As a Therapist + Health Coach who works with women everyday on issues related to body-image + self-esteem, my own pregnancy has been eye-opening to the scrutiny that pregnant women face. After being held victim to the scale their entire lives; pregnancy should be a time for women to focus less on the number on the scale + more on the monumental task of growing another human. Instead, it’s a time where even more emphasis is placed on weight, size + shape. This perspective can be detrimental to the health of a pregnancy + completely misses the bigger picture.
Most people know that there are general guidelines for the “Recommended Amount Of Weight Gain ” during pregnancy that fall somewhere between 25-35lbs. For me, the number on the scale began increasing faster than the guidelines recommended from the moment I found out I was pregnant. I knew that I shouldn’t put too much emphasis on this number, but these guidelines made me feel like I was doing something wrong. I finally decided it was best for me to get rid of the scale as it seemed to be causing unnecessary stress. I was staying active, eating healthy + taking extremely good care of myself, which is ultimately all that matters.
But I would still get nervous before each doctor’s appointment because I was afraid I was going to get “in trouble.” I realized how silly that sounded, until one day… I did. A random doctor lectured me about my lifestyle choices due to my weight gain. She didn’t take anything else into consideration: my weight before pregnancy, lifestyle, activity level, or overall health… she only cared about the number on that scale. She basically suggested that I should “try light exercise” + maybe not eat so much. Me: the woman who was already exercising daily + investing so much time into having a healthy diet and taking care of myself. I ultimately decided I was going to continue to do exactly what I had been doing + not let this doctor’s ignorant comments affect me.
The part that DID bother me is that other pregnant women are subjected to these insensitive comments about their weight/bodies from doctors, family, friends + strangers everyday. I’ve had so many people ask me how much I weigh/how much weight I’ve gained + remark on the size/shape of my body that I’ve lost count. THIS IS NOT OK. You would not normally comment on someone’s weight or the size of their body — pregnancy should not be the exception. There are so many factors that determine a healthy pregnancy, but somehow weight gain has become the gold standard. It is absolutely absurd that women are expected to fit into a one-size-fits-all box of pregnancy weight gain, and it can be dangerous + damaging to a woman’s mental health.
Before commenting on a woman’s pregnant body, please take a moment to consider the following:
Many Women Have Body-Image Issues
Women dealing with body-image issues have learned to rely on external factors for validation rather than having their confidence come from within. Teaching them to rely so heavily on the scale only reinforces this behavior. Gaining more weight than “recommended” or hearing insensitive comments can also cause significant distress, which could result in food restriction to an unhealthy level during pregnancy. We need to teach women to trust their intuition more than the number on a scale. They need to feel empowered + confident in their choices!
Eating Disorders Are Prevalent
Nearly two-thirds of American women report disordered eating behaviors. Another 10% qualify for a clinical diagnosis of Anorexia Nervosa or Bulimia. There are many risks for the baby if the mother continues to exhibit disordered eating behaviors throughout her pregnancy. For these women, each day is a challenge as they face their fears surrounding food + weight gain. They need to continue to develop a healthy relationship with food so that their baby is getting the nutrients it needs. They do not need to be fearful of gaining too much weight. End of story.
You Don’t Know Someone Else’s Story
You have no idea what anyone’s fertility journey has been like: they may have experienced loss, had difficulty getting pregnant, or had a previously complicated pregnancy. Therefore, they may be experiencing anxiety or depression throughout this pregnancy + may have drastically changed their lifestyle as a result. Give them a break. It may be all they can do to care for themselves and their baby without the added stress of gaining the perfect amount of weight.
Anxiety Is Bad For Pregnant Woman
There are a lot of stressors that can cause even the calmest woman to get anxious during pregnancy + weight gain does not need to be added to that list. A seemingly harmless comment like “You look like you could have that baby any day!” could be distressing to a woman who is only 25 weeks along. Let’s focus on other measurements of a healthy pregnancy: a strong fetal heartbeat, normal test results, low blood pressure, etc.
And when you’re unsure about what to say to a pregnant woman, just tell her she looks beautiful.