Pregnancy and Body Image

by Melissa Hartwig, who knows of what she writes

Going into this pregnancy, I had some, shall we say, misconceptions. (Dallas calls it “mythical thinking” on a good day, “damned delusional” on others.) I thought I’d gain maybe 15 pounds total, because I’m super fit and healthy and the baby will only weigh like 8 pounds, right? I thought all that weight would show up only in my cute little basketball belly, and nowhere else. I thought I’d still be wearing my same pre-pregnancy skinny jeans all the way through (maybe just unbuttoned, of course).

None of these things are happening. Duh.

Myths, lies and misconceptions

Many women—most, I’d dare say—struggle with body image. In an effort to manage or contain these feelings, they over-exercise, under-eat, and strive for a level of skinny that is not only unhealthy, but is kind of unattractive. Even if they come out of this dark place and make peace with their bodies, the idea of getting pregnant may still worry them. Losing control of your body (not to mention all those horrible “symptoms” kindly “prepares” you for) is, in fact, a scary proposition for many women.

The day I got pregnant, I immediately lost 86.3% of my fear to the joy of growing a tiny human. I embraced the changes happening in my body. Most days, at least.

Not the day I had to try on bathing suits for our Thanksgiving Florida trip. Not the day I realized I could neither button nor zip my Gap skinny jeans. And certainly not the day I saw Marisa Miller come through my Twitter feed.

So today, we’re going to talk about pregnancy and body image, and what you can do to embrace your new curves, and put to sleep the body-image demons lurking in the background of your brain. Fellow pregnant ladies, I hope it helps you to know you are not alone, and to have some coping strategies. Future pregnant ladies, read this, prepare, and go into this time of joy with a positive, healthy attitude.

And men… study, learn, and above all, be supportive of your future baby mama.

If your body image issues are distracting you from the joy of what’s to come…

Here are some things to help you maintain perspective, and get back to feeling healthy and confident during your pregnancy.

We all know the sugar-shame-spiral. We feel bad about ourselves. We say, “Screw it, I might as well comfort myself.” We fall face-first into a box of jelly donuts. We hate ourselves even more. You know how you can look in the mirror and feel really good about yourself, then eat a candy bar and all of a sudden, you’re a big fat pig?

Don’t do that while you’re pregnant.

First, falling into unhealthy food habits is not healthy for you or the baby. Second, it’s not going to help you feel better about yourself. I’m not saying you have to Whole30 for nine months straight, but eating Good Food will keep your energy levels consistent and high, help you can achieve a positive mental attitude, and just generally make you feel like a better person.

The same mirror scenario from above can apply before and after an exercise or movement session, too. Feeling bad about your body? Go for a walk, preferably outside—even better if you bring a friend. Take a prenatal yoga class. Work on your shoulder flexibility, posture, and thoracic mobility (because you’ll need it as your body continues to change). Do some fun (and safe) exercise movements in the gym.

You don’t have to kick your own butt to kingdom come—in fact, I highly discourage that kind of type-A “I’m going to be the best exerciser at all costs” attitude while pregnant. Simply moving your body is enough to give you that feel-good attitude, and tell your brain to shut up about your weight gain, already—you are, in fact, still making an effort to stay fit and active.

You may hate the idea of buying maternity clothes, spending money on things you’ll only be wearing for a few months. And you can probably keep wearing all your old clothes for a while… until the day you realize you perpetually feel like a stuffed sausage. (Even if your jeans still fit everywhere but the waist, walking around with your pants unbuttoned will invariably make you feel like Al Bundy.)

Bite the bullet and buy some clothes that actually fit you. The Gap, Target, and Old Navy have affordable maternity lines. (So does H&M, but unless you’re 22 years old and started off as a size 0, don’t bother.) Borrow some clothes from a recently pregnant friend. Shop the resale stores. Either way, get yourself in some clothes that feel comfortable and make you feel good about yourself.

And don’t try to “hold out” to shop for new clothes because you’re still in your first trimester. We all develop at different times, so you may need new clothes pretty early on. And that’s okay.

And entertainment gossip magazines. And maybe even pregnancy fitness magazines, too. Anything that only serves to make you feel even worse about yourself than you already do.

It’s not the media’s fault—they just give us what we want: perfection, idealism, the promise of love and adoration if only we looked a certain way. But that’s not what you need right now—and those super-stick thin models (yes, even the pregnant ones) may lead you down a truly unhealthy “I’m not good enough/thin enough/glowing enough” path.

Just avoid—trust me, you’re not missing anything.

It’s okay to feel selfish during pregnancy. Yeah, I know, it’s the miracle of life, and you’re supposed to be selflessly devoted the tiny creature growing inside you. But you’re still a woman, and you still want to feel attractive, and it’s okay to feel frustrated or upset about the changes your body is going through.

Find someone who will listen and respond in the way you need them to. For me, I don’t need people to pander to me and say, “Oh, but Melissa, you look amazing! You can barely tell you’re pregnant!” I need my sister, who takes stealth pictures of me from behind and says, “This is what you actually look like. Also, as far as I can remember, you’re STILL PREGNANT, so stop it with the ‘I’m getting fat’ thing.”

You may just need someone to listen, or someone to help you with your diet and exercise program (husbands/boyfriends are great “fixers,” if this is what you need), or you may need some tough love to snap you out of your self-indulgent whining. Regardless, it’s okay to vent, as long as you get it out and then move the heck on with growing your tiny human.

