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From “so tiny” to “so huge”: why commenting on bump size can hurt

I can readily admit that I love all news related to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. I love Kate Middleton’s style, and during her last pregnancy, I was always struck by how calm and serene she looked (OK, so she did have that hyperemesis gravidarum issue in the beginning, maybe she was just happy it was over…). And when they emerged from the hospital to go home after baby George was born, I was glued to my computer. 

Now she’s pregnant again, and maybe I am just noticing it more, but it seems that every time the media comments on her pregnant figure, it’s about how small her bump is. Soon enough all they’ll be talking about is how quickly she gets her body back in shape after she gives birth, just like they did after the Oscars.

For lots of women, pregnancy is a joyous time but also one that is filled with a lot of concerns over body image. As doctors and midwives, we do put a lot of stock in weight gain, but there’s a legitimate reason: both gaining too much and too little can have negative effects on mom and her growing baby. This means frequent weight checks and discussions about nutrition, and for some women, that can be a lot to handle (especially if your obstetric provider doesn’t do it in a sensitive way).

Outside of watching the scale, many moms-to-be also get caught up in how their baby bump looks. Is it too big? Too small? Different from last time? Showing way sooner? Not showing enough? Friends, family, co-workers, and strangers on the bus often don’t help, either. I’ve heard so many times people say the following useless statements to my patients:

  • “Are you sure it isn’t twins?!” (Oh you’re right, we have been ignoring that extra baby in there.)
  • “You’re too small! You need to eat more or that baby won’t grow!”
  • “You’re not due for another 2 months?? NO WAY! It looks like you are ready to pop today!”
  • “This one is definitely going to be bigger than your first! Look how big you are!”
  • “I can’t even tell you’re pregnant—probably because of your extra padding, but don’t worry, you’ll show soon enough!”

Yikes. Pregnant women are already on enough of an emotional roller coaster without these intrusive comments. Then they turn on the TV and see just how cute and perfect Kate Middleton looks at 6 months pregnant, hear how adorable her small bump is, and it’s enough to send them over the edge.

My advice is to keep perspective. If your doctor or midwife is happy with your weight gain, you should be too. Every pregnant woman carries differently, and every pregnancy can look different for a woman, so try your best not to compare yourself to the pregnant lady you work with, your last pregnancy, or Kate Middleton (definitely not her! Remember, she’s got lots of help!). Accept the fact that your body is doing one of the most amazing things it was designed for: growing a human. That’s hard work, and you’re doing a great job.

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About Dr. Jennifer Lincoln, Bundoo OB/GYN

Dr. Jennifer Lincoln is a board-certified generalist obstetrician/gynecologist and attending physician in Portland, Oregon. She primarily works on labor and delivery has recently been certified as an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant.

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