Study Finds Media’s Description of Postpartum Bodies are Not Realistic, Moms Everywhere Say “Duh”
When you're pregnant, it can be natural to look around for examples of postpartum bodies. You may wonder what your own postpartum body will look like, you may ask for advice on how to best care for your postpartum body, and you may have some questions about what to expect.
Now, I know that as a first-time mom, I definitely had no idea what to expect from my postpartum body. Honestly, I didn't really think about it too much. I had once heard an aunt talk about how she went home from the hospital wearing her pre-pregnancy jeans, so without putting too much thought into it, I packed my pre-pregnancy jeans in my bag too. I'll give you one guess as to how well that worked out for me.
Needless to say, I did not wear my pregnancy jeans home (and in fact, I'm pretty sure I never got back in them and ended up donating them a year later) and although I eventually got back down to my pre-pregnancy weight after the first baby, my body was forever changed.
The truth is, every woman's body will experience pregnancy and the postpartum journey differently. Some women will sail through with nary a stretch mark, others will struggle with complications and find that their body tends to gain weight everywhere, such as their ears and nose. You just can't predict what might happen to your body during and after pregnancy, but thanks to a pair of new studies, we know now that it's safe to say that if you're looking for a guide on what to expect from your postpartum body, there is one place you definitely shouldn't look–
You might not think that all those Photoshopped, stylized images of women after they've had babies is affecting you. But according to an important pair of studies, it's affecting you way more than you think. The studies revealed that even as little as five minutes of exposure to “glamorized” portrayals of mothers can lead you to have a lower body image.
Even if you're consciously aware that the images you're seeing in the media are obviously not candid (let's face it–even the Instagram images we share have easy filters you can slap on to make some of those tired eyes and droopy bits), the images still affect us on a subconscious level. Especially because we see these types of images over and over again. Beyonce, Kim Kardashian, every Victoria's Secret model, every actress to the point that it becomes ‘normal' to us to see them and expect that it is possible to lose all the baby weight and not have any stretch marks if we just tried hard enough.
And maybe, on some level, that's true. But what we see is not real life for the majority of us. (Unless you happen to have as much money as Beyonce. If that's the case, please invite me over for coffee sometime!) Most of us have jobs and limited resources. Most of us don't have access to trainers and chefs and people to literally keep chips out of our hands at 11 o'clock at night when we're up with a screaming baby.
More importantly, aside from the fact that seeing those types of images affects our body image, it also has a serious effect on our overall mental health. There is a link between depression during pregnancy and the postpartum period and seeing glamorized images of motherhood. I'm not saying that seeing a picture of a supermodel after giving birth with abs will give you postpartum depression. But I am saying that being bombarded with those types of images over and over and over if you're already prone to depression could be the tipping point. There's a lot we don't know about depression and how it is caused. In many cases, it's a large cascade of things and events and just one can push us over the edge.
So if you're expecting a baby or are in that raw postpartum time, mamas, just remember one thing: Be kind to yourself. If you find that seeing those types of images makes you feel down, take a social media break. Take time to exercise (even if it's just a walk!), and focus on self-care. Because any picture you see on social media, even if it's from a friend, is not real life. What is real is you, the body you're in, and that baby that you're growing or holding.
And that's what really matters.