What to expect when (celebrities are) expecting: Media coverage of pregnant and postpartum bodies

Twenty-five years ago, a nude and seven-months-pregnant Demi Moore graced the cover of Vanity Fair  and turned public attention to the expectant celebrity body. Then considered a private and largely obscure female form, the pregnant figure is now under constant surveillance, subject to widespread comment and concern. Media coverage of these moms-to-be demands special critique, as women are particularly vulnerable to disordered eating during their childbearing years.Any given newsstand displays our current cultural obsession with pregnant and postpartum bodies. Take last week’s People, for example, which published a bundle of stories about expectant and new mothers’ weight. The leading magazine featured model Bar Refaeli’s “tiny baby bump, complete with defined abs and some major cleavage,”  TV personality Kim Kardashian West’s post-baby weight loss “inspiration,”  and actress Hayden Panettiere’s ability to “get her body back”  following the birth of her new daughter.

While the media’s weight-based commentary may spawn sales and readership, it also emphasizes the importance of a mother’s external appearance at the expense of her and her baby’s internal health. It tells women—many of whom may already struggle with body image, disordered eating, or eating disorders—that any “baby weight” must be lost. Quickly.

Despite what magazine headlines suggest, healthy bodies change. Ours will look, feel, and function differently throughout the span of our lives. Rather than worry about the size of baby bumps and post-birth bellies, let’s appreciate our bodies for what they can do. Whether or not it ever carries a child, your body provides a home—your home. It gives you the space to move, to think, to learn, to feel, and to connect. In it you experience the world, and it deserves to be treated unconditionally well.