Magazines are filled with images of celebrity mothers bouncing back and showing off their bikini-ready bodies just weeks after giving birth.
If you took celebrity news as gospel, you would think six weeks was all it took for new mamas to achieve rock hard abs with not a stretch mark in sight.
Most people know that celebrity photoshoots don’t offer an insight into real life.
Stretch marks are erased with computer software, tummies are held in and eye bags and covered in make up.
But knowing that doesn’t stop new mamas feeling like failures as they sit on the sofa in jogging pants and milk-stained t-shirts, flicking through the pages of a glossy magazine and seeing these perfect new mamas staring back at them.
Society expects new mothers to look good. Hair should be clean, clothes should fit and make up should be perfect.
But showering alone can seem like an impossible task when you have a newborn baby to care for, nevermind applying a perfectly straight line of eyeliner.
And, really, who wants to spend time doing all of that stuff when you could be bonding with your new baby?
Study Finds Recovery Takes Much Longer Than Six Weeks
A study from Salford University concluded that the six week recovery from childbirth is a myth and that for most women it takes a lot longer than this to feel normal again.
Dr Julie Wray from Salford University conducted a study to determine how long it took new mothers to recover from birth. Participants were interviewed two to three weeks after giving birth, three months after the birth and again at six to seven months after the birth.
Wray found that most women didn’t feel they had fully recovered from the birth by the six week postpartum check.
In the UK, all women are offered a postpartum check at around six to eight weeks after the birth. At the check, women are asked how they have bonded with their baby, how they are feeling emotionally, whether they have healed physically and are offered advice on resuming sexual activity.
Women are offered physical examinations to determine whether any stitches have healed properly. If any emotional or physical issues are identified at the appointment, women can be referred to specialists for further advice. However, for most women, this postpartum check marks the end of their postpartum support from the health service.
Dr Wray said: “The research shows that more realistic and woman-friendly postnatal services are needed. Women feel that it takes much longer than six weeks to recover and they should be supported beyond the current six to eight weeks after birth. However, government funding cuts and a national shortage of midwives means that postnatal services will only face further challenges. The midwifery profession must raise the status of postnatal care as any further erosion can only be bad for women and their children.”
Motherhood: Not Quite As Expected
Motherhood can come as quite a shock, especially to first time mamas. Though even women on their fifth child can find themselves drowning in a sea of dirty nappies, unwashed laundry and high expectations. Far from just the emotional and physical recovery from the birth itself, women are also dealing the demands of new parenthood. There simply isn’t much time to recover when you have a brand new demanding person to care for. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the huge changes happening in your life.
You may also find that your relationship is struggling under the strain of sleep deprivation. Many women find this to be an isolating time, so it’s important women feel confident in reaching out for help when necessary. There is help out there, so make sure you ask for it.
Meeting other new mamas can help you to realise you’re not alone, there are plenty of women out there going through exactly the same turmoil right now. Put down the glossy magazines and stop comparing yourself to other mothers, instead focus on your needs and your new little (or big!) family.
How long did it take you to feel normal again after birth?
- If you’re expecting or have recently had a baby, check out this warm and fuzzy BellyBelly article – 4 Reasons You Should Hibernate After Birth.
- If you’re interested in finding out more about the length of postpartum recovery, you can read the full Salford University study here.