When my clients become pregnant again after a pregnancy loss, they often express some degree of dissatisfaction with their weight. They tell me that they never got back to their “starting weight,” the number on the scale at the beginning of the first pregnancy. They express disappointment about this and fear about the weight they will gain in the subsequent pregnancy. They worry that it will be all that much harder to lose the weight at the end of the new pregnancy.
These feelings and fears are all valid.
It can be incredibly frustrating to not be where one wants to be. I try to help women expand their perspective when it comes to their bodies and pregnancy. For some women who have had a pregnancy loss, weight and the relationship with one’s body is seen as a minor or frivolous concern because their main focus is having a healthy baby and getting themselves and their babies to the finish line.
Sometimes, women do attach additional meaning to the extra weight. It can be helpful to make these additional meanings explicit in the therapy. For some, the extra weight is a tangible reminder of the baby who died. For those who by choice or circumstance do not get pregnant again right away, losing the baby weight may feel like they are getting farther away from the baby and the memories they hold.
More feelings of grief and pain sometimes emerge around the issue of maternity clothing. Some women want to re-use maternity clothes from their first pregnancy while others want nothing to do with them. Anyone who has attempted to wear a first-trimester pair of pants from a previous pregnancy only to find that they need to dig deeper into the pile for a second-trimester pair can tell you how painful it can be. The reminder of the extra weight may be upsetting by itself but it also reminds the mother of what she lost. “I should have a 3-month-old right now,” is a sentiment I hear many women express when we talk about how it feels to carry additional weight but have no living baby.
Health and Fitness
There are no easy or standard solutions to dealing with body image concerns after a pregnancy loss but a little perspective can go a long way. While health and fitness are important, giving yourself some extra time to grieve may be required before you can get back to some kind of fitness routine. Taking small steps towards fitness may work best. Pay attention to how your body feels when starting any new activity.
As always, eating well and following your care provider’s recommendations can help you feel like you are being proactive in taking care of yourself (and your baby if you are pregnant again.) Exercise, if you feel up to it, doesn’t have to mean hitting the gym hard 5 days per week. Exercise benefits can be enormous and sometimes simple things like walking and swimming can make a big difference in mood and overall feeling of wellbeing.
You may have barely adjusted to changes in your body after the loss when you find yourself pregnant again. You may notice that you look farther along than you are. Others may notice the pregnancy sooner. While common, these can be changes can be difficult to manage for those who wish to keep the new pregnancy a secret.
Grief comes and goes in waves.
How you feel about yourself and your body may ebb and flow too. Carrying a baby and losing a baby are things that happen to the body and so it’s natural to blame one’s body for failing when there is a pregnancy loss. Trying to find compassion for your body and its imperfections is a difficult thing and for many, a work in progress. If you are struggling to find a good balance with these issues talk with a trusted friend or therapist.