This is a a healthy dose of tough-love too, but honestly, at some point, you may really need this. Yes, your butt is bigger. Yes, your skin may be breaking out. Yes, you may have swollen feet and limp hair and heartburn and you can’t even eat sushi.

But let’s keep this in perspective. You are growing a tiny human. It’s, like, nine months out of your whole life. There are women all over the world who are grieve every single day for the lack of experiencing what you are experiencing.

Get over yourself.

The changes in your body are a normal part of baby-growing. They’re not all fun, and they’re not all desirable, but your body is performing a miracle right now. Literally, you are a miracle. So vent if you must, but always, always return to the fact that you are grateful beyond measure to be giving life to this precious child.

And finally…

If your body image issues are putting the health of your baby in danger…

Get help immediately. Deliberate caloric restriction, purging, or over-exercising to avoid weight gain are all behaviors that have no place in a healthy pregnancy.

Your first step is tell someone who will support you (like a family member, close friend, or, ideally, your baby’s father) what you are feeling. Use this script: “I’m having a really hard time with the changes my body is going through with this pregnancy. I need to talk to someone about this, because I’m worried these thoughts will keep me from doing what’s right for the baby.”

Then get professional help—a counselor, psychologist, or specialist in women’s issues. Do this now, and understand that you are not a bad person for feeling like this—but your brain isn’t balanced right now, and you need to aggressively work through it before your actions have permanent consequences.

Love the skin you’re in

Our hope is that by addressing your concerns head-on and implementing these tips above, you’ll be in a much happier, healthier pregnant place—and better able to enjoy the beauty of the coming months.

Have you struggled with body image while pregnant? Share your thoughts, strategies, and sympathies in comments.

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  1. says

    Love this! Passing it on the my pregnant friends right now– thanks so much for sharing this, Melissa. I’m not pregnant, and haven’t been yet, but my the prospect of my body changing (seemingly out of control) has always scared the bejeezus out of me…you’ve given me some peace of mind…at least for today ;)

  2. says

    What a great post! I am totally envious of all you mommies-to-be that are on the right track of health and nutrition so early in your babies lives! What a true blessing to be able to nurture your “tiny humans” (I love this, BTW) at the beginning of their existence and have the knowledge and resources to continue this as they grow into strong healthy adults. I came into the natural foods movement when my children were 1 and 5 which is a very hard transition to make and it was in 1993 so I was considered a “freak” by most everyone’s standards and resources were very limited…
    So, Melissa…you gonna post a picture any time soon??? ;)

  3. Melody P. says

    Thank you so much for posting this! I am 22 weeks pregnant and have struggled off and on with loving what’s happening to my body, and hating it. I’ve been small and fit my whole life so already weighing more than I ever have has thrown me for a loop off and on. I just keep eating healthy (although I’ve had more sugar than I need) and do as best I can for this little one. I absolutely have to stay away from the fit pregnancy magazines or I get really down. I am grateful to be reminded to keep things in perspective and just love the tiny baby I am growing. My husband loves me and every new thing about me, I need to do that to. Thank you again for sharing about your pregnancy. A down to earth perspective is much needed in the world we live in today.

  4. says

    So spot on in so many ways. There is nothing that should trump the health of the tiny person we are growing inside, and anything that is taking priority over that needs to be so closely examined.

    I’d add to this list: Stop Comparing Yourself to Others Right Now. Everyone is different. How we hold our babies (high/low/out/in), how we carry extra weight, how we feel in 1st, 2nd, 3rd trimester, it’s all going to be different from one woman to the next. Just like every birth is different from another (some are done in under 2 hours, some take 24 hours, some require a C-section, some have beautiful home births), just like our birthing choices and ability to tolerate certain foods are different, trying to compare ourselves to that person in the gym who was in her regular jeans 2 days post partum or that person who was lucky and did only gain 10 pounds…trying to compare ourselves to others can wreak havoc on one’s psyche that much more. While sure, comparing notes (“what did you do for heartburn?” or “did you ever feel super tired during 2nd trimester?”) and calling upon other sisters who have been there, done that can be helpful; it’s when we try to be like them that we are setting ourselves up for some issues. Embrace yourself, your unique pregnancy, this unique time. You don’t want your baby coming out looking exactly like someone else’s baby, so why should we try to be just like someone else?

    Furthermore, even beyond the 9 months, I think it’s important to realize that this little creature is going to rely on mama for nourishment once outside the womb. And once that umbilical cord is cut, it does not mean mama should calorie restrict to try to get into those skinny jeans in 24 hours post partum, ESPECIALLY if she plans (and I hope most do) on breastfeeding. The skinny jeans will still be there in 6, 12, 18 months. The opportunity to provide the best possible nourishment to that bambino via mama won’t. I see quite a few people in a rush to “drop the baby weight” and as a result, they are unable to feed their baby the way they had hoped. Just something else to consider!

  5. says

    @Allison: Honestly, the body image stuff was one of my primary concerns about getting pregnant in the first place. But I’m not lying – it happens, and most of that immediately fades away with the enormity and awesomeness of the task ahead. Rest easy, sister.

    @Andrea: I’ve got some photos up and about from workshops and such, but I’m not into baby bump pics posted in public. This pregnancy is a really private thing for us, and we’re being careful about how much we choose to share with the world. I’ve got some seminars in January, though, and I’ll be seven months around then, so I’m sure some photos with the bump are forthcoming.

