The Impact of Social Media Pressure on Women’s Post Natal Exercise Choices
So you’ve just had a baby and are flicking through Heat magazine as your little bundle snoozes away on your shoulder. You are 4 weeks in and are suddenly presented with an image of Heidi Klum walking the runway a mere 5 weeks after giving birth to her 4th child. No sign of a jelly belly, breast pads, stretch marks or varicose veins– just pure lithe perfection. Suddenly the ridiculous pressure to meet these unrealistic untenable ideals hits home!
You question yourself. Should I stop the extra calories even though they’re recommended for breast feeding? Should I be out power walking with the buggy rather than catching a quick 40 winks in between feeds? Read on….
A few years ago I worked as a volunteer for Beat – the UK charity for beating eating disorders. I asked them to comment on the pressures on women to lose weight after giving birth and their Senior Media Officer Mary George said the following:
Nowadays women who have recently given birth are subjected to enormous social pressure through the media and social media when celebrities are pictured back to their pre-pregnancy weight after an unrealistically short period of time. New mums need to maintain a healthy diet and gentle exercise at the most when looking after their baby which can be a stressful and tiring experience in the early days.
The following quote from Jeni further highlights the issue:
I had anorexia, recovered, had a baby, and then very quickly began training for a half marathon and to get back in shape.
I lost too much body fat (but wasn’t underweight, just too slim and muscular) and suffered from Hypothalamic Amenorrhea (loss of periods) but the treatment for the HA included having to put on body fat (Not easy for me).
I also asked a few friends if they felt they were under increased pressure due to social media images and unrealistic celebrity imagery.
Ibs from Brighton said the following:
No one tells you before having a baby how unfit you become. I felt like a slug after both my pregnancies and I am only now starting to feel normal…. Media and celebs are why. They all post pics and articles about how they lost their baby weight in 4/6/8 weeks.
So how are women supposed to get their pre-pregnancy fitness levels back whilst attempting to juggle all the added stresses that go hand in hand with caring for a small baby?
Before doing a post natal course with Jenny Burrell from Burrell Education*, I too thought tough ab workouts and rigorous cardio were the only way to get rid of my mummy tummy.
THINK AGAIN. The course changed my world. Eat and breathe – this is the message Jenny wanted to give new mums. Reconnecting with yourself and your pelvic floor and incorporating correct breathing, whilst fuelling the body in a healthy and nutritious way. SO much more important and effective in helping your body repair itself and indeed recover from the huge stresses that even a problem free pregnancy and birth put on the body.
I succumbed to social and media pressure after I had my 1st baby. I was so desperate to get into my pre-pregnancy jeans in the shortest possible time that I pushed myself to run several miles every day, do sit-ups by the hundred and dangerously limited my calorie intake. The result? Emotionally, I was utterly exhausted and struggled to cope with the demands of new motherhood. Physically, my diastasis – a separation of the tummy muscles – a condition very common post pregnancy – was never given the chance to heal and I now still have a sizeable separation 5 years after my youngest was born.
Don’t Panic!! Most of the damage we tend to inflict upon ourselves after childbirth can be undone with cautious and strategic exercise. The good news today is that women are now being positively educated and holistic post natal classes (such as Pure Core Restore) are now more readily available across the UK.
So how should we exercise and what should we avoid? Traditional boot camps which offer burpees, jacks, sit-ups, tuck jumps, tyre rolling, etc. are to be avoided especially in the early days. Do your research. At any class you attend after childbirth you should be asked complete a PAR-Q (Health Questionnaire) specific to the post natal client. The instructor should know if you have had a C-section, an assisted birth or a problem free delivery. She/ He should then be able to check for diastasis to ensure that it is safe for you to perform certain moves and if this is not the case, alternatives should be offered! Ensure any instructor leading a class for mums has the correct post-natal certification and training and that they incorporate an empathy driven education, re-connection and movement based programme.
So what is my parting word to new mums? Be kind to yourself and enjoy your babies. Breathe and eat
Christine Chessman, Pure Aerobics Brighton