Huffpost Healthy Living
The Blog

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

Jeana Lee Tahnk Headshot

The Reality of Post-Baby Body Bounceback

Posted: Updated:

Pregnancy and childbirth puts women's bodies through a tremendous amount of physical change and stress. For nine months, we must endure all the rigors of pregnancy and the many unpleasant symptoms that can accompany it -- heartburn, stretch marks, back aches and swelling, to name a few. After the baby is born, stomachs still appear pregnant, varicose veins creep out, hair starts to fall out and the side effects of birth are endless. Unfortunately, life with a newborn is so utterly exhausting, there is little to no time or energy left to do anything about the physical aftermath.

For the most part, women are given a reprieve for post-baby body bounceback (unofficially known as PBBB), and can use the, "I just had a baby" excuse for probably about six months. Most parenting books and women's magazines give an even greater allowance by emphasizing that, "if it takes nine months to put the weight on, it takes nine months to take it off."

Yet, it is hard to follow this guideline and think nine months (and longer) is normal when we are inundated with photos of celebrities who are back in their 'skinny jeans' (is there any other kind for them?) and are hopping around the beach in their bikini bods within months, sometimes weeks, after having given birth. Heidi Klum famously donned a bejeweled bikini and strutted her stuff (and six-pack abs) for the prime-time Victoria's Secret fashion show a mere eight weeks after giving birth. And the tabloids certainly love to promote the 'How I Got My Body Back' feature with every new celebrity mom. Case in point, check out this slideshow from Us Weekly and also one from People Magazine on celebrities' PBBB.

The reality is that this isn't real. Why? Celebrities have trainers to work them out as often as they'd like; they have personal chefs to create healthful meals that are low-fat, low-calorie, low-carb or whatever the diet-du-jour is; they have nannies to help watch the kids so that they can exercise for hours at a time, travel and do things that are not possible for the vast majority of new moms who don't have these luxuries. Simply put, it's not realistic for the rest of us to have to live up to this almost impossible standard.

What's real is this: Most women don't lose all the weight right away, nor do their bodies immediately bounce back to how they were pre-pregnancy. Of course, there are those women who just have good genes and by the luck of the draw, slim down right away. But for the majority of women, that is not the case.

Last year, BabyCenter conducted a comprehensive survey of 7,000 women with newborns to 2-year olds and found this to be a resounding truth. In the article, Madelyn Fernstrom, director of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center's weight management program states,

"For most people, the weight doesn't just melt off. Even the celebrities who lose the weight within three months have to work out regularly -- usually for extended amounts of time measured in hours, not minutes, which means getting outside help with the baby -- and diet to do it. It's hard for pretty much everyone."

What this survey did reveal is that the majority of moms do have post-baby body issues and have had to alter their expectations of how long it would take to take off the weight. Here are stats to consider from 'real' women:
  • 65 percent of new moms said they expected to be back down to their pre-pregnancy weight by their baby's first birthday (yet when they polled moms of 1- to 2-year-olds, over half were still carrying at least a few extra pounds.)
  • 87 percent of women say their stomach still hasn't returned to normal
  • 42 percent of moms the moms polled gained more than the recommended limit of 35 pounds
  • Nearly 90 percent of the moms who were overweight one to two years later blamed pregnancy for their weight problem
  • Over half of survey takers confessed that their body image has gotten worse since they became a mother
  • Nearly half of their survey moms said they got negative comments on their post-baby body from their parents
If you're in despair because you recently had a baby and PBBB isn't happening as quickly as you thought it would, take heart - you are clearly not alone! You have just been through a tremendous physical feat and it's going to take time for your body to recover. It is unfair to be holding yourself to unrealistic standards by comparing your post-baby body to whomever's bikini body is gracing the latest issue of US Weekly.

First, concentrate on taking care of your health, eating well and resting whenever possible. Getting through the rigors of having a newborn, both mentally and physically, while trying to nurture yourself is essential. Once you have the hang of the newborn thing, you'll be in a much better place to start addressing the things about your body that you are unhappy about. Pretty soon, you'll be bee-bopping on the beach with the best of them.

From Our Partners