    @Melody: I hear what you’re saying – but there is something about all my new curves that actually feels really hot most days. “Act as if” should be another tip in this post – if you act sexy in your new body, the world (meaning, your significant other!) will sit up and take notice. I say rock it!

    @Jules: I wish I had written this into the article. For a while, I did exactly that – when did she start showing? When did she have to buy maternity jeans? I’m embarrassed to admit that in the beginning, I’d Google “14 weeks pregnant” and look at the images, to see if I was bigger or smaller than most women at my size. It was a very unhealthy pursuit, and the day I realized this needed to stop was the day everything felt easier. I’ve loved sharing my thoughts and questions with you, and your advice (keep it in perspective, mostly) has stayed with me. But we are each our own woman, and we carry our own babies, and however that looks is exactly as it is supposed to.


  6. Meesha says

    Great article! I remember the shock I felt when my butt and legs started to expand at the same rate as my belly. Turns out, it’s normal!! It was so hard shopping for clothes the first time around. I’d buy something that fit, and a week later I was bursting out of it! (My low: Me complaining that my jeans that I had just bought didn’t fit and my husband expressing his annoyance with a gentle but exasperated, “if you need clothes, go shopping!” and me bursting into uncontrollable tears (I’m not a crier) in front of my work.) But the 2nd and third babies, I just quit caring as much. I knew nothing would fit just right (or at least not for very long) and I accepted it. Also, I had a range of clothes in different sizes, so I had things to wear. Bottom line (pun intended): you grow, it’s normal, don’t try to exercise it off. You will need it when you start breast feeding!!
    I am not overweight at all, and I gained a healthy 30-35 lbs with all 3 of my babies and now, I’m sure partly due to paleo/primal, I’m back to my pre-baby #1 weight, with limited exercising. For me, healthy food and breastfeeding for at least a year made all the difference.
    Good luck Melissa! It’s such an adventure!

  7. says

    Oh trust me – I wrote that because I did the exact same thing! Comparing to others, looking on the internet, wondering if my weight gain was “on par” with others, etc. It’s a slippery slope, and it’s a major challenge – but the more discussions, the more supportive friends we have (like each other!), the easier it gets (in my humble opinion). It’s particularly tough when we have others around us who are like-minded (eating the same way, working out the same way or in a similar way) to NOT compare (the thinking being that we are doing things similarly, so our changes should be similar), and yet I’ve been so surprised throughout to see/hear/observe the differences that make us all unique, and I think help us in the long run to see that our differences and unique trials and tribulations are what make it all so very special.

    On the flip side, I had a conversation with my mother-in-law yesterday about how the medical establishment likes to lump all of the “unique snowflakes” into some law of averages (“weight gain should be 25-35 pounds” “everyone needs the oral glucose tolerance test”, not to mention some of the prophylactic newborn procedures done across the board). My personal advice to any mamas out there is to find a medical practice (OB/GYN, certified nurse midwife, etc.) that is in line with your thoughts/beliefs/nutritional approach, and sees you as the individual!

  8. Marie says

    Great article! While I of course have some body hangups with my growing belly/thighs/everything, my wonderful husband loves it all! Every time I get huge with pregnancy and am feeling not at all sexy or attractive, he’s all about it, he loves my larger breasts and belly and butt. Sometimes so much it’s annoying :) Though I must say, living a Whole 9/Paleo livestyle during this pregnancy has kept my weight gain to #30 at 36 weeks, much better than my previous three pregnancies gaining close to #60. And I have three times the energy and am loving life, instead of spending most of my time lying around groaning with discomfort :)

  9. seasonj says

    This article couldn’t have been better timing! I’m currently 15 weeks and last week was the first week that I really couldn’t button my pants. My goal was to get thru 5 months without any maternity clothes, ha! i just don’t feel like myself, my clothes don’t fit right, I’m breaking out and my energy levels are no where where they used to be. I feel I look like I just ate too many donuts and I don’t have that cute pregnancy belly that I was hoping for, yet. I want to wear a shirt that says “I’m pregnant, not just chubby!” So then I deciding that I was done feeling sorry for myself, I went to try on some maternity clothes and hot damn those big ole elastic pants are pretty comfortable! I went to a yoga class and set the intention to be kind to my body, made a healthy dinner and made an appointment for a facial. They call pregnancy a miracle for a reason, as it’s a pretty amazing transition within the body. As long as I am eating well and exercising I know that I am doing the best I can for me and my baby and that’s all that counts.

  10. Ashly says

    23 weeks over here and I truly appreciate the article and the comments. I will also cowardly admit to googling photos of 16 (14, 18, and 20 too, if I’m being totally honest) week pregnant women to see how I stacked up. I knew it was unhealthy when I was doing it, but apparently that knowledge wasn’t enough to stop the behavior- shocker. I have no doubt the body image issue chases after most pregnant women, doesn’t matter if you were big or small before. I had done a whole30 was training 5 days a week (with a couple strategic two-a-days in there). I was finally seeing results that matched my efforts. Then boom-with child. While I was super excited, I also had twangs of “I-worked-so-hard-for-THIS-body-and-now-what” thoughts. These thoughts started a pregnancy guilt I still struggle with. You know, you feel totally selfish for even thinking about yourself and your body when you a growing a human being kind of pregnancy guilt. (Similar to the first trimester ramen noodle and ginger ale guilt, but worse.) Lucky for me, I have a husband that loves the changes that pregnancy has made on me. Now, if only my brain could get on board.

