Throughout our lifetime, we all experience periods of immense change and transformation. Going through the process of pregnancy is certainly one of those periods. A time that sees not only the growth of a new human, but also the transition into parenthood. If you are simultaneously struggling with an ED, or have lived experience of an ED, this period of change can be confronting and at times distressing.
Physiological changes might be the first confronting aspect of pregnancy that comes to mind.
You may feel out of control of the changes that start to occur and the sensations you experience. In addition to dealing with this, you may also experience symptoms like nausea, fatigue and changes in appetite, such as increased appetite, food aversions and cravings. Overall, a confronting experience for most people, let alone someone who is already struggling with body acceptance and nourishment.
Where possible, try to reframe these changes rather than allowing your ED to take you down the rabbit hole of self-deprecation. Explore using grounding affirmations to guide you. If you feel that you need to avoid your body a little bit whilst you adjust to the changes, give yourself permission to do this! You are allowed to take your time to come to terms with what you are experiencing.
If you can, try to find a moisturizer or body oil that you enjoy the smell of and take time regularly to apply this to your body. This helps us show a little bit of care and appreciation for the body that is changing and can be a nice sensory experience. If you don’t feel comfortable touching your body, ask your partner or a supportive person to apply the product for you or use a body oil stick or bar that creates space between your hands and your body.
One of the most challenging aspects of physical transformation is that it is ongoing and progressive.
There is no “end point”. Bodies will continue to change up until the birth of your baby and then change again in the post-partum period. Try to release the expectations of “bouncing back” or pre-planning changing your weight and shape after the birth. The reality is that pregnancy, birth and parenthood are enormous changes to your life as a whole and bodies are designed to adjust as they need. Bodies are not meant to stay the same over your life and the changes that happen in this period are essential to creating and sustaining new life. It is okay to feel overwhelmed by this! Grief around your body, relationship to your body and your eating disorder are all allowed! It is an intense period of change, so try being kind, or at least neutral towards your body whenever you can.
Psychologically and emotionally a lot is happening too.
Not only are you processing the physiological changes, but you might also experience an increase in anxiety as you prepare to bring a new life into this world. Contrary to widely held belief, feeling excited and connected to the transition to parenthood is not everyone’s experience. Processing this transition can take time and an openness to feel a complex set of emotions. This can leave you feeling vulnerable and unsettled, which are feelings that eating disorders love to take advantage of. Eating disorders take any opportunity to try and sneak back into control!
Be aware of your emotional state and the shifts and changes you are experiencing and seek support where possible. It will not help you or your baby If you suffer in silence. Try to work on self-soothing, communicating your needs and emotions and be gentle with yourself. Remember that this is your pregnancy, your journey and your health. Surround yourself with people who will honor this, rather than make unhelpful comments or disempower you.
Sometimes we might find ourselves questioning how our eating disorder will impact the life of our future child. Try not to get ahead of yourself too much and focus on finding a sense of comfort or safety within the moment. You might like to spend time journaling about what values you would like to take into parenthood and what this might mean for your eating disorder. When you are feeling surges of intense emotions, try to ride the wave of it without being too reactive and using unhelpful coping skills. The emotions may be complex and confusing, but the intensity will settle and pass.