Inside: If you’re feeling unattractive during pregnancy, know that there are other women out there feeling the exact same way. Get seven practical tips for how to deal with those negative feelings about your pregnant body.
All my life, I’ve seen pictures of beautiful, thin, white women plastered over the covers of magazines. In every movie I’ve watched, that’s who gets the guy.
You know the type of woman I’m talking about—the body that seems to have a low body fat, a little bit of muscle tone, but of course, not too much. Probably perfect porcelain skin. Curves resembling Barbie.
As women, we are indoctrinated pretty much from birth, that one of the most important things we can do is to attempt to live up to this golden standard of beauty.
The messages are subtle. But over decades, we slowly absorb these beauty ideals. We know subconsciously that how we look plays into our sense of worth.
This message doesn’t seem to let up when we get pregnant. I mean, why would it?!
In parenting magazines, in photos of celebrity pregnancies, in depictions of pregnant women in movies, you’re given the impression that pregnancy will involve:
- a perfect glow of the skin
- a small and cute baby bump, and of course,
- the cutest maternity clothes.
It’s everywhere, all the time. And it’s extremely unhelpful for those of us that struggle with body image.
Women Actually Feel Attractive During Pregnancy? Seriously?
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I don’t know about you, but all of those messages worked on me. I expected that during my pregnancy, I would feel absolutely beautiful all the time.
After all, I feel like it was this unspoken promise…that when I had this miracle of life growing inside of me, I would just simply glow from the inside out all day, every day. Yes, even with all the puking.
Sigh. I was oh very wrong.
Just in case no one has ever said this to you: it’s okay to feel unattractive during pregnancy. Supposedly there are women who adore their pregnant bodies, but you don’t need to be one of them.
There’s a lot standing in the way of you feeling confident about your pregnant bod.
You know…maybe it’s the fact that you spent 12 weeks curled over toilet bowl ridding your body of every ounce of food it ate the last 24 hours.
Or the swollen feet that you now decorate with some Crocs or Berkinstocks.
Or the acne and brown splotches that’s painting your face instead of that elusive pregnancy glow.
Or the ginormous belly that makes you cringe at even the thought of physical intimacy.
Or the fact that right next to your container of prenatal vitamins is also a Costco size container of Tums.
And I mean, how are you supposed to feel attractive and beautiful when every few weeks your feet are up in stirrups with doctors snoopin’ around your privates?!
You aren’t alone if you and your self-esteem are struggling through pregnancy, or even if you outright hate your pregnant body.
For every women who loves pregnancy and thrives throughout it, there is one who is simply surviving it. And I’d venture to say that there are a whole lot more survivors than thrivers – the thrivers are just a whole lot quieter.
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Practical Ways to Handle Feeling Unattractive During Pregnancy
You exist for more than to be beautiful or to feel beautiful. While you absolutely don’t need to feel guilty about feeling less than beautiful, the good thing is that you can change your feelings by changing your thoughts and challenging your assumptions.
It sounds very woo-woo, I know, but there is brain science to back it up.
Here’s a quick run-down on how to do that.
1. Give yourself permission to feel unattractive.
While you can definitely change your feelings (more on that later), stuffing them down and pushing them away won’t help. Give yourself room to feel those unattractive feelings.
Acceptance is healthy. Just don’t let yourself sit in those feelings long-term.
By the time you found your way to this post, you probably have already been feeling this way for a while, and that’s more than o.k.! But now give yourself a time limit to let yourself sit with those feelings – an hour, a day even?
Probably no more than a couple of days though. After that it’s time to choose to move forward to…
2. Focus on the amazing thing your body is doing.
Concentrate your energy on growing in gratitude and AWE for how amazing your body is. You are growing a freaking HUMAN.
Comedian Jim Gaffigan puts it this way:
“But truly, women are amazing! Think about it this way: a woman can grow a baby inside her body. Then a woman can deliver the baby through her body. Then, by some miracle, a woman can feed a baby with her body. When you compare that to a man’s contribution to life, it’s kind of embarrassing, really!Jim Gaffigan
And if you need a good laugh, watch this clip where the quote comes from: it’s the best!