    I live in Alabama and unfortunately midwives are against the law in the state. I found a doctor that came highly recommended and I really do like her. However, our appointments always begin with the weight gain discussion. If I am eating well, most of the time, and exercising at least five times a week, should it matter that I am on track to gain 40 lbs? 5 over the max recommended weight gain. I feel as though it is the focus of my appointments rather than healthy behaviors- or it could just be me being sensitive. I wish the focus was on eating well and staying active and not a number. Maybe one day. In the meantime, thanks for the virtual pep-talk!

  11. stephanie says

    This is so great. I’m 14 weeks along as well, and I’ve been struggling with the “I’m getting fat” feelings. I used to be quite a bit (50lbs) heavier than my pre-pregnancy weight, but have maintained my weight easily with a paleo diet for the past 3 years. Now that I find myself wearing my old “fat pants,” I’ve been feeling a little stressed. Intellectually, I know that it’s fine and normal etc… Emotionally, it’s a bit more difficult to handle. Also, the fact that it’s the holidays and there are tons of sweets etc… around makes it (just like every year) a bit trickier to stick to my usual strict diet during Nov/Dec.
    I must admit, I was really hoping that the belly would be the only thing that grew, but alas, that does not seem like it’s going to be the case. sigh… Farewell shredded arms and back… at least for a while. :)
    Anyway, thanks so much for your article. This is a lot more heartening and sensible than those damn baby-center discussion boards. :)

  12. says

    @Meesha: OF COURSE IT’S NORMAL, although the fashion/gossip mags will have you believe you should only gain a weight in your belly (and maybe in your boobs, but who’s complaining about that?) And yes, you and Jules make good points. I know women who worked so hard to get back in their skinny jeans post-partum that their breast milk dried right up. That’s not okay with me. Priorities, ladies.

    @Marie: It’s nice to feel sexy with your new curves! We should all be embracing that more often. Chances are I’ll never have them again, so I might as well enjoy ’em while they’re here.

    @Season: I have said all of those things literally verbatim. Literally. This is the problem with having a pregnancy “plan” – it’s probably delusional, and reality can be a slap in the face. I’ve started just rolling with it, and what’s going to happen will happen.

    @Ashly: Why don’t you try changing the direction of conversation with your doctor? “You keep talking about weight gain, but what you don’t know is that I’m eating like this, exercising like this, and started this pregnancy healthy as you’ve ever seen a patient. So I’m not worried about my weight gain, because I know I’m doing everything right!” This conversation should be two-sided! Be honest about how his perspective isn’t really helping you right now, and reframe the talk in terms of all the things you’re already doing to grow a healthy baby.

    @Stephanie: I cannot even visit those message boards. Honestly, where do these women come from, and why would you listen to 143 people you don’t even know give you advice about your baby and your body? I just don’t get it.


  13. says

    You know what I love about this post? It’s packed with excellent advice for non-pregnant ladies, too? Wear clothes that fit and make you feel good about yourself. Eat real food. Exercise in a way that makes you healthier. Ask for support and talk about your feelings. Can you just re-publish this post in a few months with the title “Thoughts on Being Healthy and Happy”?

    You’re genius. As always. Love, love to all of you!

  14. Meesha says

    @Ashley: Just nod and smile. If you are ok with how you are eating, who cares what the doctor thinks. As for exercising 5 times a week, wow. I thought I would be a super woman who worked out through my pregnancies, but I think I made it to about week 9. Morning sickness took it out of me. And guess what, I was fine! I think what you eat will make a much bigger impact on you and your baby than how much or how little you exercise. Think healthy fats and vitamin rich foods!

    @Melissa: I will always miss my pregnant/breastfeeding boobs. As will my husband. :)

  15. Ashley says

    Melissa – congrats on your pregnancy! You may not remember, but at the Whole9 workshop you and Dallas did in Baton Rouge LA last Jan I told you (in hushed tones) that I had just found out I was pregnant (my friends I was attending with didn’t know) and asked your advice on glucose testing. You mentioned that you were hoping to start a family soon and I’ve often thought of you guys and hoped that things were working out for you. So glad to hear they are!
    Our baby #5 arrived, healthy and happy, 4 months ago. I’m not back into my skinny jeans (yet), but eating healthy and exercising, I see them in somewhat near future. :)
    I agree with everything you wrote above. So

  16. says

    Really great advice! I remember when I finally broke down and bought maternity clothes at the beginning of my second trimester. It was SUCH a relief. I actually really loved pregnancy and I loved all my cute maternity clothes (A Pea in the Pod has excellent sales). The sweet paleo baby that resulted is even better, though. Best wishes to all three of you, Melissa!

  17. says

    Timely article for me.

    I am 36 weeks pregnant with my second child and I’ve found this pregnancy to be much harder emotionally and physically than my first. Despite eating better than the first go round (I ate so many of those huge Starbucks cookies last time!) my belly is much bigger and I am so much more uncomfortable. Normal for a second pregnancy I am told.

    I’ve just outgrown a few maternity t-shirts and felt like it was a sign of failure.

    As I read your post I reminded myself that I can’t control my body – just how I treat it. I also can’t control that there are Melissa Millers out there in the world but I can avoid reading/seeing them.

    Thanks for the help keeping things in perspective.

