Staying body confident while pregnant…
Pregnancy is physically and emotionally demanding, so the last thing you need is for someone to comment on your changing body. But while expecting, you may face negative comments about your appearance.
According to a study by video parenting site ChannelMum.com, 94 per cent of expectant women have been verbally attacked for their body shape. The survey found that the average mum suffers 10 verbal slurs while pregnant, with the majority of mums being told they are ‘too fat’, and a third being told their bump is ‘too small’, leading to fears for their baby’s health. This trend has been coined ‘bump-shaming’.
Shockingly, strangers are the biggest source of verbal smears, but many pregnant women have also been bump-shamed by friends, work colleagues and family members.
So what are the consequences of bump-shaming?
Melinda Nicci is founder of Baby2Body.com, a company helping pregnant women and new mums to stay healthy and body confident.
Melinda says: ‘It’s crazy but almost as soon as a woman announces she’s pregnant, it’s as if the standards of social interactions are dropped. Suddenly everyone thinks it’s OK to comment on how you’re looking and to reach out and touch your stomach, but in no other social setting would this happen. Pregnant women get told everything from they’re too big, too small or too fit to they’re carrying too low or too high.’
She adds: ‘This can create an unhealthy relationship with one’s body image that can persist well beyond pregnancy, which is incredibly damaging to self-esteem. Such comments also insinuate that the woman’s shape isn’t healthy for the baby, that she’s not doing what she should be, and that she could be putting her baby at risk. This is incredibly anxiety-inducing, and increased stress levels are not what you want in pregnancy. Plus it’s simply not true that a certain body type or bump size is best for the baby. Bodies are different and so are the babies growing inside them.’
So why has bump-shaming become the norm, and is it something we just have to get used to? Absolutely not, says Melinda.
‘We need to push two objectives,’ she explains. ‘One — changing society’s attitude and reshaping the dialogue that exists around pregnancy, and two — helping women to know how to respond appropriately and confidently when they have been bump-shamed. It’s important for mums-to-be to remember that pregnancy is not a permanent state. It does not define you and neither do other people. Focus on yourself, your health and your happiness. Make healthy decisions wherever possible, do things that make you feel amazing, spend time with people who bring positivity into your life, and trust that the rest is just noise.’
Founder of ChannelMum.com, Siobhan Freegard, has seen at first hand the negative effect bump-shaming can have, and has witnessed mums-to-be being left in tears by bump-shamers.
Siobhan says: ‘Pregnant mums need nurturing and support, not slurs and criticism. Pregnancy should be about the mum and baby staying healthy. It’s time to consider the impact of what you say and realise that what you might see as a funny dig can actually cause immense upset. As your own mum probably said, if you can’t say something nice, say nothing at all.’
‘Are you sure it’s not twins?’
A colleague and I were chatting at my desk when my manager and CEO approached me.
‘Wow, Stacey,’ she said. ‘Are you sure you’re not having twins? You’re massive!’
I was taken aback.
‘Definitely not twins, just the one,’ I said, trying to hide my embarrassment.
I was 22 weeks pregnant and despite measuring quite big owing to water retention, I’d felt confident of my new body and bump.
But after being bump- shamed, I began to feel self-conscious at work.
Weeks later I was eating my lunch when my manager came over again.
‘You shouldn’t eat for two, you know,’ she said. ‘Being pregnant is not an excuse to let yourself go.’
My jaw dropped in shock as she walked off.
But I refused to let her insensitive comments get me down, and tried to enjoy the rest of my pregnancy.
In time I gave birth to a boy, Jacob, now two.
Bump-shaming is nasty and hurtful, and it can affect a woman for years afterwards. Being pregnant is about bringing a new life into the world, and women should never be made to feel bad for doing so.
From Stacey Nunwa, 30, of Brentwood, Essex
I worried that my bump was too small
I was standing at the school gates waiting for my son Dylan.
I smoothed my hands over my bump and smiled.
Then I heard another mum say: ‘You’re so lucky to be small.’
I was pregnant with my third baby, and smaller than previous times.
Her well-meaning comment made me worry that my bump might be smaller than it should be.
But my midwife told me that although my bump looked small, I was in fact measuring on the larger size. It wasn’t until my third trimester that my bump started to pop out more.
We should ignore the opinions of others and focus instead on being healthy for our babies.
From Lucy Roberts, 32, of Braintree, Essex