Society bombards new moms with negative messages about their postpartum bodies daily. Moms are told their bodies need to "bounce back" to their pre pregnancy figures. They're told they should "lose the baby weight." They are fed myths about postpartum bodies, specifically what they should look like (skinny) and how they should be acting (happy, even if they're struggling emotionally.)
It seems all of the focus is on the superficial aspects of child birth, and not the real recovery. What about the healing process for a new mom? Their bodies have been changed, torn and stretched on so many levels, molecular, skeletal, muscular and hormonal, according to Baby Med. New moms have essentially been through an injury, and it should be treated as such in postpartum care. Beyond proper care from the medical community and loved ones, mothers should be encouraged to practice self-care in whatever form that is right for her.
That might mean getting away from the baby for a few hours to hang out with friends. It could mean eating a really yummy cupcake because it makes her happy. It could mean locking herself in a closet with a bottle of wine and a whole bunch of Netflix. It could mean ignoring unrealistic postpartum body expectations and societal criticism all together. Postpartum delusions are not only ridiculous, they're damaging to mothers. Here are eight myths about postpartum bodies that need to end right now.
Myth #1: You Have To Lose The "Baby Weight"
"Your body took nine (really 10) months to create your baby, you need to give it at least that long to heal," Tori Levine, founder of Babies At The Barre, told me in an interview.
My pelvis had several pounds pressing on it the last few months of pregnancy with zero relief. Sure, a little prenatal yoga helped, but for the most part, it hurt. That whole area needs a moment, a long moment, to regain strength and support again. New moms shouldn't be concerned about running marathons, lifting weights or doing sit ups for awhile. They're getting enough of a workout simply being a new mom.
Myth #2: Breastfeeding Is Easy
Breastfeeding is touted as this natural occurrence, but the term "natural" is very relative to one's experience. Breastfeeding didn't feel natural for me. It felt awful. I had a hard time getting my baby to latch. I had one breast that made adequate amounts of milk, the other did not.
Le Leche, a supportive site for breastfeeding mothers, lists several breastfeeding challenges or even potential road blocks for mothers. For example some mothers may experience maternal issues like sore nipples and mastitis. Or the infant could be having issues like tongue-tie or colic.
Myth #3: Urine Leakage Is Normal
Your pelvic floor is probably going to be weak after childbirth, which means there may be sneezes, coughs and laughs that result in a little leakage. New moms might deal with incontinence issues for several weeks or months postpartum, according to a University of Newcastle article. But, it doesn't have to be forever. Incontinence isn't your new identity as a mom. The pelvic floor might just need a little work out.
"Women who have incontinence issues can benefit from a specialized exercise regime that focuses on strengthening their pelvic floor or seeing a specialized pelvic floor physical therapist," Levine says. She recommends kegels as a good place to start, especially for newly postpartum moms.
Myth #4: You Can Have Sex At 6 Weeks
The typical time a doctor tells a postpartum woman she can have sex again is the six week mark. However, a recent University of Michigan study showed just how much trauma a postpartum woman's body actually goes through during the course of pregnancy in childbirth. Several injuries and tears were reported (including vaginal), that are not being diagnosed by doctors upon examination.
The point is you should ease into sex. If it's painful, don't feel pressure to do it. Not from your spouse. Not from society. You do it when you're ready — physically and emotionally.
Myth #5: You Need To Get Rid Of Your Pooch
That so-called pooch might actually be a more serious condition called diastasis recti, according to Web MD. If a woman has this condition, Levine cautions women who want to exercise it away.
"Hard ab work, like crunches and sit ups will only make it worse and not better," Levine says.
She suggests for women still healing after childbirth to seek a physical therapist or fitness professional who is knowledgeable in diastasis. That way certain movements that make the condition worse, can be avoided.
Myth #6: The Goal Is To Fit Into Your Pre-Pregnancy Clothes
Even when I shed all of my "baby weight" I still didn't fit into my pre pregnancy clothes. But what many people forget is how much a uterus expands during pregnancy, and how long it takes to shrink back.
“After you give birth, lots of women expect that their belly will return to its normal size almost immediately,” Silvana Ribaudo, MD, told Web MD, “It takes about six to eight weeks before the uterus is back to its pre pregnancy size.”
Myth #7: Your Body Isn't Hot Anymore
I've always struggled to accept and love my body since I was a young woman. That struggle was most apparent when I gazed at my squishier stomach in the mirror six weeks postpartum wondering why my belly wouldn't go away. My body image issues were magnified when I stared at tabloid magazines and saw celebrity moms in a race to shed baby weight, and applauded for doing so.
But, for as much as I hated my postpartum body, my husband loved it more. He's a fan of my curvier, rounder and softer figure.
New moms shouldn't worry about the state of their postpartum bodies. They're under enough stress. Postpartum women should be supported and encouraged to rest, heal and spend time with their precious new babies.