Body Image Post pregnancy

Written by Dr. Rana Tayara

“Mom, what is that? Is there something you are wearing under your dress?”
“This is called a shapewear! I wear it so I can hide my belly.”
“I don’t understand. Why do you want to hide your belly? It does not even show you when you wear the dress?”

This is the conversation between me and my daughter when she was 3 years old and I had delivered two months before. And she is actually right, my stomach was not visible under the dress, but I saw it, I felt it, I was annoyed by it and it was a heaviness factor, perhaps it is more psychological heaviness than physical heaviness, but I felt it.

Of all the relationships I’ve ever had, the one with my body is the most disruptive.

My appearance has changed a lot over the years, from when I was young and my weight played like a seesaw, my body image and the way I looked at myself also changed.

And of course, social media is not merciful.

The sentence she said to me, had a huge impact on me. She made me reflect on myself, revisit my thoughts. It is true that my body is changing, but my body is undergoing major changes. My body carried a child for the second time for nine months. My view of my body has gone beyond external beauty, and I have come to appreciate my body and its functions more.

Psychologist Marni Leishman says that pregnancy and childbirth are a celebration of what a woman’s body can do, and mothers who are able and respect this idea have a positive outlook on body image, regardless of their weight, measurements, or even the world view. But of course, this topic does not apply to all women. Society’s expectations that revolve around the importance of losing weight and returning to wearing the clothes that we used to wear before pregnancy take their toll on many mothers.

Unfortunately, the society that tells us to “love every part of the journey of motherhood” is the same one that blames us, “Why did you not go back to how you were before you had the baby?” In fact, how is it possible for a change that has an impact on the psychological, physical, health, and emotional level that went on for 9 months, to go back in time to what it used to be before birth?

I personally lived both experiences. After my first pregnancy, I experienced waves of self-hatred. I was even afraid to look in the mirrors. After the second birth, I felt acceptance of my body, perhaps because I was able to reconcile with myself and because I appreciated and respected my body more. But more importantly than all of this, my daughter’s words made me feel that my view of myself and my body will affect her view of herself in the future.

Accepting the reality and the changes that we go through, does not mean that we gave up, or that we are not seeking a healthy future for ourselves after birth. It is important that we accept changes and at the same time work on ourselves to be comfortable physically and psychologically:

  1. Get plenty of rest: Sleep is important for dealing with physical and psychological fatigue.
  2. Ask for help: Do not hesitate to ask for help from family and friends during the postpartum period, as your body needs to heal, and your mind needs to adapt to the new changes.
  3. Eat healthy meals: Following a healthy diet is important after giving birth (we are not talking about diets to lose weight).
  4. Review what things your body is capable of and can then do after giving birth, and not what it looks like.
  5. Observe your body as a woman without any negative comments
  6. Imagine talking to one of your friends when you are alone. We are always more harsh on ourselves than the people around us
  7. Do not give yourself or allow others to give any negative comments about your body in front of your children

It is very important that we understand and accept the changes in our body. We look at the issue from a point of admiration toward our body, which is able to bear, adapt, and bring to this world a human being; and to remember that in the end, our view of ourselves affects the view our children have about themselves .

Finally, have you asked yourselves whether the lack of acceptance you have for your body could be caused by something much bigger than just “I’m healthy and I want to be thinner?