Updated: Nov 7
By: Ready Nest Intern, Lauren Hamrick
The postpartum period often comes with a host of physical and emotional changes that can leave many new mothers feeling overwhelmed and disconnected from their own bodies. Learning to appreciate your postpartum body is a journey that involves self-compassion, self-care, and a shift in perspective.
Understanding Postpartum Changes
The postpartum period, often referred to as the fourth trimester, is a time of immense change. It is essential to recognize and understand these changes to begin the process of self-appreciation.
Weight: Gaining weight during pregnancy is entirely normal, and it's crucial to remember that it served a purpose – nourishing your growing baby. After childbirth, your body will gradually shed this weight.
Stretch Marks: Stretch marks may appear on your belly, breasts, and thighs. These are a natural part of pregnancy and are a testament to the incredible transformation your body underwent to accommodate your baby.
Loose Skin: Your skin may appear looser after giving birth. This is due to the stretching that occurred during pregnancy.
Breast Changes: Your breasts will undergo changes in size and shape, particularly if you're breastfeeding. These changes are temporary and are a sign that your body is nourishing your baby.
Hair and Nails: Hormonal shifts can affect your hair and nails. You may experience hair loss, which is usually temporary, and your nails may grow faster or become more brittle.
Pelvic Floor: This may include urinary incontinence or genital prolapse due to the muscles in your pelvic floor becoming stretched during pregnancy.
Mood Swings: Hormonal fluctuations can lead to mood swings and emotional ups and downs. It's essential to seek support from friends, family, a support group, or a therapist if you're struggling emotionally.
Body Image: Many new mothers struggle with body image issues during the postpartum period. Society often puts pressure on women to "bounce back" after childbirth, which can lead to unrealistic expectations and harsh self-criticism. Social media only accentuates this unrealistic pressure.
Learning to appreciate your postpartum body begins with self-compassion. Be gentle with yourself and recognize that the changes your body has undergone are natural and beautiful. Here are some strategies to cultivate self-compassion:
Positive Self-Talk: Replace negative self-talk with positive affirmations. Remind yourself of the incredible feat your body accomplished by bringing a new life into the world.
Practice Mindfulness: Mindfulness techniques, such as meditation and deep breathing, can help you stay present and accept your body's changes without judgment.
Set Realistic Expectations: Avoid comparing yourself to celebrities or unrealistic post-baby body standards (such as social media). Remember that everyone's journey is different, and your body will recover at its own pace.
Seek Support: Surround yourself with a supportive network of friends and family who understand the challenges of the postpartum period. Talking to other mothers who have experienced similar changes can be incredibly reassuring.
Celebrate Small Wins: Acknowledge and celebrate your body's resilience and the progress you make, no matter how small. Each step forward is a victory.
Self-care is an essential component of learning to appreciate your postpartum body. Taking time for yourself can help you feel more connected to your body and boost your self-esteem. Here are some self-care practices to consider:
Rest and Sleep: Adequate rest is crucial for physical and emotional recovery. Take naps when your baby sleeps (as much as possible), and don't hesitate to ask for help with nighttime feedings.
Nutrition: Nourishing your body with a balanced diet will support your postpartum recovery. Focus on foods rich in vitamins, minerals, and fiber.
Exercise: Consult with your healthcare provider about when it's safe to resume exercise. Gentle postpartum exercises, such as walking or postnatal yoga, can help you feel more in tune with your body.
Pamper Yourself: Treat yourself to a massage or a long bath. These indulgences can help you relax and feel more connected to your body.
Express Yourself: Journaling, art, or any form of creative expression can be therapeutic during the postpartum period. It's an outlet for your emotions and can help you process your feelings about your body.
Shift in Perspective
Changing your perspective on your postpartum body is a significant step towards appreciation. Consider these shifts in thinking:
Focus on Functionality: Instead of fixating on appearance, shift your focus to what your body can do. It carried and nourished a life, and it continues to care for your baby!
Set New Goals: Rather than aiming to return to your pre-pregnancy body, set new health and fitness goals that align with your current lifestyle and responsibilities.
Document Your Journey: Keep a postpartum journal to help document your body's changes and victories over time. This may help you come to appreciate the journey and the growth you've experienced.
Teach Your Children: Use this opportunity to teach your children about body positivity and self-love. Lead by example and show them that all bodies are beautiful and deserving of love and respect.
Learning to appreciate your postpartum body is something deeply personal and is not easy! It involves a whole lot of self-compassion, self-care, and a shift in perspective. The important thing is to remember that your body is a testament to the incredible strength and resilience of motherhood. Your body is also a reminder of the beautiful life you brought into this world. Healing is also not linear. As you begin to navigate the challenges and joys of the postpartum period, always try to be kind to yourself.
If you find yourself in need of professional help, don't hesitate to reach out to us and schedule a session. Our dedicated team at Ready Nest Counseling is here to help you navigate life's challenges and transitions with care and compassion. Whether you're experiencing difficulties related to conception, pregnancy, postpartum, infertility, loss, parenting, or relationships our therapists are ready to support you. We offer both in-person and virtual therapy. Schedule a therapy session with us today and take the first step towards a healthier you. Ready Nest Counseling also offers support groups for new moms and those who have experienced pregnancy loss. Remember, you don't have to face it alone – we're here for you.