Nationally acclaimed women’s health expert Marla Ahlgrimm answers common questions about pregnancy and body image in the following question and answer session.
Q: What kind of physical changes can I expect when I become pregnant?
Marla Ahlgrimm: Aside from an expanding belly, many women tend to break out more often while pregnant. Some women notice their feet get larger and they start to see prominent varicose veins. During pregnancy, swelling of the hands and feet are common and some women even experience nosebleeds and frequent urinary tract infections. No two women are alike and your body will change in ways that are unique to you.
Q: How can I cope with body image issues during pregnancy?
Marla Ahlgrimm: I find it helpful to remember that your body is changing for a very good reason – your growing baby. Talk with friends, especially women who have had children, and don’t hide your concerns or bottle up your emotions. Learn as much as you can about pregnancy so you’ll know what to expect in the coming months.
Q: Will I ever get my body back?
Marla Ahlgrimm: It’s very likely that your body will never be exactly the same after giving birth. You may find that your formerly toned and tight tummy may look a little softer. If you got stretch marks during your pregnancy, they may not fully go away. However, while your “new” body may be different, it is just as beautiful as the one you enjoyed prior to motherhood.
Q: Can I diet during pregnancy?
Marla Ahlgrimm: While it’s important to eat a healthy variety of foods, most women should actually increase their caloric intake while pregnant. Talk with your doctor if you’re concerned that you’re gaining too much weight. Understand that nutrition is vital to your baby. Some women, unfortunately, develop eating disorders that results in malnutrition while pregnant. This can trigger a number of complications, including low birth weight, delayed fetal growth, intrauterine growth retardation, gestational diabetes, respiratory problems, and, in extreme cases, stillbirth or fetal death.