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  • Writer's pictureVariant Magazine

3 Ways the Media Places Unrealistic Expectations on Pregnant Women

Updated: Oct 17, 2023

By Emily Squance, Blogger

Let’s get real, the media sets many unrealistic expectations for society, and pregnancy is no exception. Every woman’s journey with pregnancy is unique. Therefore, there’s no “right way” to be pregnant; however, the media tends to disagree.

Pregnancy Privacy

In the age of social media, there has been an unspoken agreement among media outlets that nothing can remain private. It’s no shock that the media tends to overexpose celebrities, putting them in the spotlight even when they might not want to be, and pregnancy is no exception.

Supermodel Gigi Hadid is just one example of this, announcing her pregnancy to the public after a long online debate. TMZ published an article calling out the supermodel for being pregnant, analyzing all of her posts for subliminal hints about the pregnancy. The model had neither confirmed nor denied her pregnancy, later expressing her choice to experience her pregnancy privately with friends and family. Hadid is one of many celebrities that have had media outlets invade her privacy, bombarding her with articles and criticism for not sharing more information with the public.

Sugarcoating the Harsh Truth

A post shared by Gigi Hadid (@gigihadid) on Aug 26, 2020 at 6:07am PDT

Media outlets have been known to set unrealistic expectations for future mothers regarding their body images; they don’t usually show the harsh truths when it comes to pregnancy and what to expect. The media gives women the idea that their bodies should be “bouncing back” immediately. Exposure to unrealistic images and messages in the media has been proven to cause body image issues among women, leading to feelings of depression and frustration when they’re unable to lose weight as rapidly as celebrities purportedly do after childbirth.

Many media outlets don’t account for the realities of giving birth and being pregnant, such as hormone changes and the physical toll it can take on a woman’s body. According to Healthline, pregnant women retain fluids and experience swelling of the face and limbs, changes in the pigmentation of their skin and some even have temporary rashes and boils. But, baby bump photoshoots in magazines and articles won’t show these changes. Pregnant celebrities often appear to have little to no changes, setting an unrealistic image of what pregnancy looks like.

The Aftermath

Fully recovering from pregnancy and childbirth can take months. While many women feel mostly recovered by 6-8 weeks, it may take longer than this to feel like yourself again. Media outlets tend to post images praising celebrities for their fast weight loss just weeks after childbirth while others are shamed for pictures that show their bulging stomachs. Rather than giving mothers time to heal and recover, pressure is put on them to transform back into their pre-pregnancy bodies. The media suggests that weight gain is something negative, while getting your body back after childbirth should be celebrated. This is a very toxic and unhealthy way to think about pregnancy. Women should be able to enjoy their journeys as new mothers, taking the time to recover and heal at their own paces.


The unrealistic image of pregnancy in the media has not only taken a toll on young mothers but also future mothers. Some women may be cautious about pregnancy and what to expect of their bodies. Women shouldn’t have to compare their bodies to those in the media. Every individual’s body is different, and those differences should be celebrated rather than criticized.

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