Coping with body changes after pregnancy

Postpartum | | Elinor Harvey


We’ve all seen the photoshoots, featuring some celebrity clutching their new baby. Perfect hair, perfect makeup, clean designer clothes, and no extra baby weight in sight. Although rationally we know that a) these photos are probably photoshopped and b) that the celebrity has a whole team of stylists, makeup artists, nannies and personal trainers to help them look their best for the photoshoot, it can still make our heart sink. This can be especially hard if we’re struggling with our own body image after having a baby.

Even the most secure among us can have issues with such comparisons post partum. After all, during pregnancy your body has needed to grow and stretch to accommodate your growing bump. This can be triggering for those who have a history of disordered eating or poor body image, but many people can embrace their changing shape and the knowledge that their body is making room for someone very special indeed. However after birth, it can be a different story, as your body can feel strange and not your own. The pressure to ‘bounce back’ can feel suffocating.

You’re not alone if you feel this way. If your body feels heavy and sluggish. If you can’t fit into your old clothes. If your belly is still rounded and soft. If your stretch marks make you want to cry. After all, it’s normal that your body looks like you’ve just had a baby- because you have! However there are lots of ways that you can help yourself if you’re struggling with your body image:

1. Notice how you’re speaking to yourself

When we are feeling insecure with our body image, it’s easy to talk to ourselves with criticism and self loathing:

“You’re disgusting!”

“You still look pregnant.”

“Urgh, you wobble all over.”

Although this can happen automatically, it can be helpful to notice yourself doing this. When you catch yourself thinking negative comments like these, ask yourself, would you talk to your best friend that way? How would you feel if someone said these things to them?

If you wouldn’t talk to your friend like this, then why is it ok to talk to yourself this way? What would you say instead to a friend who was feeling body conscious?

2. Positive affirmations

Positive affirmations have a bad rep. They somehow feel cheesy, and can make you feel a bit silly. However they really do work, and perhaps not for the reasons you think. There is genuine science behind them!

When we are feeling low or negative about something, then it’s easy to get stuck into a thinking error, known by Psychologists as a ‘negative confirmation bias’. This means that our brains, which always prefer order and system, seek out evidence which reinforces our beliefs. So if we think we look unattractive, then we are more likely to tune into information which reinforces this, for instance comparing negatively ourselves to celebrity photoshoots. However, if we force our brains to hold new beliefs, then we can overcome this confirmation bias and ensure we are taking in on a broader range of evidence. And if we can change our thoughts, well, that can really have a significant impact on our feelings.

Try saying (out loud!) the below affirmations each day for a week and see if you notice a difference in your feelings towards your body:

Day One: My body is amazing.

Day Two: I am strong and healthy.

Day Three: I have achieved something incredible.

Day Four: I value my body.

Day Five: I owe my body thanks for bringing me my baby.

Day Six: I am beautiful and worthy of love.

Day Seven: My body is healing and I feel better each day.

3. Find clothes that fit

It can be seriously depressing to still have those pre-baby jeans looking at you every time you open your wardrobe! So don’t make this stage of your life any harder for yourself by hanging on to clothes which don’t fit.

Either rehome them on eBay/Vinted (bonus getting some extra dosh back!) or give them to a charity shop, and get yourself something wonderful which fits your beautiful new shape. Yes, the size label inside might be different, but you can decide that different doesn’t have to mean something negative. Sizing is just numbers after all, but you can be the one in charge of the meaning you attach to those numbers.

4. Move your body

No matter where you are at with your acceptance of your post baby body, exercise has been proven to have an immediate and often lasting impact on your body image, with women seeing themselves as “stronger and thinner” after exercising. It can be hard to make time for working out, but finding a way to move your body that you enjoy is a great step towards improving your relationship with yourself.

Whether you’re traditionally sporty or not, there really is something out there for everyone. Could you go for a power walk pushing your buggy around the park? Can you follow a yoga or exercise video while your baby is resting? What about postnatal pilates classes near you? Even if it’s just turning up the radio and shaking your booty, then it’s a great way to get those endorphins going and feeling the strength and ability of your body.

HiPP Organic Pre & Post Natal Fitness Expert, Charlie, has lots of great ideas to get you started. It's best to wait until after your 6 week check before starting any new exercises however; your body has been through a lot and giving it time to rest and heal is as important right now.

5. Notice the beauty in all bodies

We live in a society which has sadly a narrow concept of beauty, not helped by glossy magazines, social media and celebrity culture. However, embrace your inner rebel and refuse to sign up for this lack of diversity in beauty!

Can you force yourself to recognise the beauty in every person you meet? Think about the men and women in your lives, in your families, in your community? What makes each and every one of them special and worthy of love? How does their skin shine with vitality? Do their eyes sparkle with joy? Do their legs carry them safely from place to place?

Beauty doesn’t just exist in the pages of magazines or in an idealised version of ourselves. It’s in the uniqueness of being a human. See if you can recognise 3 things which make you gorgeous and special as a human.

It can be challenging to learn to love a body which feels and looks so different. However, treating yourself with criticism is only going to make that journey harder. Making small meaningful changes, and being kind and loving to yourself wherever possible, is a good way to start to embrace the person who you are now, and let go of society’s unhelpful, pressuring expectations of ‘bouncing back’.

As always, good luck, and I’d love to hear from you if you have any questions, via my website

Elinor x