PREGNANCY GUIDE: HOTMAMA! Being Comfortable in Your Pregnant Skin

Posted by queenmadison

How do you feel comfortable in your own body when you're not the only one in your body? Get tips to help you strengthen your self concept as you prepare for baby.
I've said it time and time again: If I could look as good in a pregnant state as Denise Richards or Brooke Shields, I'd continue reproducing possibly until the end of time. There are many women who love being pregnant. And for each woman who glows with splendor while carrying a baby inside her, there are probably two (at least) who, for various reasons, count the minutes between getting a positive pregnancy test and looking into their newborn's eyes.
Since having my first daughter five years ago, the consumer industry's approach toward these precious nine months has undeniably changed. Some Labor and Delivery units rival the Ritz Carlton, and with the myriad of new merchandise on the market aimed at expectant women, one could almost consider getting pregnant simply for the sheer enjoyment of experimenting with them all. Whether it involves a change in perspective or products, there are many approaches pregnant women can take to ensure that they feel great about themselves—inside and out—while expecting.
The Truth
What many women forget—as they stare in disbelief at the cover of a magazine portraying an expectant celebrity eight months along and counting but looking no more than four—is that celebrities have access to dietitians, personal trainers, and personal shoppers whose job it is to keep them trim, toned, and magazine-cover ready. Note: As you work to put your eyes back in their sockets and close your mouth while balancing the aforementioned magazine on the newly grown shelf just below your chest, please don't forget about airbrushing. Add to that the likely possibility that four minutes or so after that celebrity walks in the front door with her new baby, her trainer pops up in front of her with cartoon-like enthusiasm, a protein shake, and a reminder that he'll meet her in six weeks (or less) for a two-hour run, 1,000 crunches, and some Pilates.
Rest assured, there are a few pregnancy pitfalls that even celebrities can't avoid. Stretch marks, excessive weight gain, and swelling can all be part of the process depending on the way in which one's body responds. As fabulous as Demi Moore looked on the cover of Vanity Fair in 1991, it was rumored in many a magazine that even she lives with stretch marks. The gossip magazines had a field day when Kate Hudson gained a rumored 75 pounds during her pregnancy. However, she appeared quite happy in nearly every picture taken of her during this time, lending more than an ounce of credibility to the idea that how you feel about yourself while pregnant is what it's all about.
Hip (and Affordable) Maternity Clothes
One of the best ways to send your I-feel-frumpy state of mind through the revolving door to Hotel Get-A-Load-Of-Me is by revamping your maternity wardrobe. Thankfully, the era of maternity muumuus with patterns so bold that one could be seen coming a mile away on Madison Avenue at rush hour is long gone. The celebrity-sported maternity lines which were once reserved only for those with a bank account balance that grew in tandem with their bellies are now being created for the rest of us. An added bonus: they're cute!
So, toss the sweats that are two sizes too big and hit the mall. Find some styles that catch your eye. Spend a bit more to buy a few bottoms that you really like (because the part of you from the hips down is likely to be the part about which you feel not-so-good), and pair those with bright, fun, stylish tops. Liz Lange has a maternity line at Target which is not only affordable, it's adorable. The Gap has done wonderfully with their collection (and you can return items that don't fit properly directly to the stores, saving you shipping charges). The affordable options available online are limitless.
Product Availability
With so much merchandise on the market geared toward pregnant women—from stretch mark minimizing cream, to sunscreen that allegedly prevents chloasma, to leg cream that can supposedly bring immediate relaxation to legs and ankles—there's nary an excuse not to feel spectacular, or at least have fun trying.
According to Stephanie Breemes, mom of one-year-old Ava, "If a company sells you on the promise that its lotion will reduce or prevent stretch marks, I think it's worth a try. As soon as I found out I was pregnant, I got my hands on Palmer's Cocoa Butter Formula lotion for stretch marks and was a faithful user right up until the day I delivered."
A firm believer that doing whatever it takes to feel your best is an important part of being pregnant, Breemes continued to use that lotion even after her belly grew so large that stretch marks ended up making a small appearance in her last trimester. "Mentally," she said, "it made me feel like I was at least trying to take care of what used to be my body!"
