We’re here to key you in on a well-kept secret ‒ postpartum body positivity is possible.
If you’ve just had your baby, firstly, congrats!
Secondly, it’s not uncommon to experience the very real pressure to get back to your “pre-pregnancy body”.
You may have seen momfluencers on your social media feeds who have “bounced back” in no time.
You may have heard comments like, “She looks so great. Can you believe she’s just had a baby?”
As well-meaning as this may all seem, it puts unrealistic pressure on new mamas who are only just on the other side of the gargantuan undertaking that is pregnancy.
So we’re here to say: you’re totally allowed to recover at your own pace.
And that developing a loving, compassionate relationship with your body can really help.
With that in mind, let’s take a quick spin around what the postpartum phase actually is ‒ and then dive into how you can embrace a relationship with your body that’s based on appreciation and acceptance.
In this article: 📝
- How long is your body considered postpartum?
- Why postpartum body positivity matters
- Your body and the postpartum period
- What helps body image after pregnancy?
How long is your body considered postpartum?
Technically, for about 6 months.
But we don’t all follow the exact same timelines or have the same set of challenges.
While the postpartum period may seem like it comes after your pregnancy journey, it’s actually very much still a part of it.
That’s why it’s also referred to as the fourth trimester.
Your body is recalibrating and recovering after this huge labor of love.
So it’s not as simple as just “springing back”.
Hey, Chrissy Teigen agrees!
Not only was she refreshingly real about her TTC struggles, she also helped normalize the conversation about postpartum bodies:
Yep, this recovery process takes time.
To help you understand the different parts of the recovery process, we’ll take you through the three phases of the postpartum period.
The initial phase
This is defined as six to twelve hours after you deliver your baby. It’s all very fresh, and the risks of complications like hemorrhaging (bleeding excessively from a damaged blood vessel) and blood clots are at their highest.
(We don’t say this to frighten you, just to let you know that this is a vulnerable phase for your body.)
The second phase
For the first few weeks after you’ve given birth, your body will be in serious recovery mode.
Your reproductive and urinary systems will start to adapt to a post-pregnancy life.
How your blood flows around your body will change too.
As many of 80% of new mothers go through some serious emotional shifts (commonly referred to as the baby blues) during this time.
If feelings of anxiety or depression don’t lift or get more severe, it’s really important to check in with your healthcare provider.
Postpartum depression (PPD) is a very real health condition that requires treatment.
(We’ll take you through the details below, and how PPD can affect your relationship with your body.)
The third phase
Referred to as the “delayed postpartum period”, the third phase is all about your muscles and tissue adapting to this next chapter of life.
It starts at about 3-6 weeks postpartum and lasts about 6 months or longer.
It happens gradually, and it’s a unique experience for every postpartum person.
It can also differ from pregnancy to pregnancy in the same person.
Why postpartum body positivity matters
Body positivity is a movement that embraces the beauty of all bodies, regardless of their size, shape, abilities, or skin tone.
The keywords here are kindness, compassion, and acceptance.
Full disclosure, there are some flaws in the movement ‒ it’s not always as inclusive as it should be, and it does tend to focus on the appearance of bodies rather than what they’re capable of.
But when it comes to the postpartum phase, there’s much we can gain from having a loving, accepting, positive attitude toward our bodies, stretchmarks and all.
Rather than criticizing ourselves because we may not look exactly the way we want to, the goal is to celebrate our bodies for all they’ve done for us and our little ones.
That’s all well and good ‒ but it’s also incredibly difficult.
As this study tells us, it can be even harder to cultivate body appreciation just after pregnancy than during it.
Understanding the challenges and changes that your body is going through can help you gain more appreciation for yourself and gather strength for the chapter ahead.
Your body and the postpartum period
During the postpartum period, you go through a whole lot.
Here are some of the common contenders for your body’s attention.
You may have heard that breastfeeding will help you lose the weight you put on during pregnancy.
Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as that.
While there is some evidence that exclusive breastfeeding for at least three months can help you lose some weight, it’s definitely not a weight-loss program.
And the reality is, you shouldn’t be trying to lose more than four or five pounds a month.
You need extra calories while breastfeeding ‒ somewhere between 330 and 400 a day, according to the CDC.
This will help keep your milk production up and keep you strong for the big task of feeding another human.
So going on a serious calorie-restrictive diet while breastfeeding is not advisable.
