You’re all ready for the birth of your baby and have your bags all packed. In your hospital bag are your headphones for your calming labor music, your toothbrush and toothpaste, some comfy slippers, makeup, and a t-shirt and your skinny jeans for the day you go home. But hold up! There’s something wrong with this picture…and it’s not the makeup (although you may find that it’s the last thing on your mind after birth!) You see, many women think they’ll go back to their pre-pregnancy size right away after giving birth with the perfect postnatal diet. We are shown picture after picture of celebrity moms looking like their old selves mere weeks postpartum, and this has created unrealistic expectations. It can be a source of depression for some women. Luckily there is currently a push to show more realistic pictures of what the postpartum body looks like, but we still have a long way to go when it comes to helping women develop healthy ideas of what the postpartum period entails.
Bodily Changes After Pregnancy
After you have your baby, you will not immediately look like you did pre-pregnancy, and that is totally ok. Your belly has been stretched to the size of a watermelon, and inside your body, your uterus, which had also reached the size of a watermelon by the end of pregnancy, needs some time to shrink and return to its former size (about as big as a pear). This process takes about 4-6 weeks. You also experienced some degree of diastasis recti, or abdominal muscle separation, during pregnancy. If this persists beyond pregnancy, as it does for many women, it can further contribute to the still-rounded shape of your belly in the postpartum period. Your belly skin, as well, needs time to return to normal. It has been stretched during pregnancy, and many women experience loose skin afterwards. The extent to which your skin stays loose and how long it takes to return to normal are due, at least in part, to genetics.
What About The Baby Weight?
Many women are shocked when they step on the scale after having their baby. You would think you’d at the very least have lost however many pounds your baby weighed, but that’s not always the case! Due to fluid retention and other factors, you may weigh the same even after giving birth.(This totally happened to me!! It took me a good 3 weeks to lose 1lb!) And even for those that lose weight, it certainly won’t be all of your pregnancy weight. The old saying goes, “It took 9 months to put it on, it can take 9 months to take it off”. And don’t feel bad if it ends up taking more than 9 months, either. Some women become frustrated when things they’re trying don’t work. For example, it’s an often-repeated “fact” that breastfeeding can make the weight come off more quickly. But the jury’s still out as to whether breastfeeding really helps the weight come off quicker. Some studies suggest that the rate of weight loss is the same whether you breastfeed or not. The point is, don’t let it get you down if you’re breastfeeding and the weight isn’t melting off the way some other moms may tell you it “should!”
Be Easy On Yourself!
Most importantly of all, understand that you just went through possibly the 9 most grueling months your body has been through. It grew a whole new human from two microscopic cells! It nourished that tiny life, and nutrients were taken from your body to provide for your little one. Your body stretched to house this baby. Remember that, and remember you are not “letting yourself go” if you don’t immediately delve back into your old routines. There’s no questioning the importance of a good postnatal diet and workout routine, but again, go easy on yourself and trust that your body is just going through what many women before you have gone through. There is plenty of time to work out and perfect your postnatal diet to reach a healthy you that you’re happy with! For now, just bask in the joy of your baby and savor this special time.