visible veins and dark spots on the skin. These symptoms are common, and women with smaller breasts may notice more differences as the body makes a greater effort to create the structure for breastfeeding.
Skin: Some women may experience changes in the skin during pregnancy, such as dark spots (melasma), acne, or dry skin. Using moisturizer and increasing fluid intake is crucial during this time and is your best strategy.
Hair: Hair may become thicker and shinier during pregnancy due to hormonal changes. However, some women may also experience hair loss after childbirth as many of the body’s nutrients are directed towards breastfeeding.
Nails: Nails may become stronger and grow faster during pregnancy due to hormonal changes. However, some women may notice that their nails become more brittle or grow irregularly.
It’s important to remember that each woman is unique and may experience different changes during pregnancy. And these changes are temporary, not permanent.
"I feel ugly and sad during pregnancy".... Let's talk about sexism and the male gaze!
It’s not possible to talk about a woman’s self-esteem without addressing sexism. There’s a double standard in society that demands unreal beauty from women while setting an almost nonexistent standard for men.
Anything that is merely natural in women is considered ugly, disgusting, or contemptible. I’m talking about having body hair (something we are taught to detest and remove since childhood), menstruating (which happens to be what gives life to humanity), and getting pregnant (which is essential for our survival but doesn’t align with the media’s skinny beauty standards).
This affects women throughout their lives, including during pregnancy and postpartum. In fact, it’s so ingrained that even during labor, when they’re feeling pain and dealing with contractions inside their own bodies, women worry about looking made up and beautiful for photos.
And to discuss beauty standards today, we cannot ignore the media. The media can have a significant impact on the self-esteem and self-image of women during pregnancy, especially if women compare themselves to the beauty and body standards portrayed in magazines, movies, and soap operas.
Women may feel insecure or dissatisfied with their own bodies and appearance if they believe they don’t fit these standards. Standards that are not real: those bodies are edited in image tools, receive artificial glow, are manipulated in countless ways by video and image professionals, and are anything but natural.
The media can also portray pregnancy unrealistically or idealistically, which can lead women to feel pressured to achieve unrealistic goals or be dissatisfied with their own pregnancy experience.
Who hasn’t seen a magazine cover showing a fit, toned pregnant woman, on a strict diet and exercising 10 hours a day? This is not only unattainable for most women but impractical for working women or mothers without any support network.
We cannot forget that the beauty and body standards portrayed in the media are not representative of reality. Not to mention that they are often also racist and fat-phobic.
Try not to compare yourself to these standards, and remember: we are not here to decorate the scenery. You are a person, not an object.
Dealing with Physical Changes During Pregnancy
It’s normal to feel concerned about your appearance during pregnancy. While some women experience a boost in self-esteem and libido due to the abundance of hormones circulating in the body, others may feel more insecure and have self-esteem issues with changes in the body and physical appearance.
After all, the pregnant body is a new body. A new self-image that we have to deal with and get used to in this process of building the new “me” in motherhood. And this can affect your self-esteem and emotional well-being.
Here are some tips for dealing with physical changes during pregnancy:
Body changes are normal and temporary
It’s normal for your body to change as the baby grows. Remember that these changes are temporary, and your body is doing the important work of creating and sustaining new life. What’s not normal are the aesthetic pressures placed solely on the shoulders of women, as if our only function in life is to decorate the landscape.
Regular physical activity can help manage weight gain, improve your mood, and prepare your body for childbirth. Additionally, exercise releases serotonin and endorphins, the hormones responsible for feelings of happiness and joy, which helps improve self-esteem and self-image.
Talk to your doctor or midwife about recommended exercises for your case.
Adopt a healthy diet
A balanced diet that includes plenty of fruits, vegetables, and other nutrient-rich foods can help you maintain a healthy weight and provide the nutrients your baby needs to grow. Moreover, eating better also helps keep hormones balanced, giving a greater sense of well-being and happiness.
Get plenty of rest
Pregnancy can be physically and emotionally demanding, so it’s important to get enough rest to feel good. Remember that your body not only has to work to maintain your well-being, but it also works to develop, feed, and maintain the well-being of another life, which is your baby. All of this consumes a lot of energy, and getting good sleep is more important than ever.
Drinking plenty of water can help you stay hydrated and avoid common discomforts during pregnancy, such as constipation and swelling. Hydration is also crucial for regenerating and nourishing the skin, reducing the possibility of dryness and other common skin problems during pregnancy.
Practice relaxation techniques
Techniques such as deep breathing exercises, meditation, yoga, or pilates can help reduce stress and improve your overall well-being while also helping you prepare for childbirth.
Talk to your doctor or midwife
If you have concerns about your pregnancy or are experiencing symptoms you consider unusual, don’t hesitate to talk to your doctor or midwife for professional guidance and support. It’s important to have the support of trustworthy friends and family, but sometimes only professional medical help can provide truly useful advice for dealing with certain situations.