The Truth About Baby Bumps...Forget Old Wives' Tales or What Your Pilates Teacher Says

If you're a woman, pregnant or not, chances are you've heard every explanation for bump size, what it means, etc. If you carry wide, it's a girl. If you carry low and straight out, it's a boy. If you're petite you'll develop a bigger bump/show sooner. If you're fit, you can control the size of your bump...the list goes on and on.

The truth is, there's a lot we don't know for certain, but here are a few things I've learned that have helped me tremendously, as a small bump'er, feel better about my situation. Regardless of how you carry (or if you aren't yet a mom, how you might), the following should help provide some clarity, and maybe some relief

1). Wide or out front-- it doesn't determine the gender of your baby. 
One of the first things I heard after revealing both my pregnancy and the gender was "Oh, don't be alarmed when you get wider. That's what happens when it's a girl). NOT ALWAYS TRUE! 

Case in point. This is me at 6 months:

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To be honest, my bump size isn't consistent. Some days it's wider, some days it’s smaller/flatter. Some days it’s pointier. The position the baby is in, how much water I’m retaining, how much I’ve eaten...these things all play a role. It’s fun to see the changes throughout the day/week, and especially seeing the baby move from outside my belly now. 

There are many factors that can contribute to whether you carry wide, or straight out. Fitness can play a role in this, but your baby's location, your size/frame, how strong your abs are, how much fluid you retain, your diet and how much fat you carry in your middle... The combination of these things are the biggest contributors to your bump shape/width. 

2). A big bump indicates a big baby, a small bump indicates a small baby?
Not necessarily. YOUR size at birth is a better indicator of the size your baby will be at birth. I was 6 pounds 7 oz (thanks mom for providing this info), and my baby is pacing at a similar rate. She's long and lean (and really strong, I might add— the jabs I get after eating fruit, especially pineapple, is impressive coming from a 1 1/2 pound little fetus). I contribute very little besides good nutrition to her, and a healthy variety to ensure she develops a taste for lots of different foods while in my womb (food allergies can be minimized this way, too).  If I were eating ice cream and cake every day, it might be a different story-- this can affect your baby's health both in and out of the womb, as studies show a link between pregnancy sugar consumption and child weight/diabetes risk.  Gestational diabetes has been on the rise, which impacts an unborn fetus, not just the mom. For this reason, reducing sugar consumption should be a bigger focus for moms-to-be than the size of their bump.

3). Fitness Level Can Help Prevent Excessive Weight Gain, But Doesn’t Guarantee Bump Size
I’ve been in class with some super fit mamas-to-be at SoulCycle, and I can promise you, bump size varies from woman to woman regardless of the shape she’s in. One mom was 7 months along and looked like she was going to pop any day. Another was 8 months and had a nice tidy bump she carried all out front. I talked to this mom for a bit after class and she admitted to a daily Breakfast burrito obsession. Just can’t get enough of them. As a Mexican food lover, I can totally relate to this. I can put guacamole and salsa on literally anything, and even if I’ve eaten a full meal, I always manage to find room for some nachos if they’re near me. The point is, our fitness level can help prevent gestational diabetes and excessive weight gain. It can also help prevent excessive fat in areas you don’t need it. But our bodies grow and store fat differently and in different places. They’re equipped to do this. We shouldn’t make blanket, generalized statements about bump size and fitness because it doesn’t allow room to embrace our personal, unique experiences.

I was small going into pregnancy and I’m small while pregnant. That’s my frame. That’s my bump size. The combination of fitness and healthy diet as part of a lifestyle is what keeps my heart and muscles strong and my body composition balanced (I can store fat just as easily as the next person when I’m not balanced) but my size is my size, and it makes me no less proud of the bump and bundle I’m growing. 

4). There are Many Factors That Contribute to the Development of Stretch Marks
Genetics play a huge role in this, so if your mom had stretch marks, this is a good indicator that you might get them as well. However, there are things you can do to limit your risk of developing them. Lotions and Creams only help keep the outer layer of skin moisturized. To help your skin stay healthy and stretch better, hydration needs to come from within as well. Drinking lots of water throughout your pregnancy is important for so many reasons, not the least of which includes, keeping your skin healthy.  A nutrient-rich diet filled with a variety foods, and especially foods containing Vitamins A, C and E (though don’t overdo it with Vitamin A— try getting it from your diet, not supplements). Vitamin D is also really important, as is the consumption of healthy fats. Avocados, olive oil, nut butters, grass-fed cheese and butter— these are all great sources of healthy fats that keep our insides, and skin healthy (moderation with everything is key).

The bottom line is, you should treat your body well all the time, not just when you’re pregnant. It’s much easier to maintain healthy habits when they are established before you become pregnant, not after. With so many factors contributing to bump size and shape, how much fat you store and where, skin elasticity, etc...it’s a much better idea to focus on the areas you can impact, through taking care of YOU. That doesn’t mean indulging in whatever you want. That’s the opposite of taking care of yourself. The trick, always, is finding balance, and listening to your body. 

Staying fit and maintaining a good diet is all part of a lifestyle, and one that can help keep both you and your baby healthy. I live my life the way I present it to clients, on social media, in the real world/everyday life. Pregnancy hasn’t stopped that. Having a kid does not mean my self care goes out the window. I’d like to see more focus on, and celebration of, this over body comparisons, assumptions and myths. It allows more room for women to share their stories and experience without judgement or embarrassment (trust me, no one wants to hear about their size all day long, big or small).

I hope this post helped shed some light on certain myths, misunderstandings, and just how truly individual/personal a woman’s experiences are, pregnant or not.