Pregnancy is a magical time, there’s no denying that, but in the UK, it also comes with a slice of societal pressure to “bounce back” quickly after birth.
There are some typical symptoms we all know a lot about - from the sickness to the tiredness, but there are some lesser discussed parts of pregnancy that deserve to be given some more air time. Like the pressure to ‘bounce back’ after birth.
In former TOWIE star Lauren Pope’s new Yahoo UK pregnancy video series The Baby Bump, the 37-year-old discusses hot topics regularly spoken about by pregnant women.
In the first episode on self care, Pope speaks to doula, Beccy Hands and midwife, Alexis Stickland, owners of The Mother Box, about the UK’s pre-occupation with bouncing back post-birth.
Self-care has received a lot of attention recently, particularly in relation to how we can look after our mental wellbeing during the coronavirus pandemic.
It’s clear, though, that the bounce back culture prevalent in the UK is impacting the mental health of many pregnant women and new mums.
“One of my a-ha moments came from when I was training with some Mexican midwives. Everybody kept talking about getting your body back and the bounce back term was being bandied around,” Hands shares.
She explained how one of the midwives was confused with the term “getting your body back” because of the way your body changes throughout pregnancy.
“She said it would be a different version of your body and it was a real freeing moment where we were like, ‘wow, imagine if you grew up and everybody didn’t expect that’.”
In Mexico, stretch marks are described as “love lines” and it’s subtle changes in this terminology that really help women to accept their post-baby bodies in a way that the culture in the UK may not.
Although Hands believes we are making progress towards being more accepting of our bodies post-pregnancy, she admits we’ve “still got some way to go”.
There are medical reasons why people shouldn’t go straight back to the gym post-birth, Stickland explains: “Think about the incredible work your body is doing behind closed doors right now and we expect to just wipe that slate clean the moment the baby is born and move on and have a body that resembles what it looked like the day before we got pregnant.
“Right now (when pregnant) your estrogen and your progesterone levels to keep your baby safe and growing and comfortable in there are about 100 times as high as somebody who isn’t pregnant.
“The week after your baby is born, that estrogen and progesterone level drops 100%. We wonder why 80% of us get baby blues and feel quite emotionally wobbly.”
Post-birth, after our bodies have gone through so much, we then have to look after our new bundles of joy 24 hours a day. It’s no easy feat.
Pope admitted in the recent episode that she has found herself with extra cellulite during pregnancy, another part of pregnancy that isn’t always widely discussed.
“I’ve always suffered from cellulite on and off and I love the gym and I love my fitness but during pregnancy it has come out of nowhere with a vengeance.
“You feel guilty for begrudging the cellulite. I should just be grateful I’m pregnant, I should be embracing it. But that’s another thing people are scared to talk about, the downsides to it, because they think people might think ‘get over yourself, you’re so vain’. I wonder if that’s another thing that can lead women to feel a bit down in the dumps,” the former The Only Way Is Essex star questioned.
Pope, who’s 32 weeks pregnant, isn’t the only celebrity to openly speak about cellulite and stretch marks during pregnancy.
Recently, Ashley Graham shared her post-pregnancy stretch marks in a bid to open up the discussion around a woman’s changing new mum body.
“Body image is something that we’re drip fed throughout all of our teen lives,” Hands says by way of explanation.
She said it’s “very much” the case that body image is honed in on in the UK, but says that other cultures don’t always have the same attitudes.
“In Asia, with the postnatal body, if you start getting little pockets of fat and little chubby bits they love it.
“The women go to bed for 40 days, they have special foods, they have a massage every day.
“There they’re genuinely glowing because of the care and the nurturing they’ve been getting.”
Balance is key, and this may be why some pregnant women have reported feeling calmer during the COVID-19 lockdown because they’re not forced to carry on as normal while their bodies are going through such monumental changes.
We could all do with being spoon fed detox soup while laying in bed from time to time, so take a lesson from Asia’s pregnant population.