3. Eliminate things that make you feel worse about yourself.
Do you get Pregnancy Fit magazine, full of perfectly airbrushed (and thin) pregnant women? Are you following a pregnancy account on Instagram that leaves you feeling like garbage every time you see it?
Cancel the magazine subscriptions. Unfollow the social media accounts.
Maybe you need to get rid of your full length mirror for a while, too.
If you already feel unattractive, you don’t need to be pouring over things that make you feel worse. Even if you were writing it off as “inspirational”, the last thing you need during pregnancy is to feel pressured to change your body.
Trying harder to make your body look a certain way is definitely not healthy during pregnancy.
4. Check in with your self talk and negative thoughts.
Here’s where we get to the brain science behind your thoughts. You can create a different reality for yourself with your thoughts. You can literally retrain your brain!
If you think of your thoughts like a worn-down track in the grass, when you think the same thoughts over and over again on repeat, the more set the track gets…and the harder it is to choose a new track.
So it’s much easier to STAY in that thought loop, and getting out of it takes awareness and work.
First, you need to clarify the negative thoughts that are leading to you feeling unattractive, like “Ugh, I am so fat and ugly.” Take a day or so and keep a thought journal if its helpful.
Whenever you start feeling rotten about your pregnant body, see if you can trace it back to the exact thoughts that come before or with those feelings.
Next, choose replacement thoughts. The trick with these is that you have to find them believable.
Saying, “I’m so beautiful and glowing and attractive,” to yourself when you see the opposite of that in the mirror, well, your brain knows you’re a liar. Those types of positive pregnancy affirmations might not be as helpful (you’re welcome to try them though!).
Personally, I went with, “My body is so strong, and I am more than capable of enduring this pregnancy.” But you could also try some like, “I accept my pregnant body for what it is and am grateful for all its capable of.”
You might not ever be able to say, “I love my pregnant body,” or “I am radiant and beautiful,” and that’s o.k.
5. Assume you are attractive to your partner, unless told otherwise.
Often, feeling unattractive is also connected to how you think your husband or partner sees you. You might assume that he/she doesn’t find you attractive, and absolutely doesn’t want to do anything in bed (or anywhere else) with your growing pregnant body.
That’s not necessarily true. Surprisingly, the opposite is often true!
Unless your partner has told you flat out, “I’m sorry, but I don’t find you attractive during pregnancy,” (in which case, ummm, counseling maybe?) assume your partner loves your pregnant body far more than you do.
I mean, just read these responses from how men feel about women’s bodies during pregnancy. Hopefully they help strengthen your belief in your attractiveness to your partner (even if you’re feeling unattractive to your husband during pregnancy and really can’t stand your own pregnant body).
6. Spend time doing things that will boost your confidence and mental health.
Exercise, reading, resting, laughing with girlfriends, decluttering, buying a new piece of clothing. These are all self-care activities you can do during pregnancy to boost your confidence and mental health.
As a physical trainer, I definitely recommend exercising to whatever degree you are able and your physician has approved. Get those endorphins going!
Even something as simple as walking for 15 minutes a day can do wonders for your mental health and overall perspective on life.
7. Find support.
This is easier said than done, but finding other women who understand what you’re going through can make all the difference.
Sisters, friends, coworkers who are pregnant or have been. Look for Facebook support groups, or join the Babycenter forum for the month of your due date.
Being able to share when you’re feeling low about your growing body – or even outright hating pregnancy (even though you love your baby) – with women who get it is invaluable.
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Your Pregnant Body Isn’t Your Forever Body
You are doing a GREAT job, mama.
Remember, pregnancy won’t last forever. Although your postpartum body will have its own challenges – your body will never be the same again – one day your body will be your own again.
Until then, remember, you are strong, and your worth is not connected to how beautiful you feel today.
So stop staring in the mirror.
Go for a walk, book a massage, and embrace the amazing gift that your body is.
You’ve got this, mama!
Lauren is passionate about seeing mamas FLOURISH postpartum, one workout at a time! A Pregnancy and Postpartum Athleticism Coach and Postnatal Fitness Specialist, she works 1:1 with moms in-person or virtually through my Postpartum Strong Mentorship. Sign up for her e-mail list HERE to see all she has to offer or follow her on Instagram @strongmamatribe.