Pregnancy is a difficult time for many reasons. Anxiety is prevalent because of all of the unknowns. Will the baby be okay? Will I be able to raise a child? Will I be a good parent? Will I ever sleep again? Will I know what to do? Will I love the baby? Will the baby love me? Will this change my relationship with my partner? How will I do this alone (in the case of the single parent)? The list goes on… anxiety in numerous forms is common with pregnancy.
Another anxiety is the changing body with pregnancy. Especially for those women who have struggled with weight, eating disorders, and body image, pregnancy is a scary time. Emotions are already out-of-control with pregnancy, and adding in worrying about body image, weight gain, and eventually losing the weight can lead to an increase in negative emotion and even depression.
Here are some things to think on related to the beauty and wonder of pregnancy, and the changes that come with that beauty and wonder!
- Practice acceptance. Now more than ever is a time to accept your body for what it is.
- Weight gain WILL happen, and NEEDS to happen for the health of the growing baby.
- Your body WILL change, and may never look again like it did before baby (but could turn out better – mine did after some work at it – and bodies change anyway as we age).
- You MUST eat more, don’t try to restrict calories while pregnant, this is bad for the baby.
- Only if you were already overeating can you work on reducing calories, and consult your physician first.
- Breastfeeding may not lead to weight loss, as the thought often goes. Some women have great success with this, I did not. If I tried to reduce my calories my milk would reduce significantly. I HAD to practice patience with getting the weight off.
- Acceptance after pregnancy, and patience with losing the weight, is just as important as acceptance during the pregnancy. Be realistic, kind to yourself, and patient. The baby was, and is, worth it. Weight loss takes time and will happen if you stick with the behaviors over time!
- Consider the miracle. Remind yourself that your changing shape is an amazing feat of nature – you are growing a tiny human in there! When you feel those negative thoughts creeping in, stop to consider the wonder of pregnancy. Touch your growing belly and remind yourself what is happening in there. This will also help you connect emotionally with baby even before you can feel him/her move. That baby is SO MUCH MORE IMPORTANT than the size of your waist or the number on the scale.
- Stick to or develop a healthy routine. Even though you cannot diet, and your exercise regimen may change, focus on healthy behaviors you’d like to maintain after baby is born.
- Stick to an exercise time of day versus worrying about the intensity of exercise.
- Eat every 2-3 hours, good for growing baby, and good for metabolism for weight loss once baby is born.
- Get on a routine if you are not already. Find ways to get in exercise, meal prep, relaxation, and the daily to-do’s. The more efficient you are with all of this pre-baby, the easier it will be to achieve post-baby.
- Stick to a healthy sleep routine. Sleep can be difficult to achieve during pregnancy, and you can’t predict it after, but try your best to establish healthy sleep behaviors now. No electronics when you can’t sleep now may ensure you don’t pick them up when baby can’t sleep!
- Seek moderation. I am a firm believer in indulgences when not pregnant, so definitely allow yourself to indulge those cravings here and there. Tremendous overeating and rapid, excessive weight gain is not a good idea either, but don’t deprive yourself. Find the middle ground. Same goes with exercise, how much you get done each day, how clean the house is, etc. Now is a time to get in some relaxation too, it may be a while before you can predict that kind of time again!
- Enlist help from your partner. Whether this means asking your partner not to comment on what you eat or how you look (unless glowingly positive comments about your beauty!), or communicating your needs such as developing a healthy routine together. Think of what you need, how your partner can help, and communicate those needs. Improving communication and assertiveness before baby comes can ensure you are able to communicate as you learn to live life together with baby.
Here are some more helpful tips related to coping with weight gain during pregnancy from Parents magazine…
Enjoy this process! It is truly amazing!