The Wonder of Water
Water is so sacred, it's a wonder it's free. Don't forget for even a second the importance of drinking enough water each day.
According to Dr. Susan Warhus, an obstetrician based in Scottsdale, Arizona, and the author of Countdown to Baby: Answers to the 100 Most Asked Questions About Pregnancy and Childbirth, "Drinking water is important for everyone's good health, even more so during pregnancy. Drinking water helps to prevent preterm contractions, keeps your skin hydrated, assists in maintaining regular bowel function, and helps to prevent urinary tract infections." During pregnancy, "maintain regular bowel function" can be translated as "avoid hemorrhoids." Believe me, you'll feel much better if you do not have to contend with these!
Try to focus on drinking at least eight glasses of water per day. Purchase a thermos-style container that not only fits into the cup holder of your car, but also has a straw-like attachment. (If you're trying to take a sip from a wide-mouth opening while going 60mph down the freeway, I promise you're going to go over a bump just as the liquid begins entering your mouth. It will then appear to everyone at your destination that perhaps you're suffering from another potential pitfall of pregnancy: incontinence.) Using a thermos with a volume indicator also makes it easier to keep track of daily intake; if you are using a 32-ounce container, you know that to meet your daily minimum you need to fill it and finish it at least twice.
Exercise
No one would suggest training for a triathlon or sustaining an exercise routine that would make Jennifer Garner's trainer proud, but exercising during pregnancy to the extent permitted by your doctor provides numerous benefits.
According to Martha Hazel, BS, ACE certified personal trainer, "Women who exercise during pregnancy can generally expect to see less ankle swelling, fatigue, constipation, and shortness of breath. Other benefits include easier recovery from labor, greater energy reserves, and enhanced psychological well-being."
Warhus concurs. "Many women find that [exercise] provides them with extra energy and stamina, and is also a way to blow off steam and deal with anxiety." However, Warhus cautions, "If you are not used to exercising, be sure to begin cautiously and slowly."
A State of Calm
The emotional changes a woman experiences while pregnant may, in fact, cause her the most discomfort—both directly and indirectly. The stress that may be experienced due to negotiating the upcoming lifestyle changes or deciding which stroller to purchase is often managed differently by a woman with extra hormones floating around. Notes Warhus, "It stands to reason that as your body goes through significant changes during pregnancy, so do your emotions. It's quite common to have a mixture of feelings that may range from euphoria to fear to sadness."
Warhus has spent many years reassuring her own patients that emotional stress does not seem to have a definite negative effect on pregnancy outcomes. "Still," she warns, "stress may have effects on you and your baby that medical science does not completely understand." For example, stress can lead to an elevated heart rate or elevated stress hormones, and a fetus may very well "feel" these changes within your body.
Mindful exercises such as yoga or meditation can be beneficial not only during these nine months, but at any point in your life when you are feeling more anxious than usual. Some days, calming music and a good book (that has nothing to do with parenthood) can make for a more relaxing afternoon than navigating the aisles of Babies "R" Us again in search of the perfect pacifier. And last, but certainly not least, a good maternity massage never hurt anyone!
Fringe Benefits
Store clerks' eyes will bulge if they believe there's even a remote possibility that you'll deliver in Aisle 9 between the pickles and the potato chips. One of the best things about being obviously pregnant is that you will likely be allowed, implored perhaps, to cut in line at the grocery store, the home improvement store—the Department of Motor Vehicles even. (Certainly, data has been collected which proves that the best time to renew your driver's license is somewhere between the seven-month mark and the timeframe during which your water might break while in line.) Typically, the more uncomfortable you look, the better your chances. So, this might be a good time to breathe a bit more loudly than normal, or push your hands into the small of your back and emit a low groan. But there's still no reason not to be wearing a cute outfit.
What truly matters most is each pregnant woman's perception of herself during this amazing time. Each change that your body undergoes is its own response to the miracle growing inside you. Regardless of one's preconceptions of what makes a beautiful pregnant body, the fact is everyone's pregnancy and pregnant shape is unique. These nine months are a time to be celebrated. So lather on a great-smelling body cream, don a fabulous outfit, grab a bottle of water, and let the whole world hear you roar.