Do "real women" not bounce back from pregnancy? Do you think that this headline is insulting and/or misleading, or simply kind?Women are often bombarded with contradictory advice after childbirth – from health professionals, family, friends, and other new mums on social networking sites – about how to shift the weight they gained during pregnancy.
Some of this advice is evidence-based and centred on eating a variety of nutritious foods and getting regular exercise. But much of it is based on fad diets, unrealistic claims and outdated information.
There is also a constant barrage of stories in the media about celebrities losing weight quickly after giving birth.
To assess the influence these stories have on women’s post-pregnancy body image and expectations, Heike Roth (a UTS Honours student), Professor Jennifer Fenwick and I recently analysed how the Australian media portrays the childbearing body through the use of celebrity stories in women’s magazines.
One of the most distinctive messages we found was that after giving birth, women should strive towards regaining a pre-pregnant body shape with the same effort they would employ when recovering from an illness. The implication was that changes to the body during pregnancy were unnatural, unhealthy and weak.
The stories glamorised speedy post-pregnancy weight loss and centered on three specific themes: “racing to bounce back”, “breastfeeding to bounce back” and “pretending to bounce back”.
“Exemplary women”, such as celebrities, “bounced back” to their pre-pregnant shape, often just a few weeks after giving birth.
And while the celebrities “raced” to get their bodies back, magazines competed with each other to publish the first pictures of the celebrity’s “new”, “improved”, post-pregnant body. This included advice about wearing body-shaping underwear and up-lifting bras to regain their figure.
The benefits of breastfeeding were frequently mentioned. But these stories prioritised breastfeeding as a way to lose weight and regain the pre-pregnancy body, rather than providing nutrition to the infant.
The post-pregnancy period is usually one of great joy and happiness, but a lack of sleep and physical and psychological problems – such as backache, urinary and faecal incontinence, depression and fatigue – make this an enormously challenging time.
These unrealistic stories of bouncing back from pregnancy create additional pressures on women to lose weight quickly, through fad diets and excessive exercise. And they’re unhelpful for a community striving to achieve a balance between an obsession with thinness and an epidemic of obesity.
The World Health Organization and Australia’s National Health and Medical Research Council recommend breastfeeding as the best source of nutrition for infants. Women should aim to breastfeed exclusively for the first six months.
There is compelling evidence that breastfeeding protects infants against a range of short and longer-term health problems such as allergies, infections and obesity.
A nutritious diet is important for a breastfeeding woman’s own health and energy levels. But contrary to popular belief, her diet has less of an impact on the quality of her breast milk and on her baby.
Even in countries where food is scarce, mothers are able to breastfeed and their babies thrive. As the Australian Breastfeeding Association notes, “a ‘perfect’ diet is not required for breastfeeding".
Breastfeeding has long been promoted as a useful weight loss measure. But a recent review of the evidence from researchers at the University of Sydney shows this may not actually be the case.
Evidence from prospective cohort studies in developed countries showed the effect of exclusive breastfeeding on post-partum weight loss was negligible. Other factors, such as household income, baseline body mass index (BMI), ethnicity, gestational weight gain and energy intake, had a much larger impact on women’s ability to shed weight after birth.
New mothers shouldn’t feel rushed to lose the weight they gained during pregnancy but it’s important they gradually achieve a healthy weight.
For many women, the first year or two after birth is a time when they start thinking about having another baby. Losing weight between pregnancies will help prevent incremental weight gain over successive pregnancies and avoid the risk of complications.
Pregnant women who are obese at the onset of pregnancy have a higher chance of developing pregnancy-related diabetes (gestational diabetes), increased blood pressure (hypertension), and problems with clots in the legs or the lungs.
It can be difficult for women with a new baby to get daily exercise as well as cope with a lack of sleep and other health concerns.
Women need support from friends, family and health professionals during this difficult time. They certainly don’t need to be bombarded with unrealistic stories about celebrity post-baby weight loss.
Second part of the debate is the (one) comment so far on this article.
