How to cope if pregnancy is messing with your body image

How to cope if pregnancy is messing with your body image

Dr. Rodriguez says pregnancy content on social media often skews toward what we look like rather than what we feel like – even if what you’re seeing isn’t overtly discussing appearance.

Taking that kind of thing in can be tough on anybody. And if you’re already having a hard time, Dr. Rodriguez cautions, it won’t help to compare yourself to “somebody’s curated, filtered, perfect version of themselves.” This might lead you to feel more self-judgment, and that can also show up in how you relate to your body.

Checking in with your responses to the content you see and curating your feed accordingly can help. Take a look at the accounts you follow and ask yourself how scrolling through them affects your mood. Are you excited, happy, or inspired by the posts you just saw? Or are you maybe feeling self-critical or less-than? In the latter case, it’s time to unfollow or mute.

How you spend your time offline matters too. Authentic in-person interactions, especially with people who might be having similar experiences, can be really validating, Dr. Rodriguez says.

Keeping up with friends in all stages of their lives – whether that’s having mocktails with a child-free girlfriend, taking a prenatal yoga class with a friend who’s pregnant, or meeting for coffee with a mom friend and her toddler – builds social support, which is a huge factor in helping you maintain perspective about what really matters to you and makes you feel good.

4. Share your experiences around eating and mental health with your care team

If you notice you’re having a tough time with food and body image right now, don’t assume you have to just push through it on your own. Talk to your care team about what you’re feeling during check-ins about your pregnancy.

You might start by laying out any of your potential past and present experiences with mental health conditions (including eating disorders) and issues with food insecurity (which can be a risk factor for disordered eating), says Jennifer B. Webb, PhD. Open up about your hesitations too.

Sometimes saying something like, “Talking about these topics makes me really anxious because x, y, z,” is enough to help the fear around it dissipate. All of this gives your providers a better sense of how to provide you the best possible care, based on your specific needs.

There are actionable ways to speak up about the care you receive too. Don’t want to see the number on the scale at your prenatal appointments? Say something like, “I’m having a hard time with all the body changes I’m going through, so I’m going to turn away while you weigh me. I just want you to assure me that if you want to discuss anything you see related to my weight, you’ll let me know.”

If nothing else, Dr. Rodriguez notes that you do have some control over certain aspects of your care, and that knowledge can help you feel a little more at peace with all the changes you’re navigating.

5. Find a mental health provider who specialises in perinatal care.

Consider adding a perinatal therapist to your care team to help with any potentially tricky feelings about your body after you give birth. “Not surprisingly, research has shown a link between body image difficulties during pregnancy and postpartum depression,” Dr. Webb says, and working with a specialist can help you better understand and normalise your experience.

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