Feature Archive

Here's Lookin' at You, Baby

 

WebMD Feature

Demi Moore didn't invent the beautiful pregnant woman. Yet the image of her famously naked and ballooning body on a 1991 "Vanity Fair" cover was a watershed moment.

The message to women everywhere was that it's OK to be conspicuously pregnant. "We're out, we're proud and we're round," the rallying cry might go. Although a woman's body becomes a curiously protean thing when she's expecting, she isn't merely a vessel to whom pregnancy happens.

The matrix from which the confident, pregnant woman emerges is one of choice and control, education and empowerment. For at least 30 years now, we've been moving beyond myths and misapprehensions and feeling better about ourselves during pregnancy -- even if we're not Demi or Jada or Cindy.

Big Changes in a Short Time

Witness the greater visibility of the pregnant woman -- at the gym, in the office, at the park. They're exercising more and not hiding under baggy clothes, and they're definitely not in "confinement." Experts agree that for the woman, the baby and our culture, a positive body image during pregnancy is healthy.

But they also recognize that the power of pregnancy coupled with the complexities of female body image creates an intricate mix.

"What's difficult about pregnancy is that your body is changing extremely quickly," says Ann Kearney-Cooke, PhD, director of the Cincinnati Psychotherapy Institute and a scholar at Columbia University's Partnership for Women's Health, who specializes in body image, eating disorders and self-esteem. "You probably haven't had that kind of change since puberty. It's hard to have a stable body image when it's changing so quickly, especially in the second and third trimesters."