Having a baby is undoubtedly one of the most special times in one’s life but it involves many changes that take adapting to. Caring for a little baby, adapting the family’s routine, ensuring that all your baby’s needs are met are challenging yet satisfying. It is amazing how for many moms, initial insecurity is soon replaced with self-confidence as one realizes how instinctive motherhood can be. As the weeks and months pass by, one thing that can seem a little harder to control than our new routines is body shape. Despite the growing interest in diversity and realistic body images in the media, research suggests that many moms have a negative body image after having a baby. One 2007 study found that women experienced “great levels of body dissatisfaction in the postpartum period than during pre-pregnancy or late pregnancy.” How can we turn these statistics around?
Battling Negative Body Image Post-Pregnancy
An oft-cited 2010 study published in a scientific journal, Women Health, found that mothers’ body dissatisfaction worsened between one to nine months after giving birth. Researchers observed that those who were dissatisfied with their bodies nine months postpartum tended to have a higher chance of having a higher weight, worse mental health, and fewer immediate family relationships. The findings are a wake-up call for moms to protect their mental health and build strong, supportive social circles as much as they can, to stave off negative feelings about their bodies in the long-term. They also highlight the importance of trying as much as possible to stay at a healthy weight throughout one’s pregnancy, placing great importance on regular exercise and a sound Mediterranean-style diet in which healthy lean protein sources, seasonal fruits and vegetables, and essential fats play an important role.
Can Mommy Makeovers Help?
‘Mommy makeovers’ are enjoying a boom in the United States and across the globe, yet they are often given a ‘bad rap’ by the media, which, somewhat ironically, clamour for greater self-acceptance. The American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery reports that tummy tucks have increased in popularity over the past two decades, and similar rises have been seen for breast augmentations or lifts, and labiaplasty/vaginal rejuvenation. The truth is that mommy makeovers are just another choice. There are some issues (such as changes to the labia following an episiotomy, or diastasis recti – in which the the two sides of the rectus abdominis muscle are separated post birth) that cannot simply be exercised away. Research shows that those who opt for plastic surgery do not have worse psychological profiles than those who don’t. Moreover, a 2013 study by scientists at Ruhr-Universitaet-Bochum in Germany has found that patients who make this choice actually do enjoy enjoyment of life, satisfaction, and self-esteem.
Taking it at Your Own Pace
When it comes to the acceptance vs change debate, one thing is clear: as a new mom, you owe it to yourself to take the pressure off. Each woman loses her postpartum weight at her own pace. Some find great joy in relieving stress at the gym, while others are more into Pilates to strengthen and tighten their core. Regular exercise and a healthy diet will go a long way towards making you feel fit and resilient, and any decisions made should be the result of careful consideration. The non-invasive procedure Coolsculpting (which ‘freezes’ fat cells in stubborn areas such as the belly) provides similar results as liposuction yet doesn’t require a single stitch; in fact, patients normally return to work straight after a session (i.e. downtime is zero). It is also important to keep stress at bay by relying on family and friends who are there to lighten your load. With a little help, you can find the time to go for a walk or run, or even go to the gym, which is a great way to start feeling confident and strong again.
Research shows that being unhappy with changes in one’s body post-partum is more common than many may realize. The body goes through many processes, including rapid skin stretching in areas such as the tummy and breasts, which can result in loss firmness. All new moms should ideally see their transformation as truly amazing, and find their own way towards a state of happiness and self-confidence. Let the path you tread be the one that gives you the greatest satisfaction.