Body image after birth
Like many other stages in the perinatal journey, there’s great variation in how our bodies physically adjust to pregnancy. This is also true of the weeks, months and even years after giving birth.
Your body soon after birth
Our bodies can take some time to adjust and recover after having a baby. It is important to give yourself time to allow this to happen and try not to place too much emphasis on it.
Your body may feel turned inside out and no longer yours… it will be.
Your priority in the early days and weeks is to look after yourself – and not put too much pressure or expectations on yourself and how you may look.
Of course, in today’s society where mothers face extreme pressure to “bounce back” it can be easier said that done. Remember, however, that much of what you see on Instagram, isn’t reality – and many celebrities have chefs, personal trainers and nannies!
Your body in the months following birth
Adjusting to parenthood often results in changes to your usual patterns of eating, sleeping and leisure time – as well as most other facets of life! You may find yourself eating more, due to there being less structure in your day. Others may turn to comfort-eating. For some, the stress and demands of parenthood can mean skipping meals as there’s less time to eat properly. Breastfeeding can also impact women differently, leading to weight loss in many women but not in others.
I lost a lot of weight while breastfeeding – too much! I wasn’t expecting that. I had to focus on eating well so I didn’t become too thin.Liz
As a result, while some people may remain similar in size and/or shape after having a baby, for others, it can lead to significant weight loss or weight gain. These changes in our bodies and body image can impact greatly on our energy levels and self-esteem.
There are, however, many things we can do to look after ourselves during and following pregnancy. In particular, this includes eating well and exercising – both of which are great for not only our energy levels and self-esteem, but also for the prevention and even treatment of mild postnatal depression.
On the days I felt down about my stretch marks or saggy boobs, I tried to remember the amazing things my body had done to give me my beautiful baby. It wasn’t always easy though.Sarah
For many parents, however, depending on your other commitments, priorities and available time and resources – this may not be possible, nor your highest priority. And that’s completely OK.
Adjusting to your post-baby body is likely to require some level of self acceptance as there may be short, medium or long term changes in the way your body looks and feels.
While your body may not feel like yours, in time it will.
My advice would be to follow body positive accounts on social media that show different pregnancy and postnatal bodies. I wish I’d been more prepared for what my body would look like after having a baby.Kate
Where can I find help?
For some women, body changes after birth can have a significant impact on their wellbeing and mood. If you’re struggling, please know that you’re not alone and help is available.
You can find a health professional skilled in the treatment of body image concerns by searching our e-COPE directory.