Overcoming Negative Body Image, Post Pregnancy | By Nadine Woods
Prenatal appointments, birthing classes, baby registry/showers, are synonymous with planning for baby’s arrival. Women prepare for everything when they are expecting, except for the most integral component ~ our own recovery. But in all fairness, how can we prepare for something we don’t really understand until after we have experienced it?
First time mothers are the last to know how much their body and life changes post pregnancy. Due to the focus on childbirth and baby, sometimes the foundational information required for a strong recovery is neglected.
In reality what most people do not realize is that negative body image is at an all time high during childbearing years. After all, once a woman has had a baby, she has a postpartum body for life. Learning to live with these changes can have a profound effect on a woman’s health and self-confidence that spans years beyond giving birth.
The 4th trimester serves as a very important time in the pregnancy process. Your body has done a tremendous job, nurturing, growing and birthing this new life. The body needs time to heal and can take up-to two years to do so. Fat cells have been noted to increase three times in a woman’s life: when you are a baby, puberty and for every baby you have. 1 in 3 women will experience some type of pelvic floor dysfunction in their lifetime and pregnancy and birthing can contribute to that. Stretch marks, loose skin, abdominal wall separation, weight gain, breast shape and size and other physical transformations come with pregnancy territory. Coming to terms with, and managing all of these emotional and physical changes can be overwhelming especially when balancing the needs of your baby with your own.
This experience is common. Research has shown 2 out of 3 women have difficulty coming to terms with their transitioning postpartum body. Body image dissatisfaction can be attributed to a combination
of physical changes and negative self-image (mental health). “Mummy tummy”, pelvic floor dysfunction, the obsession to get our pre-pregnancy ‘body back’ and new family dynamics are all thrown into the mix. Studies suggest that women who are less satisfied with their postnatal body, are less likely to breastfeed, and more likely to suffer disorders, depression or psychological distress. New mothers may also be concerned that their partner will dislike their body leading to relationship insecurities.
With this information it is even more pertinent that self-care is at he forefront of your recovery period. If something does not feel right it is important to seek a professional who is well versed in the recovery process. Seek out a pre/postnatal certified trainer, certified diastasis recti specialist, a lactation consultant, a pelvic floor physiotherapist and a psychotherapist in advance if possible. Support and awareness are key to a healthy and realistic journey back to wellness and making you the optimal mother and partner your family needs!
Nadine M. Woods is a postnatal maternal health advocate. She is the Creative Director of Mayana Genevière, Founder of the Maternal Goddess Organization and the mother of an amazing little girl.