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  • Writer's pictureEmma Carpenter

Pregnancy and body image?

I sit here writing this 14 weeks pregnant. If you told me a few years ago I would be

pregnant naturally, I would not believe you. The constant fear that my eating disorder I

battled over 10 years ago had taken one final choice away from me, which is the chance of starting a family. I am beyond happy and when I found out it was a great surprise as I never knew if I could. However since being pregnant my body dysmorphia has popped up more often and has taken a big toll on my mental wellbeing. I am carrying a life, have the news of my dreams yet I feel guilty as I am struggling with my body image. Part of the way I cope with my poor mental wellbeing days for me is writing it down, this is why I have chosen to pick up my blog "Let's keep it real" to showcase the ups and downs of pregnancy. Here goes, let's talk everything that correlates with pregnancy and body image...

Pregnancy comes with changes. A woman's body undergoes various transformations to accommodate the growing life within. These changes include weight gain, enlargement of the abdomen, stretch marks, and changes in skin pigmentation. While these shifts are entirely natural and necessary for the health of both mother and baby, they can be daunting for many women, leading to mixed feelings about their changing bodies. I have noticed a massive change in my breasts as I have boobs for the first time in my life, this is preparing to feed my child yet in my head my body image battles are telling me that is pure fat building up on your chest there. I am trying to embrace this change and keep saying to myself how amazing is it going to be to feed my child naturally! My bump is starting to pop now, the first 8 weeks of pregnancy was hard as you have that bloated look however after seeing my scan 2 weeks ago and seeing my little baby move in their, I am embracing my bump and shouting back at the voice of my poor body image saying, no this is a sign of growing life, not getting fat, growing life!

The physical changes in pregnancy do not just alter a woman's outward appearance; they can also deeply affect her mental health. For some, the joy of nurturing a new life is occasionally overshadowed by feelings of insecurity and a diminishing sense of attractiveness. Studies have shown a correlation between pregnancy and increased risk of body dissatisfaction, which can sometimes lead to mental health issues like depression and anxiety. My anxiety has been heightened and the constant fear of failing at pregnancy is very true! People saying are you excited before the 12 weeks and me thinking not right now, filled me with immense guilt. I have been suffering with severe morning sickness leading to being put on medication. The constant feel of sickness brought my mental wellbeing to an all time low and the fear of my depression coming back with a venegence was always at the forefront of my mind. Touch wood since coming out of the first trimester my mood and energy levels have risen massively and the sickness is subsiding. I am hoping this is a huge turning point for me. The low mood and heightened anxiety only made my poor body image worse. The one thing that is still stuck their is the feeling of not being sexy, attractive and the fear that my husband finds me revulting is always on my mind. He is a good egg and aways reassures me and says your sexier than ever as I am growing a I believe, if I am being honest no as that awful voice is telling me he is lying.

Societal expectations and media representations play a significant role in shaping women's perceptions of their pregnant bodies. The media often glorifies the 'perfect pregnancy look,' which is not only unrealistic but also unrepresentative of the average woman's experience. This constant exposure to idealized images can intensify feelings of inadequacy and dissatisfaction among pregnant women.

"I felt like I was losing a part of myself with each change in my body," I was speaking to a client and said to her I feel like an alien in my own body, I look in the mirror and see a complete stranger, I feel I have lost myself. This made me have immense guilt as it is suppose to be the happiest period of your life however for the first 12 weeks I found it hard to adapt to the changes and I felt overwhelmed. Many women grapple with their evolving bodies during pregnancy. These personal stories highlight the diverse range of experiences and emotions women go through, reminding us that each journey is unique and valid. When I go on social media and see all those celebrities who are now pregnant, thriving, loving it and look amazing I am envious of them! Why do I not look like that, why does she have it so good! Then I have to think well if I had all their money she had I probably could look like that and feel like that! Huge shout out to Stacey Solomon who always keeps it real during and after pregnancy you make us women feel normal which is unusual in the celebrity world.

Coping with body image issues during pregnancy requires a multi-faceted approach. It's essential to cultivate a positive mindset, focusing on the remarkable capability of the body during this time. Seeking support from loved ones, joining support groups, or talking to a therapist can be incredibly beneficial. Engaging in gentle exercises, practicing self-care, and wearing clothes that make one feel comfortable and beautiful can also help in embracing the changes. I am writing the approaches to help with poor body image during pregnancy and as I write this I am noting them down myself as I am concerned as I progress in my pregnancy my fear is my body image will only get worse. Being a personal trainer, I do exercise regularly however the severe morning sickness and exhaustion paused my training and I did notice the negative effect that had on my body image. Now the sickness is subsiding and my energy levels are increasing I have started exercising regularly again and this has helped me massively in coping with the changes.

Understanding and discussing the complexities of body image during pregnancy is vital. It's a period where emotional support and self-compassion are more important than ever. We must encourage open conversations and create a supportive environment where women feel safe to express their feelings and seek help if needed. If you're struggling, remember, you're not alone, and there are resources available to support you on this journey. I wanted you to read this blog and take comfort in reading about someone who is finding pregnancy hard. I have had to pause whilst writing this to have a cry as I feel guilty for not embracing and enjoying every second of this amazing journey I am on. It's okay to not be okay Emma and actually I feel I am doing my best and my baby is well nourished, is flourishing in my belly and it will be beyond loved when it arrives. So having difficulties and not finding pregnancy easy is not a bad thing, if sharing my worries and struggles helps other women in a similar position then I have achieved what I wanted from this blog.

I am going to finish this blog like I do on every blog I write, some questions to leave you with food for thought. Are you currently pregnant and suffer with poor body image? Have you had a pregnancy and suffered with poor mental health? How did you manage and cope with your own battle? Do you think it is okay to not love every second of your pregnancy? But remember guys, Let's keep it real!

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