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How to deal with the self-esteem pitfall after giving birth!

 The Instagram Effect: The Pressure of Perfection


Our relationship with social media is definitely a love/hate one. As much as we enjoy seeing what’s up with our friends and our favorite celebrities, its also takes a toll on our self-esteem. New moms see celebrities shedding baby weight within a few weeks; fitness models that further promote their tight abs, cellulite-free, stretchmark-free bodies. Then you have friends competing with one another… there’s Stephanie with her workout selfie, in yoga pants and sports bra, stroller jogging with the baby. She has 300 likes and 30 “Go girl!” comments. You still struggle to lose the muffin top and it’s been 6 months since you gave birth. It’s pressure!

Pregnancy, particularly the first one, can leave some women’s bodies virtually unrecognizable, and the attitude that women have to look perfect during and immediately after it, is widely perpetuated by celebrities and #instagramfamous new mommies. “Seeing beautiful, “perfect” women all over their newsfeeds can create serious self-esteem and anxiety issues in new mothers,” says New York City neuropsychologist Dr. Sanam Hafeez Psy.D, professor at Columbia University. “After pregnancy, hormones are still raging, the woman is going through a roller coaster of feelings and adjusting to a whole new lifestyle; the added pressure to look perfect right away can be very emotionally disruptive,” she adds.

It’s common for women to become concerned that their partner will no longer find them attractive compared to the girls on their own newsfeeds. “While a little insecurity is normal, fretting over keeping your partner’s attention is counter productive,” says Hafeez. “You should focus on feeling healthy and strong again, and especially bonding with your partner and your child. The feel good chemicals your brain releases while making a connection with your new baby and adjusting to life as a family will boost your mood and stave off bad feelings.”

Some new moms might be motivated to “fix” their new body with surgery. According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons the demand for “Mommy Makeovers” has grown dramatically over the past 10 years; the most popular procedures, breast lifts and tummy tucks, have increased by 70% and 85% respectively. These surgery packages aim to combine a number of procedures in one surgery with one recovery period, meaning a woman can choose to undergo a breast lift, lipo and tummy tuck in one go.  

These packages can also include reconstructive surgeries, different from cosmetic surgeries in that they seek to improve the function of the body, rather than alter it for aesthetic purposes. The most popular is vaginoplasty, which tightens the vagina, and some say even heightens sensitivity. Since 2010 interest in vaginoplasty has increased by 45%, possibly more according to various reports.

However, choosing plastic surgery to bounce back should be carefully considered. “Pregnancy and child birth are very traumatic for the body,” says North Carolina board certified plastic surgeon and best selling author Dr. John Zannis, “It is very important to give yourself a break.” Going under soon after pregnancy, especially for multiple procedures, is not recommended. The body needs time to heal and bounce back on it’s own, and depending on the age and individual metabolism of the woman, it will!

During pregnancy your organs move and grow. The uterus itself expands from the size of an orange to the size of a water melon and shrinks back to it’s normal size, but that process takes weeks or months, the main reason for your post baby belly. It takes some women as much as 2 years to fully bounce back. Many don’t give their body enough credit; it’s a natural machine and it knows what to do. You will lose about 12 pounds during delivery. Breastfeeding burns up to 500 calories a day and releases hormones that shrink your uterus. You need to give it time!

“If a new mom is set on getting any cosmetic or reconstructive procedure, she should wait at least a year. This time period allows for the body to bounce back on its own, heal, regain its strength, and be ready to take the stress and trauma of invasive procedures,” advises Zannis.

“It’s also very important to remember that celebrities are human, but they are not “normal people”, they have a team of nutritionists, trainers, personal assistants, nannies; helping them and keeping them on a strict schedule, and a strict diet,” cautions Hafeez, “It’s unrealistic to expect yourself and your body to go back to supermodel shape in three months.”

“If a person lacks self esteem no amount of plastic surgery will satisfy them. This is when we see body dysmorphia and plastic surgery addiction. I encourage mothers to rejoice in that they are bringing life into the world and their over all health and well-being is most important for them and their baby. It’s great to want to lose the baby weight but set a realistic goal,” says Hafeez.

Many ad campaigns are in fact embracing different body types and a more realistic looking model is used. Some companies are even including real people and bloggers in their ads to show that 5’10” 118 pounds on a woman is not the norm. Don’t be so hard on yourself!

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