A woman’s body inevitably undergoes dramatic changes during pregnancy. There can be a multitude of emotional reactions to the physical transformation that occurs. Pregnant women generally fall into three different categories in terms of their attitudes towards their growing bodies: “The Welcomers”, “The Tolerators” and “The Opposers”.
For “The Welcomers”, the ability to see and feel their bodies accommodating their growing babies is met with feelings of excitement and purpose. “The Tolerators” view the host of physical changes as a means to an end that need not be celebrated nor resisted. And then there are the many pregnant women who fall into “The Opposers” category, as they struggle with their body image and self perception as their pregnancies unfold.
There are a number of contributing factors to “The Opposers” experience and a variety of reasons they may feel emotionally uncomfortable. At the onset of pregnancy, women are getting used to all the adjustments entailed while often keeping their news a secret. As they begin to show, they may become increasingly self conscious about their weight gain and body shape and may even have to field unsolicited comments from others about their physiques. This sets the stage for a conflict between wanting to hide what is happenning and feeling excited and secure about the pregnancy. The result can lead to overwhelming feelings of vulnerability.
Another difficult phenomenon that is experienced is when pregnant women maintain a healthy diet and exercise regimen, as perhaps they always have, yet suddenly they are increasing in body size. Given the counterintuitive nature of this, it not uncommon for women to feel out of control as a consequence. Whether at the beginning of pregnancy, when many women do not feel that they actually look pregnant, or towards the end of a pregnancy, when many women feel excessively large, this can be experienced as confusing and upsetting.
Additionally, there are those who feel the pressures from society to be thin, so they may consequently carry a sense of shame with them throughout their pregnancies. Perhaps they have derived a sense of power, control and or assurance through weight maintenance prior to pregnancy. They may have difficulty maintaining a sense of separation from the the biological metamorphosis and the external transformation, which results in a poor self image and a decrease in self confidence.
Pregnant women may grapple with a mixture of feelings including anxiety and depression as they witness and experience their bodies expand. The emotional discomfort can be rooted in various sources, including insecurity, vulnerability, control issues and identity loss that is spurred by the profound changes that are occuring. If you fall into this category, please know that you are not alone. Exploring and realizing where your thoughts and feelings are coming from can provide you with an invaluable opportunity to process and address any underlying emotional or psychological issues related to your sense of self and your role as a mother.
Awareness and insight into your reactions to your growing body can set a strong foundation for the ability to parent with clarity and purpose. The more conscious you are of what is fueling your reactions, the more available and responsive you can be not only to your child, but to yourself. Whether you welcome, tolerate or oppose the changes to your body that accompany pregnancy, it is beneficial to address any pronounced obstacles so that you have the space to focus your energy on the most important aspects of impending motherhood; your emotional and physical health as well as the well being of your baby.
Therapist in Santa Monica
Judy Zexter is dedicated to helping people meet their challenges in a safe and non-judgmental environment. Judy provides psychotherapy for individuals, couples, families and groups. Her office is conveniently located in Santa Monica and is easily accessible from neighboring areas, such as Venice, Marina del Ray, Brentwood, Pacific Palisades, Culver City and West LA.