  18. Liz says

    I sooo needed to read this right now!! I’m 16 weeks pregnant and haven;t fit in regular clothes for over a month. My boobs were the first thing to blow up, and starting out with a D, having them double in size, was not a welcome thing! I had been doing HIIT workouts 4-5 days a week, following Paleo as best I could, and really starting to get myself in a groove with my fitness…. then bam!! Oops! Pregnant!! I was overjoyed, but at the same time, feeling completely scared with what was going to happen to my body. I come from a family where weight problems are rampant. It’s a daily battle with myself to stay at a normal weight for me. So knowing I’m going to pack on a decent amount of weight was definitely daunting. But, I’m getting over it. I keep telling myself that I’m growing a human inside of me!!! I’m definitely showing, and my belly isn’t the only thing growing. My boobs, my hips, have all gotten a little bigger, but the best thing for me was to get some maternity cloths ASAP! I could LIVE in my maternity jeans!! Holy comfortable!! And once I got some shirts that fit for my boobs as well as my belly, I felt soo much better! I stopped feeling like a stuffed pig. I’ve had a hard time with energy levels, so have not been able to keep up the workout routine at all. That bothered me at first, but then I realized my body is dedicating alot of energy to making life, so cut myself a break! I’m not one of those women running on the treadmill every day, or still going to Crossfit at 7 months pregnant, and that’s quite alright with me. I go for a walk when I can. But if I’m tired, I rest. My body is working on something much more important than me ego. My diet as taken a down turn. I haven’t been able to stick to Paleo. Partly because I’m too tired to cook like I used to, but also because what I used to eat, seems to turn my stomach – salad grosses me out as does most meat especially chicken and I LOVE meat, so I’ve had to go with the flow and eat what my body wants me to. Ya, I’ve had some slip ups with candy, chocolate, and french fries, but beating myself up over it, is not going to do anything. I’m eating relatively healthy I’d say 90% of the time, and so far so good. I don’t even know really, how much weight I’ve gained, and I really don’t care! So thank you for this article!! I don’t think women realize just how much they need to hear these things!

  19. Robin D says

    Melissa, great job on this article! I really struggled with feeling good about how I looked during my pregnancy, like a lot of women.

    One other thing I would add to this article would be to block out all the noise we, as pregnant women, have to put up with regarding what we should look like or act during this time. I ran, CrossFitted and swam until I was about 35 weeks and then, once I was too uncomfortable to do any of those things, I walked for the remaining 7 weeks (I had to be an overachiever and go 2 weeks past my EDD) and was told the entire time I was going overboard. In fact, that was thing that I had the hardest time with! By the time I finally gave birth, I was start to get really sassy with strangers when they would make a comment about my belly…..and it was then that I discovered one of the advantages of being pregnant: if you’re expecting and kinda snotty no one will take it personally! :)

  20. Robin D says

    Melissa, great job on this article! I really struggled with feeling good about how I looked during my pregnancy, like a lot of women.

    One other thing I would add to this article would be to block out all the noise we, as pregnant women, have to put up with regarding what we should look like or act during this time. I ran, CrossFitted and swam until I was about 35 weeks and then, once I was too uncomfortable to do any of those things, I walked for the remaining 7 weeks (I had to be an overachiever and go 2 weeks past my EDD) and was told the entire time I was going overboard. In fact, dealing with other people constant commentary on how I should be conducting my pregnancy was thing that I had the hardest time with! By the time I finally gave birth, I was start to get really sassy with strangers when they would make a comment about my belly…..and it was then that I discovered one of the advantages of being pregnant: if you’re expecting and kinda snotty no one will take it personally!

  21. amanda says

    Great article. I am 1 month post-partum with my 4th. All pregnancies really are different. With my first I gained it everywhere(55lbs total), with #2 and #3(35#total- even with watching not to eat any sugar, not overeating etc) it was nearly all in my belly – I was nearly 100% grain free with #2 and strictly gluten/dairy free with #3 and kept grain free except the first trimester. This time I had the hardest time staying compliant, it was definitely a hit to my ego. I gained about 40lbs this time.

    I thought I had this figured out after the last 2, however this whole pregnancy was just harder from the get go. I was much more tired and had wretched insomnia, even when I had times of keeping on track I still didn’t feel near as good. I gained weight everywhere this time as well, lots of it, I was crushed to noticed that I had developed back fit towards the end. I had a huge belly as well but I went from a size 4/small to a size x-large maternity.

    As soon as the baby was born though I’ve felt 1000% better. I’ve transitioned back to being more strict and my body is shrinking down, I’m still at a size 10 but I’m getting there and trying to be patient. I’ve got copious amounts of milk and good energy so it is going well.

    I find it harder with the body image after the pregnancy than before actually. It is acceptable to be big when your pregnant but not so much after they’re born and frankly I’m tired of not being *me*. My husband does love the curves, thank goodness . I did go out right after the birth to get some clothes at Goodwill so I could at least find something regular to fit into. I’m trying to find the best clothes to flatter my new body.

