Pregnant woman sits on the bed holding her stomach

Navigating pregnancy in a bigger body with a history of disordered eating

While having a baby is exciting for many, those with a history of disordered eating often feel triggered by the idea of their body changing throughout pregnancy or the judgement they may face at the prospect of gaining weight. If that’s your experience, it makes complete sense. As your body changes, so do your emotions and hormones. These shifts can feel overwhelming and disorienting. And in most cases, if you’re living in a bigger body, you’ve experienced shame and disrespect during healthcare encounters, with friends, and even from family members in the past. 

The best way to take care of yourself is to know you are worthy of respect, set boundaries, and pay attention to what you need to feel like yourself. While there are many approaches to finding comfort and support, the tips below may help you get started. 

Get grounded

There’s a lot of information out there about “good” vs. “bad” pregnancy and your weight. First of all, try to remember that each body is different and requires specific care. Next, remind yourself that living in a bigger body alone doesn’t mean you’re putting your health (or the health of your baby) at risk. Most plus-sized pregnant people have healthy pregnancies and healthy babies. 

Learn the facts

It’s worth learning about the health risks associated with being pregnant in a bigger body so you know what to look out for. While some people are at a higher risk of certain pregnancy complications including chronic hypertension, gestational diabetes, and preeclampsia, others are not. Knowing your family history, your own health history, and your health risks before pregnancy will help you make choices to maintain your overall health during pregnancy. Working alongside your healthcare team in order to continue or add in health behaviors during your pregnancy will go a long way towards keeping you and baby safe and healthy.

Notice how you feel

Our culture focuses heavily on body image and appearance. This can make it difficult to pay attention to what your body wants, needs, likes, and dislikes. While it’s very understandable to get distracted by societal expectations and pressures, now could be an opportunity to pay attention to how you feel, rather than how you look. Of course, this is easier said than done and likely takes a lot of practice. 

Try out a day of no “mirror-checking.” This can help you reflect inward and sense how you really feel. If you’re finding that using a scale isn’t serving you, ditch yours and let your provider know that you prefer not to be weighed at appointments.

Practice self-reflection

Some people find meditation helpful. You could also take a few minutes each day to consider your: 

  • Sleep. How many hours of sleep do you need to feel rested? Does your daily routine support your sleep?
  • Nutrition. What foods nourish and energize you? Which ones slow you down?
  • Physical activity. How do you like to move your body? Stretching? Walking? Exercising? What kind of activity do you look forward to coming back to again and again.
  • Mental and emotional health. What thoughts, feelings, and moods do you experience throughout the day? Which ones do you want to hold onto? Which ones do you want to let go? Do I need additional support?

Ask these questions to yourself with genuine curiosity and without judgment. 

Find a trusted care team

A good network of dependable experts can support you throughout your pregnancy. In addition to your primary care provider, your team could include a therapist, registered dietitian, physical therapist, and/or anybody else who can help you with your health. While this could feel daunting, there are some simple steps you can take to build a team that works for you. Checking out providers who promote Intuitive Eating and Health At Every Size principles is a great place to start.

Advocate for yourself

You can start off by learning how to state your needs to your provider. It’s also helpful to have a support person join you at appointments. Remember, if you feel targeted, frightened, or less-than at your healthcare appointments because you’re pregnant in a bigger body, it’s time to find better care. You deserve to be treated with respect, dignity, and kind, compassionate care. 

Reviewed by the Ovia Health Clinical Team

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