We are women, so what do you think? IS this "imagined? or real. Were you "bombarded" with advice from professionals, family, friends, and other new mums on sites like this about to shift weight gained in pregnancy? Do you think that our society over or under plays the role of actual diet and health on new mothers?“Women are often bombarded with contradictory advice after childbirth – from health professionals, family, friends, and other new mums on social networking sites – about how to shift the weight they gained during pregnancy.”
Is this true or imagined?
I tend to think it is imagined?
There seems to be quite a lot of complaint about how women are oppressed because of this and that, and now they are oppressed because of pictures of models in magazines. If this is the case, women don’t have to read the magazines, and no one is forcing them to read the magazines.
I believe most of their so-called oppression is imagined.
It's a stereotype which can be harmful even when well-intentioned. How you "bounce back" from pregnancy is subjective and dependent on so many factors...genetics of the mom (some people are more prone to stretch marks/scarring), health of the pregnancy (someone who was sick their whole pregnancy and didn't gain weight would likely be back to a regular weight before someone who struggled more with weigh gain, maybe was on bed rest etc), access to help after the birth (if you have lots of help, you are more likely to be able to take time to take care of yourself as opposed to someone going through the newborn days alone) and of course if you have access to personal trainers and plastic surgeons that never hurts. Whether you "bounce back" quickly or not seems like a strange test of being a "real woman" though I understand that the sentiment is to provide support to those who don't fit back in their pre-pregnancy jeans as they are leaving the hospital.Do "real women" not bounce back from pregnancy? Do you think that this headline is insulting and/or misleading, or simply kind?
I think there is a lot of pressure for women to live up to a societal standard of beauty at all stages in life, post partum not excluded. I think the model of pregnancy care in the US does not place enough importance on eating healthy and getting exercise while you are growing a human being. It is ridiculous to weigh someone at every appointment, critiquing weight gain or loss, and completely leave out any advice as to what healthy eating should look like during pregnancy.We are women, so what do you think? IS this "imagined? or real. Were you "bombarded" with advice from professionals, family, friends, and other new mums on sites like this about to shift weight gained in pregnancy? Do you think that our society over or under plays the role of actual diet and health on new mothers?
I was consistently told that it took 9 months to put the weight on, it could easily take 9 months to get it off. And I was told breastfeeding would help, but I honestly think it hindered because I was constantly hungry. I think when you are going through all those hormone changes after giving birth that it can be a struggle to remember that the people being photographed in a magazine, the skinny women you know that don't eat properly, and the marathon runner/health focused Mom are all living a different life with different choices than most of us make.
I think they were trying to be kind to those who struggle with the weight loss and of course that's insulting for those that work hard to maintain a healthy body and put forth more effort than others. They definitely underplay the role of exercise and dieting.
Last edited by wlillie; 11-01-2011 at 09:15 AM.
To the first question....i don't know. I was always very fortunate to bounce back after pregnancy, with admittedly no deliberate effort. I breastfed my kids yes...and during breastfeeding i would dip below my pre-pregnancy weight by a couple of pounds, and then it would come back up after i stopped. Thats just how it was.
But even if that wasn't the case.....i guess i have a really hard time believing that a woman would not go back to her pre-pregnancy weight, assuming the following:
1)Her pre-pregnancy weight was the weight she had under a healthy diet and adequate exercise
2)She continues to eat healthy and exercise after her pregnancy.
Sometimes neither of those are true for a myriad of reasons.
And maybe I'm wrong, maybe even under those circumstances a woman would not necessarily reach her pre-pregnancy weight, *relatively* soon after. But my gut and logic says you would...not overnight of course.
And i was not bombarded with information on how to get back to my pre-pregnancy weight. I do remember sometimes seeing celebrity interviews here and there with women who just had babies and often the interviewer would always ask how they got back to looking so good so quickly. So i can acknowledge there is a focus on the issue...perhaps an obsession.
Cecilia Marie 1/10/10
Photo By Anne Schmidt Photography
I was lucky to also get back to a pre-pregnancy weight fairly quickly. I tried to be healthy during pregnancy and continued to exercise when I could, which I think contributed to getting back after the pregnancy was over. The only comment that I ever got was from DD's pediatrician, she said I was small and needed to keep up my food intake for breastfeeding.
