During pregnancy, the body changes so quickly that it can leave expectant mothers with mixed feelings on body image and self-esteem. If you love the way your bump looks and makes you feel - that's awesome, no need to read further. But there is absolutely nothing wrong with not loving every single thing about your changing pregnancy body. Of course, pregnancy is not a permanent state, but change can be hard!
The battle for body confidence is very real for new mamas too. We promise you, you're not alone and these feelings don't have to last forever. Sometimes, we just need a bit of encouragement to help recharge our confidence -- or at least give it a little lift.
So, here are my eight quick tips to help you boost that body confidence so you can feel good, strong, and sexy in your own skin.
1. Start your day with kind words...
...to yourself! There is a lot of power in our words, especially the ones we speak to ourselves, and there is even more power in positivity. Say something kind to yourself as soon as you wake up. Give yourself a compliment for a recent success or practice mantras that set a positive tone for your day. You don't have to wake up and list everything you love about your body, but tell yourself what you're proud of you for. Make a habit of thinking of yourself in a positive light.
2. Enjoy sex and plenty of it!
It's common to feel as though you've lost your mojo during the later stages of pregnancy and after birth. But that mojo is still there, mama! All you need is a spark. A huge component of body confidence at this stage is tied to how we think our partner sees our body. When you're not feeling 100% about how you look, it becomes very easy to believe that your partner finds you less attractive as well - but we'll be the first to tell you that that's not the case. Physical and emotional intimacy is one of the best ways to get affirmation of attraction. So get it on!
3. Fight the urge to give in to fatigue.
Fatigue is one of the main symptoms of pregnancy, and a definite side-effect of having a new baby. When we're incredibly tired it's easy to stay tired, because it feels like a draining effort to try and boost energy levels. However, fatigue is closely linked to increased feelings of sadness and depression - which all ties into body confidence and self-esteem. Try to look for ways to keep energy up wherever possible to help combat this. Check out my other post on Fresh Ways to Fight Fatigue for some new energy-boosting hacks you may not have tried yet.
4. Put social media in its place.
There's no benefit in endlessly scrolling Instagram and looking at all the impeccably-styled bumps and mamas who "look" like they have everything together, with perfect bodies to boot. We're betting they'll be the first to tell you otherwise, too. If you find that negative thoughts and energy build when you're using social media, give yourself a break from it. If there are particular people that (even unintentionally) make you feel worse about yourself, unfollow them. Remember, when you unfollow someone for this reason you are not disrespecting them, you are simply respecting yourself.
5. Follow the golden rule, in reverse
You know the rule we were all taught as kids - 'do unto others as you would have them do unto you'. In this case, we want you to use it in reverse. Think about the things you say to yourself or about your body; would you ever say those words to a best friend, a sister, a mother? Talk to yourself as you would talk to them because you deserve that!
6. Try a new way of thinking about your body
There's a quote by Beau Taplin that is good food for thought -- it goes: "Your body is not a temple. Temples can be destroyed and desecrated. Your body is a forest -- thick canopies of maple trees and sweet-scented wildflowers sprouting in the underwood. You will grow back, over and over, no matter how badly you are devastated." It can feel like a lot of pressure to think of our bodies as temples -- constantly needing to treat it right, exercise right, eat right. I like this forest analogy because it leads us to think of our bodies in a new way, and maybe that's just what you need when building back your body confidence.
7. Do workouts that are fun, not forced
Regular exercise is one of the very best ways to boost your self-esteem, foster feelings of self-efficacy, and regain your body confidence. However, you'll never be able to stick to a regular exercise schedule if your workouts feel forced. It's just not worth doing workouts that don't make you smile while you sweat; exercise should make you feel good; really good! If you're in a workout rut, try a new class with a group of friends. Give swimming, spinning, Pilates, Barre, Kickboxing (well, not if you're pregnant) or any trendy exercise classes a try and see what you like! When it's fun, you'll want to stick with it, and before you'll know it you'll be in a regular exercise routine.
8. Go shopping
When all else fails... just kidding. I am serious about this one because how we feel in our clothes has a lot to do with how we feel about our bodies - and there is nothing vain about that! There's credence to the idea that when you look good, you feel good. If your current clothes don't make you feel sexy and help boost that confidence, treat yourself to a little shopping! We're not suggesting a wardrobe overhaul, but a few pieces that make you feel amazing when you wear them can be a healthy treat.
I'll leave you with a final quote before I go - and good vibes of healthy confidence for all you mums and mums-to-be.
and i said to my body. softly. 'i want to be your friend.' it took a long breath. and replied 'i have been waiting my whole life for this.' - Nayyirah Weed
HuffPost UK Parents has launched 'Mumbod', a new section to empower mums and mums-to-be to feel confident about their bodies pre- and post-baby. We'd also love to hear your stories. To blog for Mumbod, email email@example.com. To keep up to date with features, blogs and videos on the topic, follow the hashtag #MyMumbod.