Planning for Postpartum Body Acceptance

Pregnant woman cuddling belly in bedroom at home just before the labor and childbirth.

Planning for Postpartum Body Acceptance

Pregnancy and childbirth are celebrated as beautiful, life-changing, and ultimately positive experiences. And while they often are, postpartum changes can be challenging for new mothers. With a new baby, fluctuating hormones, sleep-deprivation, and a changing body, it’s easy to understand why post-pregnancy can be a difficult time for some women. While it is impossible to predict everything that will occur during pregnancy and in the months following birth, there are changes that individuals can anticipate. These changes may include heightened emotions, body-related concerns, and mental health issues. By keeping in mind that pregnancy comes with certain changes, moms-to-be and moms can create a plan to ensure postpartum body acceptance, wellbeing, and peace with their changing selves.

For individuals who are struggling with a history of eating disorders, pregnancy can be particularly challenging. With a slew of physical changes occurring during and after pregnancy, new moms can find themselves struggling to accept and appreciate their bodies.

Working Towards Postpartum Body Acceptance

It’s important to understand that the physical changes caused by pregnancy are vital to both the health and wellbeing of the mother and child. A mother’s changing body is necessary to keep both her and her growing child safe. This “pregnancy weight” and alteration in physical shape allows for proper circulation, which allows the baby to develop and thrive.

Naturally, after giving birth, a mother’s body will continue to change so it can continue to provide healing and nourishment for the mother and baby. Childbirth takes a toll on the physical body and it can take time to heal. This might mean physical changes continue to occur for months after birth. New moms may experience a shift in size, shape, or weight—all of which is completely normal and healthy. It takes time for the body to adapt and return to a new state of stability.

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These physical changes can cause anxiety, stress, shame, or sadness—especially for those with a history of disordered eating or poor body image. To combat the potential negative feelings associated with postpartum body acceptance, it’s helpful to have a support plan in place.

Some ways you can support yourself postpartum:

1. Have a support network around you.

By having loved ones around supporting you, coping with post-pregnancy changes can become a bit easier. Whether your support system is your partner, friends, or family, make sure you know who you can rely on when intrusive thoughts or negative feelings hit. If you need additional support, there are fantastic online communities centered around positive pregnancies and body acceptance.

2. Talk to loved ones.

Being open and vulnerable about your struggles can be incredibly healing towards postpartum body acceptance.

3. Keep a gratitude list.

Try to start every day by writing down one thing you are grateful for about yourself or your body. You could note, “I am thankful for my body for bringing my baby into this world” or “I am thankful for my changing body because it helps me nourish my child.” Remember, while we may not always love our bodies, it can be empowering and freeing to accept them for what they provide.

4. Prioritize your wellbeing.

Life can get hectic during pregnancy. So it’s important to remember to take time for yourself and engage in self-care activities. Even taking a few minutes a day to meditate or mindfully reflect can decrease stress levels and elevate mood. So, try to schedule in activities that bring you peace and joy.

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5. Seek professional support.

If you are struggling with body image thoughts and concerns and it is negatively impacting your life, health, and /or ability to parent, connect with a professional as soon as possible. If you are engaging in disordered eating or have eating disorder thoughts, it’s crucial to find treatment to help you with recovery. By finding care, you can ensure you stay healthy and well.

Pregnancy and childbirth can be an exciting time for many families. However, if you find yourself struggling with postpartum body acceptance, reach out for support. No matter how you are feeling, remember that you are not alone and help is available.

About the Author /

Jillian Lampert, Ph.D., M.P.H., R.D., L.D., F.A.E.D, is the Chief Strategy Officer for The Emily Program, a specialized eating disorder treatment program with locations in Minnesota, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Washington. Jillian is a long-time advocate for eating disorder recovery and hopes that one day, all individuals can experience a peaceful relationship with food and body. Jillian’s main goal in life is to raise her daughter to accept and love her body.

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Becoming a new mother, whether it be your first baby or your sixth, is filled with so many emotions. 🎢 Figuring out your new normal can take a minute as you recover from giving birth and get to know your new baby. People will be at your doorstep in no time wanting to congratulate you and meet your baby, but sometimes people aren't necessarily thinking about what they can do for YOU to be helpful. If you know someone who has recently had a baby or if you are currently expecting, today’s podcast episode is for you! ❤️ {Link in bio!}⁠
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Going to keep it real here, your fitness game is going to change after having kids. If you were crushing it before having babies, you're going to find that the free time for working out isn't what is used to be.⁠
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Regardless of where you were at, there are things you can do to make your heath a priority and be a good example to your little ones.⁠
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1. Don't rush back. There's no gold star here. Take your time, get the clearance from your OB/midwife and start when you're ready.⁠
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2. Schedule your workouts. Like most things in life now, you're on a schedule. Create time in your new life for you -- you'll thank yourself later.⁠
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3. Ask for Help. Chances are high that the Mom down the street is looking for some kid free time as well. You take an hour, she takes an hour and we're all better off for it.⁠
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4.  Embrace the little things. Your day will present opportunities to get your butt moving. Find them.⁠
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When you meet your baby(ies) and your whole world changes. 💕
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Instagram post 18110828746014338 The first year after baby is the leading time when marriages break up. The extra stress, lack of sleep, and major life changes can all contribute to communication breakdown and losing intimacy. 💔 That's why protecting relationships is such an important part of postpartum planning (done in pregnancy). Parenthood is an emotionally provocative experience. These heightened emotions help you tune into your baby's needs, but it can also help you tune into each other.⁠
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Speak your partner's love language in postpartum. Send this resource to your loved one so that they can make you feel loved and supported in a meaningful way.⁠
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Instagram post 17934950050319412 EXACTLY! 🙌 I wish more moms knew this and didn't feel pressured to say yes automatically to guests--of course, unless they want to! 😊 But you can always say no and not right now. Take your time to bond with your new baby. If you want people to come over, great! But don't feel bad if you don't and want more time alone with your family. People who love you should understand. ❤️⁠
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