  22. Sandi says

    Fantastic article! I did everything you mentioned at first – googled images of women 3 months or 5 months pregnant to compare myself and I would be ecstatic if someone told me that I was “barely showing”. I remember being at the farmers market and feeling devastated bc a woman I didnt know told me I was going to have a girl because I was carrying all my weight “behind me” (i had a boy by the way!)
    Looking back i was happiest when I was my biggest (last trimester). I felt sexy and cute and important because everyone gives pregnant ladies attention!
    I am now 2 months post partum and have lost most of the weight pretty effortlessly – something to note is that alot of your weight gain is water weight which melts off in the first couple weeks. And you need to hold on to some of that weight for breastfeeding.
    I also never weighed myself during pregnancy – kept me sane. Even now, I am curvier and probably holding onto an additional 10 lbs but I am OK with that. I went out and bought a cheap pair of jeans that fit and that I feel good in. If you can do your hair and makeup everyday that also makes you feel more like “you”.
    Some advice: accept help when baby comes and reach out to other mommies for what is “normal”. Also, find a good Lactation consultant and make sure baby has a good latch from the get go – breastfeeding is hard and does not come naturally for all women so be prepared to “work at it” and accept the challenges that come along with it.
    best of luck Melissa and congratulations!!

    Jack is the love our life and we have waited our whole lives for him – it truly is a miraculous gift

  23. bree says

    I have tears in my eyes (because I’m emotional right now) & I can’t belive you are feeling exactly how I’m feeling. I’m not in a “dangerous” place but I’ve always been very fit & it is tough to see all areas of your body getting bigger (even when you’re exercising & eating right) & feeling like none of your clothes look good on you!
    Thank you!

  24. Loretta says

    For me, the hard part wasn’t pregnancy at all (I feel incredibly lucky). I had no cravings for junk food, but my hubby did! I felt great about my body, but after the birth was when it kind of went to pot because it took longer to recover than I expected and it’s hard to sit there and do nothing when you were able to stay pretty active the whole pregnancy.

  25. says

    @ALL: The “Rachel” who commented above is the Rachel behind The Minimalist Mom ( For those of you who are feeling not only the body image pressure, but the “you must have/buy/do all of these things or you will be a terrible parent and your child will suffer” pressure (and it’s out there – just subscribe to any pregnancy/baby magazine or read any kind of baby-centered website)… her site is a MUST READ.

    Her $5 e-book “Guide to Baby’s First Year” ( was the best $5 I’ve spent all pregnancy. She outlines the 12 (yes, just twelve!) things you really NEED to have before the baby comes, and gives such refreshing perspective on what’s REALLY important during baby’s first year. I’m not affiliated with this site or book in any way, but I love her stuff so much that I recommend all of you at least check out the e-book and her awesome blog.

    @Mel: You’re absolutely right, of course! This applies well beyond pregnancy. Thanks for your support – love you!

    @Ashley: I do remember you – congrats on your 5th!

    @Dawn: I agree, buying clothes that fit really was a relief. Pea in the Pod does have some cute stuff, but I balk at some of their prices! Good suggestion to shop the sales. Lululemon has a few pairs of pants that work well for pregnant ladies, too – the Astros can be folded down under the belly and the Skinny Will has a really high, soft waistband that can either go up and over, or fold right down. The best part is that you can wear them after pregnancy too, as they are super forgiving and won’t bag or sag with your expanding belly.

    @Rachel: So nice to see you here, and thanks for sharing so honestly. I love your perspective – you can’t control what happens to your body during pregnancy, but you can control how you treat it. I’ll also add, you can control how you THINK about it, too. Negative self-talk can be so destructive, so taking care of yourself and your baby AND focusing on the positive goes a long way. Of course, I’ll have to take my own advice as I get bigger… I’m still only 24-25 weeks. I’ve got belly to go.

    @Liz: Being kind to your body and resting when you need it is key. I’ve been guilty of having the “superwoman” mentality, pushing through being tired. All it landed me was even more tired, and a nasty head cold. Walking is such good exercise for you, and for your baby’s position in the uterus. Don’t think of it as lazy or lame – it’s really one of the best things you can do during pregnancy! And if even getting outside to walk seems too cold, too windy, or too much effort, then rest. That’s what your body, and your baby, really needs.

    @Robin D: It’s hard to know when folks are actually overdoing it (it happens), and when folks are doing just fine, but facing too many anxious concerns from strangers. The rules about not overheating, not breathing too hard, and not lifting too heavy have solid foundations, and I’d not want to mess with those. But if you’re feeling good and still comfortable with these activities (especially swimming – breast stroke is one of the best things you can do while pregnant, aside from walking!) then I say listen to your own body and take what strangers say with a grain of salt.

    @Amanda: I may have to revisit this topic post-baby, then! I hear you on the not feeling like “me” part – I’ve experienced some of that myself already. But if your milk production is good and your energy is rockin’, I’m positive the rest will fall into place when it’s healthy for you and the baby. Keep focusing on the positive (like those sexy curves!) and things will return to “normal” in due time.

    @Sandi: So great to hear from you! You have come such a long way from our first conversations – I’m really proud of how hard you’ve worked to change your relationship with food and your body. You offer some great advice here, thanks so much for sharing. (I agree on the hair and makeup thing, by the way. Pedicures, too.)

    @Bree: I cry at the drop of a hat these days. It’s totally normal. So is how you are feeling! Glad you got what you needed with this article at this time. Stay in touch – our Whole30 Forum has a great section for “ladies only” with lots of pregnant and new moms participating.

    @Loretta: We all have our challenges, I think, whether they come early, late, or both. Thanks for sharing, and for reading.


