Women in viral pregnancy photo talk bellies, criticism

After a photo of their pregnant bellies went viral last week, two Queensland, Australia women are speaking out about their healthy pregnancies and the online commenters who criticized them.

Chontel Duncan, who owns HIIT Australia, a fitness and lifestyle coaching company, posted the photo to her personal Instagram account in November, when she was 21 weeks pregnant with her first child.

On the day the photo was taken, Duncan had run into an old friend, Natalie Smith, who was four weeks farther along in her pregnancy. The pair took photos of their bellies together, and Duncan posted one to show what she describes as, “two body types, two baby bumps, two excited pregnant women, and how different pregnancy can appear.”

Several weeks later, the photo went viral; something that Smith says was a complete surprise.

“I couldn’t think why one photo of two beautiful women would be so popular, so quickly, all over the world,” Smith told TODAY parents. “I personally think that people see two women pregnant and are quick to judge…Chontel is a lot taller and it’s her first pregnancy, and I’m a lot shorter and it was my third pregnancy. Everyone carries different. You can’t choose the way your body changes with pregnancy— it’s a beautiful experience.”

Natalie Smith
"You can't choose the way your body changes with pregnancy," said Smith. "It's a beautiful experience."

Smith, who also has a 10-year-old and a 2-year-old, gave birth to a baby boy five weeks ago, a month before her due date. The mom-of-three says her third pregnancy was her healthiest, which she attributes to eating eat healthier food and exercising more frequently.

“I totally changed my life. After my second child as born, we started to eat clean and exercise regularly and my body never felt better. I hit my goal weight,” said Smith. “Then I fell pregnant with my third child and I was scared of going back to my old ways during my pregnancy. But, I didn’t and my pregnancy bloomed. I felt on top of the world eating healthy and exercising throughout my pregnancy.”

BUMP UPDATE 🍼 35 weeks.... Only 35 days to go! The past week I've experienced on 2 occasions swollen calves & ankles (aka cankles) 😳 don't worry it's nothing serious, my blood pressure is spot on. It's purely part of my journey and due to Little D being so bloody low & engaged. Poor guy has not moved position eek, my core does not allow him the freedom to do somersaults, but thankfully this is a very good thing as he is in the perfect position for delivery. The doctors don't want him to move from this position. So I bought these cheap miracle socks from Big W (in the section where all the "as seen on tv" shit is sold, and if I wear them with my feet up, the fluid literally disappears. They clearly are miracle socks lol We shot with the very talented Melanie @captured_dreams_by_melanie & as beautiful as her work is I still had my doubts in whether I could pull off shots like what I see in her portfolio. No doubt Mel knew exactly how to position us, where the best angles, lighting etc were & we could not be more OBSESSED with the images we have seen so far. Guys I know this is defiantly not your cup of tea, BUT let me assure you, it's very special, Mel wouldn't shoot you looking uncomfortable or awkward, it was an amazing experience for my husband and I to connect more & these memories we will forever cherish. Hands down 🙌🏾 DO IT!!!! My baby shower was on Sunday & it was absolutely PERFECT ☺️ from the venue @rainforestgardens, the food (thanks Mum & Aunty Ann), the decorations & games (thanks girls), the music (thanks Erin & Sam), the cake/cupcake tower (thanks @miss_kate_xox), the Event letters (@eventletters) & of course all my friends and family for coming 😀 Little D was absolutely spoilt ROTTEN! My husband and I chose to open the gifts together at home so we could fill in my Kiki book on who got what so we could thanks each for their kind wishes and gifts. I have to say it was a day I won't forget. I'm still training each day as much as I can, nutrition is still the same no weird changes have happened & my OB appointments are now weekly YAY!!! Tonight we have our last Antenatal Class, man do I... CLICK THE LINK IN MY BIO TO READ FURTHER 📲

A post shared by SNAP CHAT 👻chontelduncan (@chontelduncan) on

Duncan says she’s posted this and other photos of her pregnancy to Instagram to show examples of healthy pregnancies.

“Once it became clear to me (through my social media posts) how foreign it was to see a pregnancy performed like mine, it did get me thinking, ‘Maybe I should continue to document my pregnancy because it seems that we are misled to believe that we are more fragile than we really are,’” said Duncan. “We lose focus on one of the most important components (of a healthy pregnancy,) keeping ourselves physically and mentally strong.”

While many online comments have shown support for the two women, critics have commented on each woman’s size, and have called Duncan selfish for continuing to work out while pregnant.

“Being selfish really doesn’t exist (when you’re pregnant) because the actual thought of wanting to conceive and then actually doing so is the most selfless act possible,” said Duncan, who is due to have her baby at the end of March. “Whether you like it or not, you instantly become so protective and have so much love for this little human whom you have not even met yet.”

Natalie Smith
Smith gave birth to her third child, a boy, five weeks ago.

Dr. Talia Gates, an OBGYN from Jasper, Alabama, says that when it comes to pregnancy, every woman is, indeed, different.

"Most important is that your baby is growing as it should, and your OBGYN will monitor that closely. Your OBGYN will also discuss the appropriate weight gain you should have," said Gates. "This is different for each woman, based on pre-pregnancy weight and BMI. These are several of the many reasons regular prenatal care is important."

Smith agrees, adding that regardless of her size, she is happy and healthy.

“People in this world can be so cruel, and I know I will lose my weight — after all, I’ve just had a baby,” said Smith. “People are so judgmental and they have no idea of mine or Chontel’s personal lives. They just think, ‘Look at that skinny bitch,’ and criticize her for being too thin. Or they criticize me for being fat and think, ‘She’s overweight.’ We are both happy and healthy and our pregnancies just showed in two different ways.”