It's time to stop bump-shaming pregnant women

Women are being shamed about the size of their pregnancy bump [Photo: Getty]
Women are being shamed about the size of their pregnancy bump [Photo: Getty]

Too big, too small, too oddly shaped. Pregnancy bodies come in all different shapes and sizes, but that doesn’t stop people taking the opportunity to bump-shame women on social media.

Whether they’re being criticised for their lack of bump or made to feel embarrassed for having too much bump, as if mums-to-be don’t have enough to cope with than raging hormones and growing an actual human, it turns out they have to worry if their bump is deemed the correct size too.

Sadly having people comment on the size and shape of your baby bump is a common occurance in pregnancy. According to research from Channel Mum, a whopping 94 per cent of pregnant mums say that they have received rude comments about their bumps.

While the majority of mums (62%) were attacked as ‘too fat’, a third (32%) were told their bump was ‘too small’, leading to fears for their baby’s health.

Shockingly, strangers are the biggest source of the verbal smears with 53 per cent of mums suffering cruel criticism from people they don’t know.

One woman who’s recently found herself being dragged into the battle of the bumps is Reanna Stephens. The 18-year-old from South Carolina claims to have been shamed throughout her pregnancy for having too small a bump, with some going so far as to accuse her of faking her pregnancy.

Reanna Stephens, 18, from South Carolina, at five months pregnant [Photo: Caters News]
Reanna Stephens, 18, from South Carolina, at five months pregnant [Photo: Caters News]

According to Reanna, a combination of her healthy vegan diet and gentle cardio and yoga have kept her pregnancy stomach pretty flat, but that hasn’t stopped the shamers criticising her health regime.

“People really affect me with their comments, I try to stay calm as I know both me and my baby are healthy,” the student told Caters News Agency. “My baby is growing the perfect amount every month as it’s measured, just like everyone else’s, so it’s absolutely nothing to do with mine or the baby’s health.”

“I have compared my bump over my pregnancy to people on different parent pages on Facebook, and it’s not as big as other people’s. But I love my small bump, it’s not big but I think it’s perfect in its own way and it’s my body and my bump – no one else’s.”

Reanna isn’t the only one to find herself on the receiving end of the bump shamers. Twenty nine-year-old Yiota Kousoukas has also had her pregnancy body criticised on social media.

But there’s a good reason why her bump may seem on the small side, because the social media influencer has a medical condition that causes her baby belly to grow “backwards,” concealing the true size of her unborn child.

Yiota Kouzoukas was shamed for the size of her baby bump [Photo: Instagram/Yiota]
Yiota Kouzoukas was shamed for the size of her baby bump [Photo: Instagram/Yiota]

After being cruelly targeted by body shamers online, Kousokas took to Instagram to share the details of her condition.

“The worst comments have to be the ones along the lines of, ‘No more baby in that belly,’ or, ‘Start eating more so your baby can grow.’ When I first started seeing comments like these, I became paranoid that something was wrong,” she says. “I wanted other pregnant women to know that my size was due to physical attributes that are out of my control.”

So, she shared the explanation she got from her doctor.

“For the first four months of my pregnancy, my uterus was retroverted/tilted, which means that I was growing backwards into my body rather than outwards,” her caption reads.

And in July last year fitness blogger, Sarah Stage also found herself facing negative comments about her pregnancy body after sharing a photo of her growing belly online.

Saying everything from “you should go to the doctor” to “where the hell is the baby”, the general public evidently found Sarah Stage’s bump “too small”.

Even the Duchess of Cambridge isn’t immune to being bump shamed. On making her first public appearance since announcing her third pregnancy, she was subject to comments by many on social media who claimed the 35-year-old was “too thin” to be pregnant.

“I can’t believe she’s prego,” one commenter said on Kensington Palace’s Instagram account. “I thought she was pregnant?!” another questioned.

Even the Duchess of Cambridge has been bump shamed during her third pregnancy [Photo: PA Images]
Even the Duchess of Cambridge has been bump shamed during her third pregnancy [Photo: PA Images]

But the truth is that no two pregnancies, or pregnant bodies are the same, even in the same woman. It’s all too easy to compare baby bumps, but the fact is there’s no such thing as a one size fits all baby bump.

According to experts bump sizes and shapes can be affected by various things. “Mums’ bump sizes can vary widely and be dependant on various factors,” explains Natalie Alexis Lee, former midwife, mum-of-two, style blogger at Style Me Sunday and all round body positive activist.

“Things like how much fluid there is around the baby, the size of your placenta, and the position your baby is lying in are key factors in determining the size and shape of your bump.”

The number of pregnancies you’ve had can also have an impact on bump size. “A mothers stomach muscles also change depending on how many children she has had. Typically a mother will have stronger, tighter muscles with her first baby making her abdomen appear smaller. The muscles become more lax the more babies you have.”

“A woman’s stature and fitness level are also factors that will significantly impact on the size of your bump,” Natalie continues.

There are a few occasions when the size of the bump can offer an indication that there could be something underlying. A large bump could be an indication of too much amniotic fluid or diabetes, while a small bump could be an indication of less amniotic fluid which can be associated with bladder or kidney problems. Natalie suggests speaking to your midwife if you have any concerns.

“Your midwife should measure your bump and feel for the size of your baby at every antenatal check and will therefore have a good understanding on what is normal for you,” she says.

So let’s just stop with the bump bashing shall? Because not only is every bump beautiful, no two baby bumps are ever the same.

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