How pregnancy became a competitive sport

Pregnant women shouldn’t play competitive sport. Most health professionals say so. Except that pregnancy itself has become a competitive sport. And you have no choice but to play for nine long months.

There are many individual categories: Who Got Pregnant Most Easily; Most Weight Gained; Least Weight Gained, Most Unpleasant Pregnancy Symptoms; Size and Shape Of Bump; Best Pregnancy Wardrobe; Sexiest Pregnancy; Least Pregnant-Looking Pregnant Person.

And that’s before you even give birth.

Pregnant celebrities and the genuflecting glossy gossip media aren’t helping. In fact, they seem to have turned pregnancy into an industry as well as a sport. Christina Aguliera and Angelina Jolie insist being pregnant made them feel sexier. Claudia Schiffer appeared nude on a Vogue cover during her recent third pregnancy and Mariah Carey, pregnant with twins, also posed nude with her husband thoughtfully holding up her breasts.

There are websites dedicated to watching celebrity baby bumps and glossy magazines promoting the ultimate pregnancy wardrobe.  It’s intense.

Nobody explains this before you get knocked up. Foolishly, you thought pregnancy was about having a baby not trying to look like a slightly bloated Victoria’s Secret model. Now you know.

This week, I learned that control underwear is being marketed to pregnant women. Spanx, the world’s most famous fat-sucking undie brand has a new range called “Power Mama”. The marketing spiel on their website goes like this:

“Spanx is here to support you, baby bump and all! Power mamas love to look great all nine months and these Power Panties® deliver!”

Why is there a market for products that try to make pregnant women look like they’re not pregnant?

Pregnancy spanx

One of the things I loved about my pregnancies was not having to suck in my stomach and being reminded of what my body could do not just how it looked. Clearly, this is because I am lazy and not a Power Mama. Can we not have even nine months’ respite from the expectation of having to look hot?

It wasn’t always like this. Pregnancy used to be treated with a kind of twee, condescending reverence. Women wore shapeless smocks with childish bows, as if they worked at Darrell Lea. On the 50s TV show I Love Lucy, the word ‘pregnant’ was banned because it was deemed too crass and Lucille Ball’s “expectant” character and her husband had to sleep in twin beds. They were, however, allowed to smoke. Priorities.

Up until a few decades ago, pregnant women were treated like fragile, docile, facile creatures. There’s no nostalgia for that but at least they got a rest from the relentless pressure to be sexy that today, starts pretty much at primary school.

Now, not only do you have to be sexy when you’re pregnant, impossibly, you also have to be thin. Not your tummy. Well, not entirely. So long as you’re thin everywhere else and just look like you have a small netball stuck under your shirt, that’s OK. You must also glow and look yummy.  A yummy pre-mummy.

Kendra’s post-baby-body magazine shoot

After giving birth to your netball and peeling off your pregnancy Spanx, the real fun begins. It’s time to ‘bounce back!’ This means erasing all physical evidence that you’ve ever gestated a human being. If you’re famous, be sure to leave hospital in skinny jeans and industrial Spanx with pert boobs and a spray tan. Somewhere along the way, someone has confused giving birth with a holiday on the Gold Coast.

When celebrities get pregnant, they often sign four-part magazine deals. The first part is the pregnancy announcement, next is the halfway interview, then there’s the birth story with newborn pictures and finally, the inevitable “How I Got My Body Back” splash. This is a uniquely sadistic type of story where the new mother poses in a bikini with a baby under one arm soon after giving birth, insists she’s too busy to exercise and that the weight just ‘fell off’.

When reality star and former Hugh Hefner girlfriend Kendra Wilkinson had her baby last year, she signed such a deal. Problem. When she had to do the ‘My Hot New Baby Body!’ story a few weeks after giving birth, astonishingly, her baby body was not yet new or hot enough. She begged the magazine for more time to lose weight but they refused. Apparently the speed with which you ‘bounce back’ has a direct correlation to magazine circulation. She who loses fastest wins. What exactly she wins, is unclear. Perhaps a nervous breakdown.

Don’t worry, the magazine reassured Kendra, we’ll make your weight fall off with a computer. The digitally altered shot of her New Baby Body ran alongside Kendra’s ‘tips’ for losing weight after pregnancy which bore no correlation to the photoshopped images. Nice.

And check this out – I wrote about what US magazine did to Kourtney Kardashian here – but I think it’s worth showing you EXACTLY how this type of appalling story can work. Check out the cover of US magazine a mere fortnight after Kourtney had her baby:

.

Now look at the REAL shot, and what they did to it – oh, and Kourtney never posed for this cover. The magazine bought the image from somewhere else before chopping off her stomach to suit their rubbish headline about how fast she’d lost weight:

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Being pregnant and the first year of being a new mother is an intensely vulnerable time for women. Huge mental, physical and emotional adjustments are required. I’ve personally had a gutful of those industries that conspire to make women feel like inadequate, insecure crap during this period when they most need support, understanding and reassurance. Looking sexy is not something that needs to be on the To Do list of any pregnant woman or new mother. Getting some sleep however……

Did you feel the pressure when you were pregnant? Do you think expectations of pregnancy have been changed by the images we are surrounded with in magazines, on billboards and on TV?

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