Celebrating Your Pregnant Body: A Path to Body Neutrality
Being pregnant, especially for the first time, is difficult for many women
If you’re anxious about your pregnant body changing during pregnancy, you’re not alone. A survey reported by the Mental Health Foundation showed that of 1,500 women, 41% of those who had been pregnant felt more negative about their body afterwards. Remember that not only is your body’s appearance changing, so is your entire hormonal profile. We have a post about how your hormones change during pregnancy if you’d like to know more about this!
How body neutrality is different to body positivity
Body positivity and body neutrality are two different approaches to promoting a healthier relationship with one’s body.
While body positivity encourages individuals to love and accept their bodies as they are, irrespective of their size, shape, or appearance, body neutrality, on the other hand, acknowledges that not everyone can instantly love their bodies and doesn’t place as much importance on appearance. Instead, it encourages people to accept their bodies without necessarily having to love them. The focus is on the functionality and feeling of one’s body rather than its aesthetics.
The shift toward body neutrality is driven by the recognition that some individuals find it challenging to reach a point of loving their bodies, especially if they have struggled with body image issues. Moreover, there have been criticisms of body positivity for inadvertently reinforcing beauty standards and appearance-based focus. Each approach has its merits, and individuals can choose the one that resonates!
How can pregnancy help you achieve body neutrality?
Pregnancy can help you develop body neutrality for yourself by shifting your focus away from appearance-related concerns to a greater emphasis on the health and well-being of both yourself and your baby. Your body’s incredible capabilities, such as adapting to accommodate a growing fetus, can be a source of newfound appreciation for its functional role.
During pregnancy, societal pressure to conform to beauty standards may be greatly alleviated, as these changes are widely accepted. Many people find empowerment in pregnancy as they witness their body’s ability to create and nurture life. The emotional growth and self-reflection that often occur during this time can also shift your focus to the emotional and psychological aspects of parenthood.
Engaging in prenatal care, feeling the baby’s movements, and experiencing childbirth can foster a deep connection to the biological process of pregnancy, further emphasizing the function and purpose of your body.
It’s important to acknowledge that while the experience of body neutrality during pregnancy can vary, pregnancy does provide a unique opportunity to develop a more accepting and appreciative relationship with your body, centered around its rather majectic capabilities.
Shifting your mindset to celebrate your pregnant body
Even though it may be hard, don’t miss this opportunity to celebrate your pregnant body. There are some really effective things you can do to help to get you into the right headspace, and we suggest that if you’re struggling, you start with these.
This journey starts with educating yourself. If you think you’re out of the ordinary in the way you’ve been feeling, or the way your body is changing, realising the facts may help you give yourself the grace you need. Learn about the physical changes that occur during pregnancy to develop a deeper acceptance and maybe even appreciation for the process.
Once you’re starting to see how normal you actually are, seek support. Joining a pre-natal community, leaning on loved ones, and making the most of your healthcare providers is bounds to surround you with the right messages you need to feel that you are doing amazing!
A lot of this comes down to practicing self-compassion. When you catch yourself being hard on yourself, try to get into the habit with immediately replacing the thought with a self-compassionate one. For example: “look at the size of my thighs” could be replaced with “wow, my body is changing to grow this baby!” Be kind to yourself and acknowledge that mixed feelings about your changing body are normal.
Body neutrality is all about focusing on functionality. So, on days when feeling positive about your body feels impossible, practice being neutral instead. Shift your attention away from the way you look and concentrate on your body’s magical ability to grow all on its own, without any active input!
Incorporate meditation and affirmations into your day. Even just a quick ‘I am grateful to my body for growing this baby’ in the mirror in the morning is sure to make a positive difference. There is also a plethora of pregnancy and body image meditations out there. You can also practice mindfulness meditation, which will help you detach from anxious or disapproving thoughts about your body and instead help you experience the breadth and joy of present moment awareness. Here’s a pregnancy meditation for connecting with your body that you might find beneficial to get you started!
Practical ways to celebrate your pregnant body
One of the best ways you can celebrate your pregnant body is by adapting your workouts accordingly. Pregnancy puts a lot of pressure on your pelvic floor even if you’re not planning on giving birth naturally, and you might find it really empowering to introduce pelvic floor exercises into your routine! We have a post all about the power of pelvic floor exercises to serve as your starting point!
Something that may help get you into the mindset of celebrating your pregnant body is documenting your journey! You can keep a journal, with or without photos to celebrate each stage of your pregnancy and your body’s transformation. Romanticise the changes your body is going through, and show yourself the tender care you’d want from someone else.
This leads us to our last suggestion for for shifting your mindset to celebrate your pregnant body – true self-care! We don’t mean shopping or eye patches, we mean showing yourself you’re worthy of deep care and attention while your body changes. This could mean taking more time for yourself, saying ‘no’ more often to things that are not serving you, and spending more time outside in nature.
If you’re struggling with body image in a way that is impacting your quality of life, you may want to seek professional support. If unhealthy body image or body dysmorphia is something you’ve thought much about before, you may find this post on body dysmorphia during pregnancy helpful.