Rather, focus on eating a nutrient-rich balanced diet and getting some light exercise where you can.
And remind yourself that you’re busy nourishing both your own body and that of another person.
That makes you pretty awesome, and your body amazing.
Pelvic organ prolapse
This happens when the pelvic organs (uterus, bladder, or rectum) drop down into or out of the vagina because the tissue and muscles that support these organs become weak.
It’s common, affecting about one-third of women in the United States.
It can cause a number of uncomfortable symptoms, including not being able to control your pee and poop.
You may also feel heaviness and discomfort around your vagina and in your general pelvic area.
In some cases, you might see a lump coming out of your vagina.
Struggling with a condition like this can make the idea of body positivity a tough one to get your head around.
Your body may feel strange to you, and the very thought of doing exercise, feeling sexy, or focusing on healthy eating may seem quite far away.
While it’s not always an easy conversation to have, talk to your doctor about your symptoms.
There are various kinds of treatments available, ranging from lifestyle adjustments to surgery.
You don’t have to just suffer through this.
This has to do with your rectus abdominis muscles, AKA your six-pack muscles.
And no, this is not a prompt to get them on display before summer.
During pregnancy, these muscles get stretched, sometimes leaving a separation in the middle.
This can cause your belly to bulge for a few months after you give birth.
So yep, it’s another way that your body may feel a little alien to you right now.
For some people, it goes away on its own.
Others may need physical therapy, and some people opt for surgery.
Again, wherever you’re at, think about these changes in terms of what they’ve brought to your life.
There is nothing “wrong” with the way you look.
Rather, your body is evidence of a really incredible achievement.
Postpartum depression (PPD)
PPD affects somewhere between ten and fifteen percent of postpartum people.
It’s a serious condition that requires treatment in the form of medication, talk therapy, or both.
If it’s not treated, PPD can have real implications for your ability to look after yourself and your baby.
Evidence suggests that body image and PPD have strong ties.
So body positivity, in this sense, is not just about feeling great in photos.
It’s about taking deep care of your mental and physical health.
And you’re definitely not expected to do this alone.
There is help available.
The Postpartum Support Network is there to offer support and connect you to the right healthcare professional.
You can also visit the Office of Women’s Health mental health resources page for more helpful resources.
And if all that feels too much, reaching out to a friend, family member, or your Peanut community is a great first step.
What helps body image after pregnancy?
We’ll take you through some strategies that can really help with body image after pregnancy.
But if you are really struggling, it’s important to talk to a healthcare professional.
(Here’s how to advocate for yourself during pregnancy and beyond.)
In the meantime, read on for our top tips to help you on your journey.
Have the conversation.
We’re firm believers in navigating the challenges of pregnancy and motherhood as a community rather than on our own.
Once we start having conversations about our mental and physical health, it’s surprising how many overlapping experiences we have.
We are often not as isolated as we may feel.
Know that your timeline is your timeline.
No matter how many times you hear people being praised for “getting their bodies back”, know that this is by no means a race.
And even if it were, the finish line would not be a “pre-pregnancy state”.
You’ve been pregnant.
And you are changed because of it.
That’s a good thing.
Have a dialogue with your negative thoughts.
Of course, for many of us, those negative thoughts just arrive, and there’s not much we can do about them.
Rather than trying to stop them, have a conversation with them.
Acknowledge them when they come up.
And then reframe them.
Remind yourself of what you’ve been through.
Patience and compassion for the win right now.
Eat good food that you love.
Don’t worry ‒ we’re not about to tell you to go on a diet.
Instead, eat nutritious meals that are going to fuel you as you go through recovery and get your little one through the first few months of their life.
Sitting down to eat a healthy meal that you love can be an act of great self-care.
Savor every mouthful.
We give you some tips on a helpful postpartum diet here.
Move according to where your body’s at.
The recommendation from the CDC is to get 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise a week in the postpartum period.
In the early postpartum period, this can be something like two 10-minute walks a day with your baby in the stroller.
Of course, if you’re struggling with any postpartum complications, this can be particularly tough ‒ so talk to your doctor about what might be best for you.
And listen to your body. It’s usually pretty good at telling you what’s up and how much it’s able to do.
Remember the incredible thing you’ve just done
You made a miracle.
That’s what happened.
Take that to heart.
And if you need a little positive reinforcement, here are some incredible pregnancy quotes.
You’ve got this.