  26. Brandy Merwin says

    I was a marathon runner before I was pregnant and thought I ate very heathly (not anywhere near Paleo since I didn’t eat meat at the time). When I was pregnant with my 1st son who is now 6 1/2 years old, I stopped exercising. Why? I felt so sick my first trimester that I didn’t run or workout. Then, I felt like it was too late to keep it up so I gained somewhere around 60lbs!! Eating was my new comfort! So, by the time I had my 2nd son (2 years later). I was so far out of shape that I don’t even recognize myself in pictures and I just felt tired all the time!! I was then depressed with a two year old and an infant. I found an awesome support group, Stroller Strides. Not only did I get the mommy support, time with other adults, playmates for my kids, but I got a killer workout. I pretty much lost most of the weight and staring running again. When I had to go back to work and miss those workouts, I fell into my eating pattern, again. I started working with an amazing trainer and she encouraged me to do a whole30 almost two years ago now. I NEVER felt better! My husband and I have talked about maybe having another baby and the thought scares me, but I know I wouldn’t abandon my way of eating and exercise. I wonder just how differently I would feel!? I know that I would feel a million times better and would not gain nearly as much weight. My advice for all moms is to find a “support group”. Whatever that may be! Stroller Strides, which offers classes for moms and classes just for pregnant moms, was a blessing for me!! I’m currently involved in a MOPS group. Being “alone in motherhood” and pregnancy can be very difficult but having a support group can really make all the difference!!!

  27. Melody P. says

    Ok, so I thought I was doing better. This article helped me reign in my thoughts and feel better about myself. I am actually enjoying pregnancy most of the time. Where I seem to have crashed and burned is the weight I’m gaining. I stayed with what is said to be average until last month. At my last month check up I had gained 8 lbs in 4 weeks. My midwife said it was no big deal unless it continues to happen. 2 weeks ago I stood on the scale and had only gained a pound so far for the month and I thought, “Oh good! I ‘m back on track”….

    Until I stood on the scale this morning.

    Looks like 9 lbs again. I have my monthly checkup later today.

    Now I am stressed out and frustrated and hate it because of the holidays and wanting to enjoy things but knowing my personality and my past I easily struggle with guilt of “I shouldn’t eat that… Oh I am so terrible for having that, etc…”

    So I am worried my weight gain is getting out of control and all of the sudden I want to do a whole30 in January to “fix” it even though there isn’t necessarily even a problem.

    I need some advice, or maybe a swift kick in the pants.

  28. says

    @Brandy: Excellent advice, to find a local in-person support group for pregnant women and new Moms! I want to organize a new mom walking club here in SLC, through Lululemon or Athleta – once a week chats and some exercise would do all of us well.

    @Melody: Let’s break this down. First, it’s totally normal and very common to gain weight in spurts. (Your baby does, why shouldn’t you?) It’s happened to me, and it will continue to happen to you as your pregnancy progresses. Don’t stress about it – and maybe, stop getting on the scale at home. At all. Leave the weigh-ins for your doctor.

    Now, to the practical – if you know your eating habits are difficult to control right now (meaning, you’ve progressed into the automatic eating of junk, instead of making conscious, deliberate decisions to indulge when you want), then perhaps a January Whole30 is a smart decision – not because you need to gain less weight, but because that kind of automatic eating (feeling out of control) never feels good, and isn’t healthy.

    As for the weight gain, I know they say what “normal” looks like, but I’ve got plenty of really healthy, fit friends who gained way more than what was “normal” during their pregnancy for one reason or another – and their babies were healthy, they were healthy, and the weight is coming off post-baby in a healthy and reasonable fashion. So maybe you just need to stress less. Do what you can to continue to eat well (and if you need to, get back to that place where eating well is the norm, rather than the exception), move your body, and let nature do its thing. Does that help?


  29. April says

    Love this post! At 32 weeks pregnant I’m feeling like a blimp! But today is day 3 of my 3rd Whole 30 and I’m already feeling better. I definitely encourage all pregnant gals to stay off their home scales. What I’ve struggled with the most aside from body image is all of the attention and inappropriate questions from people I barely know. I find myself not wanting to go my normal yoga classes because I don’t want to be bombarded by people who previously paid me little mind. I’m not sure if other ladies love the attention but I can’t stand it. But I’m trying to remember that people are just excited/curious/envious/whatever about pregnant ladies and smile my way through it. My least favorite questions are, “how much weight have you gained?” and “are you going to breast feed?” I also hate when people scoff at my desire to have a natural childbirth and tell me I’ll give up on that within the first 10 minutes because they did – maybe I will maybe I won’t but way to be supportive! Grrrr

  30. Emily says

    Hi ladies! Okay, I am a mama to 4. Two were born via conventional medical standard hospital births, two with hard-fought, hard-won natural births. I gained anywhere from 20 to 60 (thank you, hot fudge sundaes) with each pregnancy, all completely different times for completely different babies.

    I’ve been following this thread and just have to say… Melissa, you are gorgeous outside and, from what I can tell from your inspirational, confessional, positive posts, in. I can’t imagine that pregnancy is changing that, though your husband may disagree after suffering a few (totally normal!) mood swings, LOL!

    For everybody else, I won’t say that pregnancy is some beautiful thing and you should all cherish every moment, because let’s face it…there are some really great things about pregnancy, but there is a lot about it that kind of sucks. Yes, your butt is going to get wider, probably, and maybe your skin isn’t as great as usual and you have to pee three times a night. But, I will say that I am completely envious of and proud of what you are all doing. I would give anything to have known during pregnancy what I know now about nutrition and what you all obviously, being here, know during your own pregnancies. You are doing something for these beautiful, primal babies, that NOBODY else can do to give them a great start.

