Baby 101: Pregnant Women and Body Image

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Body image is often a major concern for women, and during pregnancy this can become even more important.

After spending a lifetime trying to keep the numbers on the scale down, sometimes making peace with new higher numbers and new curves can be a challenge. NBC29 spoke with some experts about how to handle these natural changes.

It's hard to escape the way women are scrutinized for their size, even when their bodies are doing a very specific and important job - supporting a growing baby. 

"It's kind of sad to me to think you know here is this beautiful natural process, and we're imposing all of this judgment and sort of making these demands that are sort of unrealistic," said Kate Bruno, a registered dietician and eating disorder expert.

Bruno says it's not unusual when body image problems persist during pregnancy.

"A lot of times, women who struggle with their body image at any time including during pregnancy, feel like they need to control their body, or change their body to feel better about it, but the truth is, you really need to change the way you think about it," Bruno said.

Simply changing a mindset is tough, especially for women who have struggled to get the numbers on the scale to go down. Gaining is part of the natural process of pregnancy but stressing about the changes isn't doing you or your growing baby any good.

"I think if you've struggled with it your whole life, it actually makes sense to prioritize getting some help with it, especially during pregnancy for a couple reasons, one is the stress that your experience actually has some pretty negative implications on your growing baby," Bruno said.

Dana Holler is the founder of the Image Coach of Charlottesville. She says improving that mindset could come down to taking care of yourself both emotionally and physically.

"It's important to look and feel your best, and just because your body is going through changes, doesn't mean that you don't deserve some sort of pampering," Holler said.

And Holler's main maternity rule for looking and feeling your best? Find clothes that fit.

"Many women try to fit into their normal clothes, or normal clothes in larger sizes, and that doesn't really work. Especially in the third trimester you really need to shop for maternity clothes because they are just tailored differently than normal clothes, so you'll have plenty of room for your bump and still look great," Holler said.

Both women agree: it's normal to be frustrated about your changing body and growing waistline. Whether you turn to a family member, friend or professional, it's always OK to ask for help.

And always remember: if body image issues are putting the health of your baby in danger get help immediately. Deliberate calorie restrictions, purging, or over-exercising to avoid weight gain are some examples of behaviors that could lead to major problems for both mom and baby.

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