This article is written by Sarah Goodman, Registered Social Worker.
Our bodies change in so many ways throughout pregnancy and in the postpartum period. It grows bigger and softer, it stretches and aches. Your body almost doesn’t feel like your own. In fact, you have actually been sharing it for 40ish weeks and, depending on your feeding journey, you may be sharing it for much longer. It’s no wonder over 50% of women report negative views of their body after giving birth. Change is hard, especially when you have little control, and especially when those changes are perceived negatively by society.
There is a lot of talk about accepting your postpartum body. As someone postpartum and a clinician, I struggle with the word “accept.” To me, this feels very final, as if we are to accept that this is the way it is and we have to learn how to deal with it, almost begrudgingly. Just as your body has changed for 9 months, it will continue to change postpartum. Your body is ever changing—this is not your final form. Just as you do not look like you did when you were 20 (or if you do, please tell us your secrets!) you will not look this way forever. Instead, let’s consider how to be kind to your postpartum body and how to appreciate this chapter of life that you are in.
First, let’s acknowledge that the changes in your body are normal and good.
You will look like you had a baby, because you did. You have been through 9 months of huge change, you have performed a miracle and grown a full human being. This is not a bad thing! We have to reprogram our brains from the myths that the media feeds us. The idea that we not only need to “bounce back” but that if you don’t, you are not “normal.” Everyone’s body is different AND all bodies will change in some way postpartum. You are not meant to return to the way you were before. Your body is different now and you, as a person, are different as well. You are going through a transformation, both physically and mentally.
Show yourself compassion and express gratitude for your body.
You have been through 9 months of pregnancy, then labor and delivery—this is a lot, to say the least! Now you are recovering and caring for a newborn and maybe older children as well. You and your body are doing it all. Let’s show your body some gratitude!
- If you find yourself being critical of your body, make it a practice to express gratitude for it: Thank you body! Thank you for carrying me through the day! Thank you for growing this beautiful human! Thank you for continuing to provide comfort to my child!
- What would you tell a friend who was having critical thoughts about their body postpartum? We are often kinder to others than we are to ourselves.
This is the season of your life. You are growing and changing. You are allowed to take up more space and your size does not change your value.
Move your body in a way that makes you feel good.
Exercise is good for your mental health. Move your body in a way that feels good to you. Getting stronger slowly can feel amazing too. If you’re expecting a baby or getting back to exercise postpartum, check out The Prenatal Academy or The Postnatal Academy for evidence-based exercise to support you in these unique life stages.
Fuel your body with nourishing foods (most of the time).
Your body needs a lot of nourishment after pregnancy. Aim to fuel your body with good food that makes you feel more energized, AND enjoy all food! There are no foods “off-limits,” there are no good and bad foods. Everything serves a purpose. Celebrate life and feel joy through eating as well.
Buy clothes that fit.
I mean it!! Buy some things that make you feel good. You deserve it.
Recognize moments when you feel good and beautiful.
Did you make an effort to get dressed today? Are you wearing a cute and comfy matching sweatsuit? Is your hair done? Did you put on mascara? Whatever that small thing is, do it more.
Stop any practices that do not make you feel good and beautiful.
Weighing yourself, judging yourself in the mirror, and comparing yourself to others in real life or on social media is not going to make you feel good about yourself. Do what you can to reduce these and any other behaviours that do not serve you.
Take pictures, put on the bathing suit, go out with friends—live your life! People will remember that you were there and how you made them feel. You will remember it as well. You may look back at the photos and memories with pride and compassion even though you can’t see it now. How often do you look at past pictures of yourself wishing you could look like that again, when in reality you did not think so highly of yourself at that point?
So instead of accepting your body, accept that this is where you are now. This is the phase you are in. You are meant to be here. It’s normal to feel a little bit strange in your body right now. Uncomfortable, yes, but normal. You might feel a bit strange in your new role as a parent as well.
You’re allowed to want for things to be different AND be kind to yourself at the same time.
Give yourself time, grace, and compassion. This is not your final destination, this is a moment in time on your journey.
If you are ever feeling like these tips are not enough to manage your negative thoughts or feelings, please ask for help from a professional. Your feelings about your body can be complicated by birth trauma, pregnancy or infant loss, and disordered eating. We are here to support you if you need it.
Sarah Goodman MSW, RSW, PMH-C
Sarah is a Registered Social Worker in private practice at Eva Wellness specializing in perinatal mental health. Sarah supports women and their families from their journey to motherhood, pregnancy, parenting and beyond. Sarah sees clients virtually (must be living in Ontario).
If you would like to contact Sarah for inquiries or to schedule an appointment you can do so through email or phone:
Follow along on instagram for more fertility, pregnancy and motherhood content: @eva.mentalhealth
Note: This post is for educational purposes only and does not replace medical advice or treatment from your healthcare provider. Always follow the advice of your primary care provider when making decisions about your health and well-being.