Could Social Media be Messing With Pregnant Women's Health?

If you're an active Instagram user, you're familiar with the concept of "fit moms." But could these examples be affecting your health in a negative way?

The concept of "fitspiration" is huge on social media. The idea is simple: You see a before-and-after transformation shot, a quick workout video, or even just a selfie of some phenomenally toned human, and it inspires you to put down the chips, get off the couch, and head to the gym.

If you're a pregnant woman, you might be searching for #fitspo on social media with the belief that seeing these images will motivate you to get your own diet and exercise routine in check —but you need to keep something in mind if you choose to scroll social images of super-fit moms. According to experts who will present on this topic at the Baby Show in Olympia, West London, this exposure could harm pregnant women and their babies.

We've seen countless incredibly fit women who do amazing things during pregnancy and right after giving birth—third-trimester pole dancers, pregnant weight lifters, postpartum marathon runners. And while we are always so impressed by these women and what they can do, it's important to note: Not every woman can safely push her body during pregnancy. Maybe the woman you see on Instagram can safely lift heavy weights the day before her due date, but a large part of that comes from the fact that she's probably spent years lifting even heavier weights—we've said it once and we'll say it again: Pregnancy is not the time to try hardcore workouts for the first time.

Does that mean you shouldn't be working out while pregnancy? Absolutely not—exercise has so many benefits for pregnant women. But it's so important to listen to your body and understand that pregnancy will throw off your balance and reduce your energy levels. Speak to your doctor before trying any form of exercise.

“In an ideal world, we wouldn’t be surrounded by Photoshopped images of celebrities four weeks after they’ve had a baby, looking like they were never pregnant,” Philippa Kaye, who is set to present at the event, told Guardian. “That Instagram-filtered world isn’t reality. I have seen women take it too far at the gym before and after pregnancy, and it’s caused problems. If you never did any exercise before you got pregnant, you don’t want to start with high-impact training or a military boot camp in the park. It’s too much.”

It's so important that we take the glorification of celebrities who "bounce back" weeks after giving birth and images of women who keep their six packs intact well into pregnancy with a grain of salt. That's not to say that there's anything wrong with losing weight quickly or remaining jaw-droppingly muscled through pregnancy: Some women simply have the fitness levels and genetic dispositions for that. But here's the thing: That is not the norm. If you're still hanging on to a few extra pounds after having a baby, or if the definition in your abs gets obscured by your baby bump—well, there's no need to compare yourself to the often staged, manipulated images you see online. It's not good for your mindset—and if all this is any indication, it's also not good for your physical health.