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The Mamafesto: Stop picking on pregnant women!

Avital Norman Nathman is a freelance writer whose work places a feminist lens on a variety of topics, including motherhood, maternal health, gender, and reproductive rights. Her work has been featured in Bitch magazine,,...

The insane pressure we're putting on pregnant women has got to stop

Pregnancy can be challenging for many — from rapidly changing bodies to numerous pains and aches in all sorts of places. Add to that the incredible amount of judgment, shame and criticism that some pregnant women are subjected to, and it's enough to send anyone screaming far, far away from motherhood.

Model and media personality Chrissy Teigen — who is newly pregnant — experienced this on a macro level the other week after Instagramming a picture of Fruity Pebbles and Cap'n Crunch cereal. People lashed out, leaving comments ranging from disbelief to harshly critical, warning Teigen that the dyes in the cereal were sure to be damaging her baby.

Teigen — in her usual sharply funny manner — took it in stride, calling out those commenters via Twitter. But what happened to Teigen on social media is something many moms-to-be have to contend with in their daily lives, and many don't have the platform or confidence to push back as hard as she did.

More: The Mamafesto: Why do we always blame Mom?

Listen, it's tough being pregnant in this age of media, especially for a first-time mother. Yes, you can read all the baby books and listen to friends who have been pregnant, but then there's the Internet, with headline after headline shouting at pregnant women, telling them what to eat, what not to eat, what to drink, what not to drink, how to travel (or not at all!), how to give birth, who to give birth with, where to give birth, what you should be feeling, what you might be feeling, what to expect (when, despite some commonalities in development, many women experience a multitude of ever-changing symptoms during pregnancy). Add on top of all that information and misinformation a heaping dose of judgment, and it's amazing we make it through all nine (10 really!) months.

I've written before about the "good mother myth" — this ideal that women are supposed to live up to despite it being incredibly naive, destructive and impossible, given many different factors. And this myth starts even earlier now, during pregnancy. It's not enough that there's a myth of perfection once the baby is here, but now our actions and decisions are scrutinized months before.

More: Here's what men say makes you 'good mom material'

Pregnancy can be hard. Changing bodies and changing hormones can make even the most confident and stalwart person break down over the dumbest of commercials. Imagine, then, being blasted by thousands of Instagram followers for admitting you enjoy a bowl of cereal before bedtime. It's not like Teigen posted a picture of her nightly heroin needle that helps her fall asleep. This culture of judgment only serves to further widen the divide among mothers, further isolates us when we need support the most and makes an already challenging time in our lives more difficult.

So let's lay off the pregnant folks, OK? Because if anything, the stress of all this judgment has to be way more damaging for a growing fetus than any neon-colored cereal could ever be.

More: Real maternity leave horror stories show moms need better

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