I think there is a pressure to get back into shape quickly. Especially when there are celebrities days after giving birth that look like they were never pregnant to begin with.
I've learned from siggies and articles like this, that "real women" not only bounce back from pregnancy, but exclusively breastfeed their kids for 3 years or more, have natural births in their living room (pool is optional), use cloth diapers, cook everything from scratch, and smileall the time.
Of course I've never claimed to be a real woman.
One of the things that I found so amazing about my pregnancy with T is that I think it was the one time in my life when I was completely at peace with and in love with my body. I didn't give a hoot what it looked like or how big it got - I was just totally in love with what it could do. It could create a person! What a freaking miracle!
I was sad that feeling went away after I gave birth. I do think that there is pressure on women to "bounce back" - even if it is just internal (like, I believe I need to look a certain way, so I pressure myself even if no one else ever says a word about it. But I got that idea from somewhere, didn't I?)
I want to recapture that feeling of being totally in love with the function of my body without caring so much about the form. I keep hoping that I'll find that again through exercise, but some how I just don't love jogging or riding an exercise bike nearly as much as I loved making a baby.
-Alissa, mom to Tristan (5) and Reid (the baby!)
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I think that we shouldn't put pressure on women to return to their old figures. Focus should be on eating healthy, getting as much rest as possible and taking care of yourself so you are healthy for your baby.
I think the celebrites that bounce back is because A. they started with a really healthy (skinny at least) with a fit physique B. they usually have baby nurses and nannies allowing them to get more sleep and C. they have chefs, cooks, personal trainers, ad nauseaum
I guess I missed the PA announcement while in the post-partum unit that joy and happiness were being handed out.The post-pregnancy period is usually one of great joy and happiness, but a lack of sleep and physical and psychological problems – such as backache, urinary and faecal incontinence, depression and fatigue – make this an enormously challenging time.
I physically had a terrible recovery the first time around and I couldn't have cared less about my stomach or a$$ or boobs, but I did bounce back fairly easily - on the outside. Inside I was a wreck, but that's another story. The weight was harder to lose after DS, and I'm still not back to my pre-pregnancy weight. I don't really care though. I'm healthy, I just have a bit more padding in certain areas.
I agree with Lillie about the constant bfing hunger. Seriously, I ate all day long and the weight just kept falling off. The older kid literally sucked the weight AND the life force out of my body. Of course, it was very hard to cut back on the calories after eating a certain way for the time I bfed. I remember very clearly gaining a quick 5 pounds after each kid was weaned. It eventually fell off, but it took a loooooooooong time.
To the OP, I think what makes you a 'real' woman is accepting your body for its uniqueness, and empowering yourself to do whatever you think it takes to get healthy, fit and lose the weight after baby (if losing weight is your part of your goal). If you're doing what's best for your baby and you have the means and motivation to eat healthy and get your a$$ to the gym or on the Wii Fit or walking that baby in the stroller for an hour straight every day, then good on YOU. If you're looking great and are healthy then yeah, some women will probably be jealous and say catty $hit behind your back. Maybe say you're not a 'real' woman because you don't wear the negative after-effects of pregnancy and delivery on your sleeve like some kind of 'badge of honour'. Well so what? I don't think that most celebs who are new mothers have put their own physical appearance ahead of their baby's health. I read lots of interviews with new moms who are famous and they're talking about how great (or maybe difficult) bfing has been, or how many times they work out a week. Sure, they have advantages that the average woman doesn't but if I was in that position - wealthy, with a trainer and personal chef - damned straight I'd be taking full advantage!
Last edited by Claire'sMommy; 11-01-2011 at 12:50 PM.
I loathe when articles use that phrase 'real women'. It reminds me of the 'No true Scotsman' fallacy.
Unless you're actually a robot, every woman is real. Just so happens we all have different body types and some bounce back sooner than others. Imagine, people being different? Crazy theory!!