When you’ve spent nine months gestating a baby, your body is going to change.
No matter how fit, healthy and active you’ve been during the pregnancy, chances are more likely than not you’re going to have a few extra kilos more at the end than you did at the start.
Seems really logical, right?
Unfortunately, it’s a story that is as old as the hills: society seems obsessed with mums getting their pre-baby bodies back as if it is the biggest priority when you have a new screaming bundle to deal with. You usually see it through body shaming (often of celebrities who haven’t lost their baby weight within a few days/weeks of giving birth) but the rise of the fitspo thing on Instagram means it’s bloody everywhere these days.
If you don’t know what I’m on about, here’s a sample of recent headlines:
“Silver screen siren! Teresa Palmer shows off her stunning post baby body in a slinky metallic gown at her very first Oscars after giving birth to son Forest TWO MONTHS ago.” (Daily Mail, 27th February 2017)
“Blac Chyna’s Post Baby-Weight Loss Is Epic” (Global Grind, 23rd February 2017)
“Katherine Heigl looks slim in white blouse and jeans two months after welcoming son Joshua Jr.” (Daily Mail, 16th February 2017)
“Stephanie Davis flaunts astonishing post-baby body – 6 WEEKS after giving birth to Caben-Albi” (OK! Magazine – 28th February 2017)
“Zoe Saldana Flaunts Insanely Toned Physique Just Days After Announcing Baby #3’s Arrival” (Hollywood Life – 24th February 2017)
I managed to be pregnant at the same time as Britney Spears both times she had a baby and saw the way she was paid out on in the women’s’ mags for her alleged struggles to get her pre-baby bod back. I’d sit there looking at all my own jiggly bits and back at the photos of Britney’s and would have been more than happy to have her post-baby body. And I felt angry for her – because, newsflash, even if you haven’t had a baby, when you’re in your 20s and 30s you’re probably not going to look like your 17-year-old self anymore.
In a decade things have become more absurd. You don’t need to be sitting in a doctor’s waiting room leafing through the old New Idea or NW to feel insecure and confused about your post-baby bod.
You just need to log on to Instagram at any time of the day or night to be bombarded with the never-ending stream of “fitspo” photos from one of the many almost waif-like Instagrammers showing off the abs of steel that they appear to have gotten within nanoseconds of popping out a sprog. If you miss it on Instagram, their amazing weight loss stories will show up in the mainstream media anyway.
It’s little wonder that some women do drastic things to try to keep their pregnancy weight-gain to a minimum. Even in this day and age some women will still smoke to have a lower birth-weight baby (I know someone who did this!). Or go on a diet while pregnant.
Gaining weight during pregnancy is completely normal and natural. Your body is growing a new human being (or beings if you’re having multiples!) While most of the pregnancy weight you gain is the actual baby, the rest comes from the changes your body undergoes to support the pregnancy and having a newborn.
There’s some extra fat, which your body will use to prepare itself for breastfeeding and for storing nutrients. There are amniotic fluid, placenta and your enlarged uterus. Your breasts can increase in weight as well. And then there’s increased weight from more blood and body fluid. Some women gain more weight than others. Some women gain more weight in one pregnancy than they do in their others. Every woman and every pregnancy is different!
It can take around six months or more for a woman’s body to recover from childbirth, so hitting the gym and doing ultra-strenuous workouts is actually not really advised until you have the all-clear to do so. In fact many health professionals advise that women shouldn’t be trying to diet in the first six weeks or so after having a baby, not only to allow their bodies to recover from childbirth, but to help establish a good milk supply. Any rapid weight loss can mess with your ability to produce a good breastmilk supply.
Supermodels, actresses and the like make their living from their appearance. The sad reality for them is that they have a lot of pressure on them to lose any pregnancy weight gain as soon as is humanly possible because their bodies are their livelihoods.
As a result they might be “flaunting their post pregnancy bods on the red carpet” or whatever within days or weeks of having a baby, but it doesn’t mean that it was healthy for for them, or for their new bundle of joy. But you’re never going to get their publicist to tell that story, are you?
Even though some celebs like Chrissy Tiegen, Pink and Blake Lively have been quite vocal about this issue lately and are pushing back on the expectations, they seem to be the exception to the rule if the headlines I mentioned above are anything to go by. It’s back to work, back to looking perfect as soon as possible for so many others.
So what does that mean for the average new mum, sitting on the couch in her tracksuit pants, covered in baby vomit and wondering if she’ll ever be able to take a shower today?
In a body-image obsessed society, many women have body-image issues for their whole lives, so pregnancy and new motherhood is not going to be any different. Pressure to lose weight in those first days, weeks and months of having a newborn where you exist in a fog of sleep deprivation, sore nipples, leaky boobs and for some women, stitched up hoo-haas, is extremely unwelcome.