Why are pregnant women always naked on magazine covers?

Megan Gale for marie claire.

Megan Gale for marie claire.

I’m sure I speak for all the pregnant ladies out there who, nearing my due date, feels like nothing more than stripping all my clothes off and having a photographer take a nude shot for a magazine cover.

No? Actually, now that I think about it, that’s about the last thing I want to do. Instead, I’d like to sit in a pool of water all day to support my weight and find something that will take away the nausea, fatigue, backache, pelvic pain, and anxiety about childbirth, breastfeeding and being responsible for another human. 

Baring it all: Megan Gale naked on the cover or this month's marie claire.

Baring it all: Megan Gale naked on the cover or this month's marie claire.

But the world of glossy magazines, as we all know, is another universe where pregnancy (and pretty much everything else) is concerned. The latest celeb to bare her belly is Megan Gale on the cover of the April issue of marie claire. Megan joins Demi, Britney, Christina, Claudia, Cindy, and Mariah bearing all while heavily pregnant.


And that’s a good thing. Kind of.

When Demi did it on the cover of Vanity Fair way back in 1991, it was a game changer in terms of how pregnant women appeared in public. Before Demi, pregnancy was typically hidden. The logic seemed to be that it was better for all concerned to pretend that for a nine month period a woman temporarily lost all fashion sense and suddenly spot weight gained, rather than contemplate the possibility that — steel yourself — she had had sex some months prior.

In the period AD — ‘After Demi’ — it wasn’t long before non-celeb women were highlighting their expanding middles. Expecting mothers no longer had to wear nautical themed tents masquerading as dresses in order to hide their bodies until the stork delivered their baby from God.

For this we can be grateful.

But with each passing famous naked pregnant lady, you have to wonder if Demi Moore’s groundbreaking cover actually broke the wrong sort of ground.

We’ve gone from denying and disguising pregnant women's sexuality to reducing them to it. Megan Gale looks beautiful of the cover of marie claire; that much is not in dispute. But why the nudity? Wouldn’t she look just as gorgeous and interesting with some clothes on?

Except for very rare exceptions, there are generally two ways a famous pregnant woman can get on the cover of a magazine – to take her clothes off or be seen shoveling food into her mouth so we can all pretend to be concerned she’s gaining ‘too much’ weight.  Kim Kardashian, anybody?

As with glossy magazine covershoots in general, we only ever get to see a narrow range of pregnant bodies. These women’s slim pregnant frames become just another unattainable, unrealistic body ideal to induce body insecurity so we’ll buy more stuff trying to ‘fix’ ourselves. 

The message for all women is clear: you don’t get a reprieve from the pursuit of hotness, even when you’re pregnant.

Where are the stretch marks, varicose veins and blotchy stretched skin? Where are the split ends because you can’t stand the thought of sitting in a hairdressers’ chair for that long and you can’t breathe when you lean back in the basin?  Or the cracked heels and the dark rings under your eyes from sleeplessness because your growing baby insists on simultaneously head-butting your bladder and kicking your stomach all night? And piles. Don’t mention the piles.

But most of all, where’s the fat? Yes, that’s right: fat. Because despite all the stuff about running, pilate-ing or Cross Fitting your way through pregnancy while subsisting on organic Chia seed infused green smoothies, many of us are too sick to do much more than waddle to the chip shop in the hope of getting some fried salt and fat goodness to relieve the symptoms of all-day and all-night sickness.

Let’s face it, if weight gain wasn’t a reality for most pregnant women there wouldn’t be so many people clamouring to make a buck out of helping us to lose it.

And if it’s not fat, it’s fluid — the kind that puffs up your face at the beginning of the day and migrates to your ankles by the evening.

What’s even more insidious about these covers is that not only are we supposed to look this sexy, women are now sold the idea that they’re supposed to feel sexy as well. This is despite all the well-established discomforts and lack of bodily control of the third trimester.  

Isn't it wondrous enough to grow a person? Do we really have to be sexy while we do it?

Kasey Edwards is the author of Thirty-Something and The Clock is Ticking: What happens when you can no longer ignore the baby question. www.kaseyedwards.com