- Nov 21, 2022
Body image is a sensitive topic of conversation but in today’s society, it’s being talked about more openly, as people share their stories and experiences to help others. Research over the years has found links between poor body image and self-esteem to signs of depression and other mental health struggles. And unfortunately, postpartum recovery is not exempt from this.
Postpartum recovery, more commonly referred to as the “fourth trimester”, can be a difficult journey to navigate when you’re lacking support and guidance as a new parent. We often default to weight management when we talk about postpartum recovery, but it comes in so many different forms.
There is help and professional advice that you can tap into, to know that you’re not alone in this. We’ve taken the liberty of putting together some resources and real stories from other mums to help you on your journey to rediscovering the new you.
What even is “bouncing back”?
Very rarely do women go through pregnancy and childbirth without some changes to their bodies, whether these be big or small. The whole idea of “bouncing back” gets hyped up a lot and in some cases, sets an unrealistic expectation for postpartum recovery. Our bodies are capable of beautiful and complex changes, but “bouncing back” is simply not one of them. I’ll explain…
Every women’s experience of pregnancy and childbirth will vary enormously but what doesn’t is the stigma around losing baby weight and getting back to the “old you”. Besides celebrating a bundle of joy, we should also be celebrating a new chapter for ourselves. The “old you” door has closed, and the “new, self-loving, postpartum mama” door opens. Creating this mind-shift in how women see themselves after pregnancy is crucial to their mental health and well-being.
Can I recover in 6 weeks?
The truth is you can’t. Rome wasn’t built in a day and there’s absolutely no rush or quick fix for recovering from labour. Recovering from pregnancy takes longer than a couple of weeks. Of course you will notice significant changes to your body within the first 6 weeks after birth, but by no means does it imply that you are fully healed. It could be months or even years until you feel like your body is back to a sense of normality again. And contrary to popular opinions, that’s OK!
The best way to aid your body following pregnancy is to prioritise your health and well-being. They say it takes a village for a reason – and that reason isn’t just to look after the baby, but new parents too. Here are three tips shared by other mums for relieving some postpartum symptoms:
Postpartum recovery bands are becoming a popular item for every new mother’s postpartum kit! They are ideal for supporting weakened core muscles and encouraging a better posture, which in turn relieves back pain, promotes healing, and reduces swelling. A support band like Lola&Lykke’s Core Restore Postpartum Support Band is suitable to use straight after birth, for c-section and vaginal deliveries.
If you have children already, it can be even more difficult to move around freely when you’ve undergone a caesarean. Be sure to keep the wound clean and re-dress it regularly. In some cases (speak to your doctor first), it might help the wound to heal quicker by letting it air out as well as keeping it covered. A postpartum belly band can also help with supporting your core whilst your incision heals.
Your mental health is a fragile thing throughout pregnancy and parenthood. It’s crucial to talk openly with healthcare professionals and people you trust so you can get the support you need. Becoming a parent is a massive change to anyone’s life, let alone the changes it has on a woman’s body. Connecting with other mums through mother and baby groups or exercise classes, for example, is a great way to build and expand your support network.
Setting realistic expectations for your postpartum body
Do you remember seeing that photo of Kate Middleton holding her newborn, alongside Prince William, just 7 hours after giving birth looking completely flawless? This is just one example of the media putting in their pennies’ worth and setting unrealistic expectations for mums.
You’re going to feel fatigued after childbirth.
You’re not going to fit into your pre-pregnancy outfits straight after pregnancy.
You’re not going to drop the baby weight overnight.
Your mindset needs to focus on fully embracing the journey your body has been through and accepting that it’s going to take time to heal. Your body will look different and it’s perfectly normal to have feelings of insecurity. What’s important is how you manage those feelings, be open, be honest and above all, let the ones close to you know how you feel. Because it’s their support that will help you through the tough spots.
A Real Mum Story
Before having children, my health and fitness were at an all-time high. I was coaching sports, going to the gym each week, being conscious of my food choices, taking time to rest and “fill my cup” so to speak. I’ve always been body confident and rarely had any thoughts about things II didn’t like about my appearance.
Throughout pregnancy, this same feeling continued. I went to yoga classes, took extra supplements, and felt like I had the pregnancy glow most expecting mums desire! I embraced my baby bump and loved shopping for maternity wear. I felt unfazed throughout my antenatal classes as they taught us about pregnancy and childbirth.
And then – pop. My little bubble burst and I was thrown into trimester no. 4. The insecurities started to seep in and before I knew it, I was a blubbery mess on the sofa wondering how I ended up feeling like a failure when my body had been through such a positive journey. I was left thinking…
Where was the manual?
Who was going to tell me what could happen after pregnancy?
Where did this sudden sense of overwhelm come from?
I vividly remember trying to get off the bed after Hallie was born (extremely optimistic and naïve) and couldn’t understand why I was struggling. It was quite literally like watching jelly slide off a plate. And we all know jelly doesn’t “bounce back” after hitting the floor!
I was 9 months postpartum when I realised that I was struggling with postpartum depression, despite close friends and family seeing it way sooner than I did! Had I not opened up, it could’ve gone on for much longer than it did, and I was able to get the support I needed to pull through.
How to promote positive body image after birth
Whilst your body transitions through pregnancy and the fourth trimester, celebrating your body and instilling a positive image of yourself can be extremely powerful to your recovery. It’s one of the most challenging things you will go through in your early stages of becoming a mother and the last thing you need is added stress of achieving a “perfect post-pregnancy body”.
These are a few ideas you can use to help you on your way to a more positive body image:
- Ditch the magazines with unrealistic body expectations.
- Stop body checking in the mirror – comparing yourself to others won’t make you feel better.
- Have a wardrobe detox – clothes you’re never going to wear again aren’t a healthy reminder to someone wanting to achieve a positive body image.
- Exercise for fun, not because you feel you have to but because you want to.
- Talk to yourself the same way you would want your child to talk about themselves.
- Speak out and ask for help.
As you navigate your new self and learn to love your post-pregnancy body, always know that whatever struggles your going through is only temporary. Finding the right support can make all the difference and sometimes it is simply the decision to accept the help that is the biggest step to take.
For more inspiring stories from real mums and maternal healthcare experts, read the Mamahood Manuals from Lola&Lykke.
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