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Pregnancy, weight gain & body image

Something which I haven't found openly discussed very often is the subject of coping with pregnancy weight gain, as well as being measured and weighed in appointments, when you have previously struggled with body image or eating disorders. As this was something which I personally struggled with during my own pregnancy, I felt it was right to share my experience, along with some 'in hindsight' thoughts and support links for anyone else who may be feeling this way - you are not alone.

I'm also telling this story because it's worrying to me as a birth worker that someone who is an average weight and in good health can be made to feel otherwise, and that this 'one size fits all' approach to healthcare can be so mentally damaging.

My own 10 year journey with disordered/ un-happy eating was something which was so 'part of me' that I didn't really think it was a problem until I looked back, having come out the other side following my son's birth. The lead up to my pregnancy, as is often the case, was 'The Wedding' I, like so many other brides, had taken dieting to the extreme - and following the wedding I finally started 'letting go' a little. 6 months later, when we found out we were expecting, I started to view food in a different way. Food was nutrition, and a life-source to help our little 'bean' grow, especially in those first few weeks and months.

My anxiety around food swiftly returned, however, when during an appointment with my midwife I was told I had to get on the scales so that they could figure out my BMI. It hadn't occurred to me that I would have to be weighed, and as someone who in previous months and years had used the scale as a form of reward/ punishment/ unhappy measurement of self worth... but also someone who had REFRAINED from doing that for 6 months following the wedding, knowing not only had I not been restricting myself for those 6 months, but also that I was now PREGNANT - I felt sick. I remember nervously laughing and asking if I really had to. The midwife wasn't really listening, but was getting the height measurement set up along with the scales. I asked if I could undress a little and take my heavy Uggs off - anything to try and get the inevitable shock of how much I now weighed down. Again, just polite laughter "No, that doesn't matter, just step on."

I was pretty horrified at how much I now weighed. I hadn't changed dress size since the wedding (I was a UK 10/12 - so pretty petite in the scheme of things) and my midwife soberly let me know that I wasn't 'yet' considered overweight in BMI terms, but was close. I was told if and when I pushed those boundaries and heading into 'overweight' territory that I was likely to develop Gestational Diabetes and would have to be regularly tested for this.

On the days before a midwife appointment I'd make sure I didn't eat any sugar, any carbs, any fruit... anything which I thought might skyrocket my results from the 'surprise' gestational diabetes tests I was continually promised, as my weight - obviously- steadily rose. I never did test positive for Gestational Diabetes, or indeed show any signs of having an unhealthy pregnancy, including healthy blood pressure, blood tests & blood sugars. I did 'tip the scales' and head into the 'overweight' BMI zone - just. My midwife sent me for a consultant appointment - in hindsight I have no idea why as there was nothing else 'wrong', and the consultant seemed pretty perplexed too.

I continued to work out, walk, and practice yoga. I actually started to enjoy the way my body looked - I remember when my belly finally 'popped' and I really looked pregnant, I absolutely LOVED it! I wore tight dresses and tops, something I rarely did after my teens, I started to appreciate the sensuality of my pregnant body - everything getting harder and rounder. I went on to have an amazing, uncomplicated birth. You can read that story HERE.

The first 6 months after my son was born were pretty up and down so far as body image was concerned - on the one hand I was in utter awe of what my body had done, growing and birthing our son. But on the other - it didn't look the same. I feel like the Hypnobirthing and yoga I did really helped me re-connect and re-respect my female body, and came to help me understand that it isn't something to be manipulated and punished, but a fountain, a temple to be worshipped. I began to appreciate and enjoy the soft, curvaceous shape I now have.

I now have utter respect and love for my body, for the first time since I can remember. I haven't weighed myself in 2 years & I definitely won't ever again - especially next time I am pregnant. I wish I had had the strength to say 'NO' to being weighed during pregnancy, I know I would have had a much less stressful pregnancy and postnatal period, taking that stress away.

If you're struggling with an eating disorder, or the 'ghost' of one, BEAT are a fantastic charity who can offer support and advice:

National Eating Disorders has information on eating disorders in pregnancy:

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