National Eating Disorders Association
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Pregnancy

There is enormous cultural pressure to have our bodies look and feel the same after pregnancy and childbirth. These narratives about “getting your body back” are presented as a focus on health, but there is nothing healthy about the expectation that your body will be unchanged by birthing a baby. This version of what it means to be healthy is fueled by a diet industry that encourages self-hatred in order to capitalize off of body modification and a health industry that promotes fat phobia rather than emphasizing access to health at every size. 

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When I got pregnant, my midwife insisted I take the gestational diabetes test repeatedly because she couldn’t believe my blood sugar was normal. The extra testing proved over and over that my baby and I were healthy, but my midwife never seemed convinced. —Anna 

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In our current healthcare model, it’s easy to fall into the trap of seeing weight and BMI as the most important measure of health. Prenatal care is no different and the focus on weight, weight gain, and the weight of the baby too often take center stage. This often has more to do with cultural beliefs about body size than evidence-based research and it can negatively impact an individual's ability to care for their body throughout their pregnancy.

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Our bodies, and our relationships with our bodies, are complicated. We bring our whole body history to birth—our stories of pleasure, pain, strength, weakness, successes, failures, belonging, and outsiderness. These histories are also shaped by lifelong and shifting relationships with food, weight, culture, and identity. As labor doulas, we support pregnant people navigate their pregnancy, birth, and postpartum period, and see firsthand that with the right support and a bit of planning, pregnancy and birth can be a profound opportunity to live in your body in a new way.  

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Pregnancy and Eating Disorders

PregnancyPregnancy and parenting require a great deal of strength—physically, psychologically, and emotionally. During pregnancy, the growing baby receives all of its nourishment from the parent’s body. While gaining weight is required for a healthy pregnancy, for those with eating disorders, having to gain weight can be very frightening. 

At this point, I think it’s safe to say that most people know better than to touch a pregnant woman’s stomach without permission. Right? Can we agree on that? Unless the pregnant woman in question is a close friend or relative, the belly is a hands-free zone.

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