8 tips for a more fulfilling pregnancy!

While some women experience a heightened awareness of their femininity and beauty at this time in their lives, many fight feelings of despair as their body changes without their consent or control.

The first thing to remember when trying to boost your self esteem is that you are unique. Your experiences are unique, your body is unique and your pregnancy weight, shape, feelings and symptoms are also peculiar to you and the child you are carrying.

Body image is the way in which we perceive our physical selves and the way we think and feel about our bodies. It incorporates our imagination, emotions and physical sensations much more than any objective perception of the way we actually look. It’s the way in which we believe we are seen by others, the way we present ourselves to the world and one of the foundations of self-esteem. While research consistently shows that most Australian adults perceive themselves to be bigger than they actually are, the psychological nature of these perceptions means we can alter them to become more content and confident with our appearance.

Naturally, our perception of self changes and fluctuates throughout our life and is affected by such things as illness, puberty, the menstrual cycle, menopause, injury, fitness and age, as well as by pregnancy. While some of these situations and changes will boost our confidence, others will erode it, making us feel awkward in our bodies and even frustrated, but our reactions can be altered with patience and a conscious effort. Pregnancy is a time in a woman’s life when there are myriad scary, exciting, deeply personal and very public changes happening to her body and it’s no wonder this can impact on a woman’s perception of herself and not always in positive ways. While some women experience a heightened awareness of their femininity and beauty at this time, many fight feelings of despair as their body changes without their consent or control. Learning how to manage your body image during pregnancy can make the experience a serene and even sensual one; a time during which your body’s changes become a wonder rather than something to rail against.


Love the skin you’re in

Self esteem is the way we value ourselves. It’s loving yourself in a way that gives you the confidence to do the right things for your body and mind. It profoundly affects your experiences and the decisions you make; so much so that poor self esteem can have a devastating affect on your life. Developing good self esteem is partly about giving yourself a break, about understanding that no one is physically or emotionally perfect and to have expectations that are too high is a sure way to set yourself up for failure. To improve self esteem it’s important to acknowledge and embrace your quirks and recognise the beauty that comes out of simply being you and enjoying that experience. It’s crucial to applaud yourself for your strengths and successes and to celebrate the good things you do and the wonderful things that have happened to you.

The first thing to remember when trying to boost your self esteem is you are unique. Your experiences are unique, your body is unique and your pregnancy weight, shape, feelings and symptoms are also peculiar to you and the child you are carrying. While sharing experiences with other pregnant women and mums can be both reassuring and a way to voice any fears and concerns you may have, it’s important to keep in mind that you will all have different pregnancies and births and that this is normal and natural. Women carry their children differently and the weight gain necessary for a healthy pregnancy will be carried differently, too. When thinking about your body, don’t compare yourself to others; instead relish the peculiarities of your pregnancy and remember them. Acknowledge that there will be times when you don’t feel comfortable in your skin, when you may feel a bit awkward, and that these feelings will pass. Nurture yourself at these times through body treatments or an exercise class that will help you to feel strong and energised. Focus, too, on those things about yourself and your appearance that you like and highlight them. No one’s body is perfect but we all have something beautiful about us. If you focus on these things your spirits will lift and your confidence will climb. Surround yourself with those people who make you feel good about who you are. Many of our body hang-ups come from cultural ideals and the sometimes hurtful comments of friends and family. While these comments are generally not intended to undermine your self-confidence they often do and the damage takes persistence and conscious effort to undo.


The pregnant body

There are three parts to the way body image is most affected by pregnancy. There are the symptoms of pregnancy such as nausea, swollen feet, mood swings and lethargy, all of which can make you feel uncomfortable and unhappy. There is the weight gain and the way the belly swells to accommodate the growing child, which can cause a woman alarm or detachment. There is also the predominant socio-cultural attitude of the forever-slim female body. All these factors influence the way a woman feels about herself and they can be amplified by comments from friends, family and even strangers, particularly during the in-between stage of pregnancy where weight gain or other symptoms cannot obviously be attributed to your condition.

As mentioned, every woman has a very different experience of these things and they’re often unpredictable and can even vary between an individual woman’s pregnancies across her reproductive life. The trick then is to put these symptoms and changes into perspective, acknowledging they are temporary and will result in the birth of a baby. This is also important to keep in mind as it will allow you to nurture yourself during your pregnancy and form a positive bond with your body that will hold you in good stead after the baby’s birth and beyond. Forming a positive bond can be crucial, as poor body image affects self esteem, energy levels and enjoyment of life in general. A poor body image can result in depression, unhealthy eating and exercise habits and, in some cases, withdrawal from your partner, friends and family and even resentment of the child growing within you. Knowing why your body is changing and being aware that these changes are temporary will go some way toward helping you accept that for several months your control over your body is going to be limited. Giving yourself over to these facts of life can then free you and your partner to experience the beauty and wonder of the pregnant female form.

Body changes

Pregnancy is a time when a woman should be able to relax into the changes that pregnancy makes to her body, but a lifetime of social conditioning to value the Western ideal of the slender form does not simply go away during these months. It’s important to remember, though, that some weight gain during pregnancy is necessary for both you and your unborn child. Your baby relies on this weight gain for its very life. While you may have spent a good Deal of time and energy keeping your figure a particular way, it’s time to relinquish this picture of yourself, albeit temporarily. As long as the weight you put on is in the healthy range for both you and your child (generally between 10 and 20 kilograms), you can lose it again after the birth. Maintaining healthy eating habits will ensure the weight you do put on will be the best source of fuel for you and your child.

