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Postpatum Body Image

- popsugar article outtakes

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Do your clients ever talk to you about postpartum body image shame? If so, what are their common concerns?

Yes, they do. It can be mixed and often seems to relate either to past experiences, e.g. with body image or eating disorders in their past, or from having difficult birth experiences which can leave people feeling disconnected from themselves. Both of these can leave people living the experience of objectifying their own bodies - either by judging themselves harshly (with internal negative self-talk) or dissociating. It’s really worth getting support around any traumatic experience in birth if things were tricky for you and it’s staying in your mind.

People are often surprised by how pregnant they still look after birth.

People have hugely varying experiences of healing their pelvic floors (which can massively affect how they feel about sex and intimacy there). Experiencing leaks postpartum can be tied up with a sense of shame too and short of being told to ‘do squeezes’ there’s not enough education or support for people because it really isn’t that simple (and I speak from personal experience here too).

Birthing is a huge life shift and can take time to get your head around - as well as recognising that as a new parent if you’re home alone with baby, your day might be feeling long. You may not be sleeping or eating properly which can exaccerbate things.


Sometimes in groups we chat about what postnatal means - is it 6 weeks - 12 weeks - forever? You have changed and sometimes that means accepting and nurturing yourself as you are.

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How can we as a society challenge the harmful narrative about weight gain and weight loss during pregnancy and motherhood?

As I mentioned earlier I think it’s all part of the same package of how we talk about / look at / be in our bodies. The shift needs to start with PE at school. I’d love to see more play and dance options continue for longer. Primary physical education has improved, but I don’t see that being in place for teens still and that is when a lot of these patterns form.

The internet has done both great and shitty things for us. Seeing real women and birthing people’s pregnant and postpartum bodies has helped a lot of folk and I think it’s beautiful and generous. But does it counteract all the filtering? I’m not sure.

Choose your social media consumption wisely!


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For someone experiencing postpartum body shame, what's the first step they can take to work against the internal struggle?

It’s not healthy or even possible to change your body quickly. Remember that your amazing body took over 9 months to change and grow your baby.

If you’re breastfeeding relaxin will still be in your system and you’ll need to be aware of how it feels to move when you’re still nursing. The pre-pregnancy idea of 'exercise' might not be comfortable or even helpful right now. Fundamentally your body and lifestyle have changed.

Think about what could nurture you. 
Is it possible for you to feel into what would help you feel better in yourself?

I love the idea of giving yourself something you can add rather than taking stuff away to get a healthier balance in life. That might be that giving yourself - literally - breathing space to pause.

[ b r e a t h e ]

It might be more healthy snacks you can eat with one-hand.

It might mean recognising that things are feeling a bit shitty and you need some help.

If thoughts are tricky it might be getting support from a loved one or professional.


Begin with the basics to start nourishing yourself • food • sleep • hydration • gentle movement • quiet downtime (ideally in nature) • connection.

Maybe start with a couple of those to begin with and add more as you feel resourced to.


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How can the body "positivity" movement sometimes work against our efforts to fight body shame? (e.g. feeling pressured to find our body beautiful, using other bodies as "inspo" for being "brave", etc.)

Your body is you, it’s your home as much as it was home to your baby.

Insta-inspo 'body positivity' is tricky - while it’s a fantastic idea if it becomes either subtly competitive or too good vibes only then there’s no place for that lived reality to exist. Embodiment practices can help people access more body awareness and body acceptance.

That might start with being polite or kind to yourself rather than immediate self love.



  • It could be noticing the good (quite possibly amazing) things that your body does and gently pracice welcoming those positive thought in more.
  • Spending time with or on the phone to supportive friends or family.
  • Things that feel good - like kitchen dancing, a shower, an extra nice cup of something warming.
  • Putting your phone somewhere out of reach and setting yourself up with some alternatives can offer some immediate space and a break from the cycle of scrolling. (Personally, I like audio books)
  • You might want to avoid 'fitness' classes that focus on body shape / size. It's not always the most healthy approach.
  • Generally connection with others or in the outdoors (even if it's through the window for right now) can help improve how you feel.
  • Remember to get help if things are overwhelming - there are some resources below if you're not sure where to start with that.



If you would like support around emotions in postpartum here are some organisations that may be helpful:

Check out your local services - here in Frome we have a great organisation called Frome Birth Talk that's a self-referral counselling service for pregnancy and postpartum families.


Practical in-person support

You might want to consider a doula if practical support would help you manage your self care so you can get that time and space to feel nurtured. Many doulas will work with families beyond the immediate postpartum weeks. If finances are tricky Doula UK have an access fund.


Thanks to POPSUGAR fitness for asking some greaat questions.



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