“She is such a gorgeous pregnant mama! She’s ALL belly!”
“I sure hope I look like her when I’m pregnant! You can’t even tell she is pregnant except from the side.”
“If you eat a balanced healthy diet, and workout consistently, you too can only gain weight in your bump.”
Ok. I’ll come out and say it, my title is 100% misleading, and my reasoning is that no one (that I can find) is writing this side of the story when it comes to your body transformation through pregnancy and motherhood. And before I write anything else, I just want to say: having a belly only pregnancy is NOT a bad thing, it just doesn’t need to be our goal. Ok? Let’s just get it out there, you’re beautiful- no matter how pregnancy or motherhood changes or does not change your body.
When I found out I was pregnant with Evan, I 100% wanted to minimize my weight gain, so that my body could bounce back quickly after he was born. My guess is if you’re thinking about a baby or are pregnant with one, you’ve probably searched online for ways to limit weight gain, have a belly only pregnancy, or even to lose weight. And now on my third baby, I find myself hoping for that less and less.
Pregnancy Changes You
There are some fascinating ways pregnancy changes us. From the beginning with conception, our hormones start to kick in and create a suitable environment. These hormones aren’t localized to our womb. They have effects on our whole being. Check out these awesome sites (here, here, and here) for how these specific hormones (hcg, progesterone, estrogen, oxytocin) play main roles in effecting our bodies. While facilitating the growth of a baby, these hormones also effect our emotions, our bodies, our hunger, loosening of our joints, spreading out of hips, energy levels, spinal curvature, skin, body temperature, amount of blood in your body, sleep, and even your brain. Yes, you heard me correctly, it changes your brain! I’m not a scientist, but essentially what researchers have found is that during the two years post birth, the grey matter in your brain shrinks slightly allowing you to create deeper bonds with your baby. Check out this, this, and this source for more details. Now, what I’m wondering is if I’m on my third baby in three years, does that mean I have to wait 6 years before my grey matter is back and functioning with more capacity for others?
There was also this fascinating study showing women’s bodies continuing to carry your babies cells in your blood and tissue post birth. This is a fascinating finding to me as a mother who has experienced miscarriages and the grief that brings, as well as live births. This article by the Smithsonian goes even further to question how the cells from older siblings could effect new pregnancies and their births. Clearly, pregnancy alters our entire body.
Preventing Fat Gain
You’ve probably heard that when it comes to diet and exercise, you can’t really spot reduce. You can do all the leg workouts you want, but it won’t make the fat on your thighs disappear- at least not directly. You can absolutely shape and strengthen and maybe even limit cellulite with working out, but your body has to lose fat and that is a more involved process than just a week of squats and lunges. Similarly, you might not be able to limit growth to your belly, because well… hormones, fluid retention, and more hormones. Please don’t mistake me, exercise is so important for pregnancy, labor, your babies health, and recovery, and I will be sharing more on why I chose to stay in shape through pregnancy! However, I’m sorry to break it to you darling, it might not be possible for you to have a belly only pregnancy. And here is a simple break down of where the weight gain for pregnancy tends to go (I found this over at Mayo Clinic), this will obviously vary a lot from woman to woman, especially in the increased fluid volume and fat stores:
Baby: 7 to 8 pounds
Larger breasts: 2 pounds
Larger uterus: 2 pounds
Placenta: 1 1/2 pounds
Amniotic fluid: 2 pounds
Increased blood volume: 3 to 4 pounds
Increased fluid volume: 3 to 4 pounds
Fat : stores 6 to 8 pounds
Every Mother, Every Body, and Every Pregnancy is Different
I have close friends who have that idealized belly only pregnancy. They are gorgeous. I know women who struggle with putting weight on their entire pregnancy. They are gorgeous. I have friends who gain weight everywhere and are gorgeous. I know two ladies who seriously do not look pregnant until about month 9 and suddenly a little bump pops out. They are gorgeous.
Each of my pregnancies has been a little different. During my current pregnancy (#3), I suffered from hyperemesis gravidarum the first 18 weeks and my weight would go up 2 pounds, and then I would lose 5. At 18 weeks pregnant, my weight was where it started. However, the last 8 weeks, I’ve had no problem putting those pounds back on! During my first pregnancy, I left the hospital weighing 10 pounds MORE than I entered it. This was due to some bad swelling (thanks to a lot of drugs and a c-section). That quickly went down and I was fine, but I share this with you to encourage you that the variation of normal is wide, and personally, I have found body image to be a struggle during pregnancy. (If you need encouragement in this area check out this letter for YOU!)
Find a Healthy Balance
There are plenty of reasons to exercise during pregnancy and to eat a healthy diet. (More on healthy pregnancies and what this looks like for me to come!) Pregnancy is going to change your body, and that is hard to accept. I’m pretty sure I go into it kicking and screaming each time. I don’t really want to embrace my changing shape, the aches, the insomnia, the growing size, followed by everyone’s increased awareness of my body. I’d really rather blend in if I’m being totally honest.
But the truth is, this is just the beginning. Kiddo’s have a way of pushing on all of our comfortable places, causing discomfort, and making us reassess. And this is actually a really good thing…
Mama, your life is about to be changed for the best ride. It’s uncomfortable and hard and beautiful and wonderful. I just want to give you permission to gain weight in your thighs and your arms and your belly and to know it’s ok. Your life isn’t doomed because of fat. You will have the chance to get fit. Your health is a great priority to keep up now and after they are born.
If you’re struggling with your body image through pregnancy, leave a comment below. I’d love to encourage you personally!