Sunday, April 27, 2008

Postpartum Body Image

In the winter 2008 issue of Brain, Child, in the Nutshell column, Elrena Evans shares information that she found on the recent glamorization of the pregnant body and the resulting negative impact this has had on postpartum body image. Evans reports that in American culture, the pregnant body is sexy while postpartum women want to show no trace of having been pregnant. She writes about asking Jessica Smartt Guillion, Ph.D., an epidemiologist, why, "...pregnant bodies are in but postpartum bodies are not." Smarrt Guillion's response is that the pregnant body is "fetishized by the media at the moment, without acknowledgement of the physical impact of childbearing on the body." This short article really got me to thinking...

So many changes occur in our bodies during pregnancy. This is also true postpartum. Changes continue for months and sometimes throughout the first year or more depending on breastfeeding, etc.

A negative postpartum body image can contribute to low self-esteem and postpartum depression, as well as a host of other negative emotional and societal effects. It can also cause a mother to diet which could potentially be detrimental to her infant if she is breastfeeding as well as contribute to postpartum depression symptoms from lack of nutrients and calories.

I cannot count the number of times I have heard mothers of young children say, "I have felt so unattractive since I had my baby." We need to reclaim the "mama body" and celebrate it as an image of strength, warmth, and beauty. How can you proudly embrace your mother-body? How can we as a society promote positive postpartum body image? One mother, Bonnie Crowder, hosts a website called The Shape of a Mother. It is dedicated to honoring the maternal body throughout pregnancy and postpartum. She has been collecting and posting photos to celebrate the normal, healthy mother body. Seeing pictures of mother's bodies that are not altered by surgery or other severe measures to return to the before pregnancy state is a start.

Throughout the week I will be posting ideas to nurture your new mama body.

Nurture will be hosting several workshops in June, one of which is focused on reconnecting with your body postpartum. Check back for more details soon!


Elrena said...

Thank you so much for this write-up! I do think postpartum body image is so important, and I wonder at the role it plays in things like PPD, etc.

I'll definitely be checking back throughout the week to see your ideas on how to nurture and celebrate the new-mama body -- I am continually in awe of what the female body, in particular, was designed to do. Wouldn't it be awesome if our society could learn to place value on things like pregnancy, childbirth, and breastfeeding, and celebrate these images in our media?!

Ever hopeful....

Nurture: Center for Growing Families said...

Elrena, you're welcome. Thank you for writing the article! I wish I could link it to the post, but anyone who is interested can check it out in the winter 2008 issue of Brain, Child.

I would love to hear from the mothers who are prroud of their postpartum bodies...I know they are out there! Maybe if more mothers love their postpartum bodies the media world will follow. Of course, if the media world would love postpartum bodies more, mothers may be more accepting.

Anonymous said...

Spot on! I couldn't agree more. There is so much focus on the pregnant body yet all we hear about the postpartum body in the media is how much which celebrity lost her pregnancy weight. I'll be checking back to hear what you have to say about how to nurture the postpartum body.

Nurture: Center for Growing Families said...

Thanks Camadavi! Come on media ... you have such an opportunity to help mothers feel GOOD about themselves.