    And, @ April, as far as people and their childbirth opinions go, they can shove it. Really. Everybody’s aunt’s mom’s sister-in-law’s cousin has some sort of weird birth horror story they love to share, but that has NOTHING to do with you. Like I said, I’ve had some natural and some not-natural births. I have a sister-in-law with three birthing center births, one with three home births, and one with four conventional c-section births. Everybody’s birth story is their own, and it is completely up to you and your preparation and education. Take your classes, read your books, find a great partner for support, and make it your own experience. It doesn’t matter what anybody else, from your mom to your neighbor to the shows on TLC say.

    So, you gain weight, people say stupid stuff, but the weight will come off and people’s comments will switch to what you’re doing wrong as a parent, but right now, kudos on being Whole9 Mamas! ALL the best to you!

  31. says

    @April: I understand what you mean. The number of people who have laid hands on my belly (even at 25 weeks, when there isn’t much of a belly to be had) is astonishing. And the number of people who ask, “Are you going to have more?” Good lord, let me get through this first one, please.

    I try to remember that people are good-natured and curious, and especially in my position, many just want some advice from someone they trust. However, there are a few things that Dallas and I are not discussing with anyone but our closest friends and family. Our birth plan and vaccination plan are two items not on the menu for public discussion. For one, this is an extremely personal time for us, and we really don’t want to share this pregnancy with the world. Two, there is no way I want to be responsible for people making decisions about their own babies just because this is what Dallas and I are doing. Also, I’m not talking to anyone about my weight. Period. (I stopped getting on the scale a long time ago, anyway.)

    @Emily: Thanks for the words of encouragement. I agree – you should never, ever feel obligated to share any piece of your personal experience with anyone – even family! And that means coming up with a firm but polite way of saying “please don’t touch my belly.”


  32. Jess says

    Melissa- thank you for this post, I wish I had seen it during my first pregnancy! I am now 2 months post-partum from our 2nd little boy and struggle with the post-partum body a bit. I was doing CF throughout this last pregnancy until about 35 weeks and resumed after getting the go ahead at my 6 week check. I am on day 6 of the Whole30 challenge right now and feel so much better! I couldn’t agree more with any of the comments posted above and though I still struggle with body image right now (and feeling weak in my workouts because I keep comparing what I was able to do pre pregnancy to post pregnancy) my husband is my biggest supporter and encourages me every day. I have two healthy little boys (3yo, 2mo) and they are worth every pound I gained (and am losing). Good luck with your pregnancy, congratulations and thank you for the additional insight!

  33. says

    Martin, so nice to see this perspective here. Thanks so much.

    Jess, thanks for the note! Glad you are feeling good on your Whole30 – I’ll be using that to see me through the lack of sleep and energy during my first month post-baby for sure. (Also, stop comparing. Immediately. That used to/should be able to mentality is so defeatist, and adds stress in ways you aren’t even aware of! Just be happy that you’re able to move your body so soon after your baby was born, and be proud of what you ARE doing!)


  34. Katie says

    Hi Melissa,
    I was wondering if you would be willing to post anything on what you have found as far as symptoms and relief of said symptoms. Like any recommendations on things like food aversions – my last pregnancy, before Paleo, I didn’t want meat much at all so I ate yogurt. Better than the Dairy Queen I craved with my first, but still not great. Have you had that at all? If you don’t want to talk about it, I understand, but next time I’m pregnant I’ll have been eating this way for a while, and I am not sure how it will be different.

  35. says

    Great advice here for pregnancy-related body issues. I had two pregnancies/births (C-sections) and I just want to add that the sanest piece of advice I got about my post-natal body was, “It took 9 months to put it on, give yourself at least 9 months to take it off”. I clung to that pretty fiercely because otherwise I would have gone crazy thinking that Heidi Klum was on the runway in 6 weeks, why was I still sitting around in elastic-waist pants?! Anyway, along with the message of accepting your pregnant body, I think it’s important to be kind to your post-pregnant body that is taking care of and often feeding an entire new little person, suffering from interrupted sleep — even if you cosleep that baby will wake you up — and recovering from an incredible physical effort. Good luck to everyone!

  36. Lucy says

    Can you speak a little to prenatal vitamins? I want to start trying to conceive in about 8-9 months and my doctor told me to start taking prenatal vitamins. I have looked at a few bottles and they all seem to have unhealthy ingredients. I am going to be 38 years old this year. I want to do everything I can to have a successful pregnancy.

  37. Todd says

    Being a guy I probably shouldn’t be expressing my opinion on this particular subject because it’s a woman thing.However,I’m going to put my 2 cents in and hope that every woman who reads it will take it to heart and believe it.I’ll never forget the very first time I fixed my gaze upon a pregnant nude I saw in a book.I well remember the feelings that washed over my entire body.From head to toe I experienced the most voluptuous and euphoric and giddy feelings that I’ve never felt before.My reaction truly was amazing because it was so totally unexpected.That was about ten years ago and nothing has changed.To me there’s nothing on the face of the earth that’s more beautiful and fascinating and appealing and pleasing to look at than a pregnant belly at fullterm!!!!! THE JOYS,PLEASURES AND SENSUAL DELIGHTS SO DEEPLY FELT WHILE GAZING UPON THE PREGNANT FORM TOUCH THE INNERMOST RECESSES OF ONE’S SOUL AND CAN NEVER BE RIVALED BY ANY OTHER THING THE EYE CAN SEE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! In other words,pregnant bodies are also HOT,SEXY and EROTIC!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!