The fact that your body can accommodate another living being that will grow from the tiniest cell into a fully formed human is amazing in itself. That this child is yours and your partners to nurture, love, teach and learn from swells the heart. Your body is supporting another life and your hormones are doing crazy things to accommodate and support this tiny person growing inside you. It cannot be a process without side-effects. Ask as many questions as you need to reassure yourself that the experiences you are having are normal and appropriate, and then embrace or at least accept that this is a part of the process. Always remember that at the end of your pregnancy the life you and your partner have produced will be well worth any discomfort you have felt.



Many women take their cues from their partner when it comes to body image, particularly when they’re feeling vulnerable, and it’s therefore important to communicate effectively and keep your relationships intimate. This does not necessarily mean engaging in intercourse, as your sex drive will fluctuate during the different stages of pregnancy, but to maintain a physical relationship of some kind. Talking over the changes occurring in your body can be both reassuring and sensual, especially when combined with massage. Pregnancy massage can be learnt by your partner and is a way to bond as a couple and to keep a level of sensuality attached to your growing tummy.

It’s also important to remember that your partner can feel alarmed at your changing form, not because it’s unattractive but because it represents a change in your relationship and the role you will each play. A woman who becomes a mother can sometimes trigger a hands-off response in her partner, whereby he feels concerned that he might hurt her or the child or that any sexual overtures may be inappropriate. Communication is the key to overcoming any issues that will inevitably arise with pregnancy.



Research into pregnancy and its effect on a woman’s body image is currently being conducted by Dr Helen Skouteris at La Trobe University in Melbourne. From early findings it would seem that body image improves with fitness. This doesn’t mean exercising to lose weight but exercising to improve fitness and in doing so getting to know and appreciate your body.

Exercising can help you feel strong and sexy. It puts you in touch with the way your body works and a moving body is a very sensual one. If you haven’t had an exercise routine before pregnancy, make sure you don’t begin one without advice. It’s also important to remember to modify your program as your pregnancy develops.



Don’t be tempted to hide your tummy. Be proud and make use of the growing range of suitable clothes that are less like tents and more in line with a woman’s sense of style and femininity. Many women these days choose to wear body-hugging outfits that emphasise their growing stomach to great effect.

It’s important to maintain your sense of style during your pregnancy in order to keep connected with who you are, to protect your identity. Keep wearing your favourite accessories, your favourite colours and your makeup if that’s what you normally do. If you like to wear pretty underwear continue to do so. There are ranges of maternity underwear available that are feminine, sexy and practical. There’s no need to lose your sense of self and individuality through your pregnancy.



Get to know your changing body by pampering yourself with do-it-yourself massage or regular sessions with a qualified therapist. There are various ranges of products suitable for use during pregnancy and massaging lotion into your tummy, legs and chest is not only relaxing but will help you to feel more in tune with your changing body and more sensual. Have a facial if you feel like it, relax with your favourite music or light candles. If your symptoms make you feel less than glamorous, counteract this with treatments to cheer yourself up and give you a glow.

It’s also important during your pregnancy, for your health and wellbeing, to make sure you get plenty of rest. Don’t do too much if you don’t feel like you can’t maintain your normal routine. Your body is going through a great deal of stress in accommodating your growing child and there’s no shame in acknowledging this and resting when you feel you need to. At some stages during your pregnancy you may have more energy and at others less. The season in which you will be at your biggest will also impact on how well you cope. A catnap or simply putting your feet up can revitalise even the most flagging body.



Mindfulness is a meditative process but with less of the need to achieve a trance-like state and more of an emphasis on the need to simply be. Mindfulness is about bringing your awareness to any state you find yourself in, whether it be joyful or painful. Mindfulness meditation is all about learning to be curious without judgement. Whether it be joy or sadness, embarrassment, pleasure, back pain, contempt, a headache or heartbreak, it’s all about living each and every moment.

Breathing is an integral part of mindfulness and it’s the quickest and easiest way to calm yourself and slow down. Breathing properly is something we do as children but something most of us need to relearn as adults. Proper breathing happens in the belly. Sit down on the floor or on a cushion with your back straight but not rigid. Place your hands on your knees or in your lap, shoulders relaxed. Close your eyes and concentrate on each breath, noticing how your stomach extends with each inhalation and deflates with each exhalation. Focus on your breathing and keep your mind on the sensation of each breath.

Bringing mindfulness to daily life takes practice but is ultimately rewarding. Using your senses to fully experience each moment without judging it allows you to actually be present in ways you may not have been before. It’s especially good in managing pain as it takes you out of the experience, disconnecting you from the sensation and reducing the effect of the pain on your body and mind. The pregnant female form is often celebrated in photographs and paintings and it should be remembered that this is because the pregnant body represents more than just the birth of a child; it also represents hope and beauty and love. While it may not always be easy to embrace your pregnancy it’s worth reminding yourself during those down moments just what amazing things are going on inside you as your child grows. It’s not an experience every woman will have the opportunity to have and it is both magical and precious.

The WellBeing Team

The WellBeing Team

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