Postpartum images on social media: filters, reality and vulnerability
Updated: Oct 11
The postpartum period can be a time of vulnerability, of shifting identity. I spoke to Yahoo Life for an article about celebrities sharing images of their postpartum bodies. They asked whether postpartum images on social media could be empowering, or whether it might add pressure on women to look a certain way after giving birth. Click here for the original article, and here for a further article on the same topic.
For many women, our sense of who we are is linked with the reflection that we see in the mirror. During pregnancy, our changing shape and size is prized in society, with images of pregnant women ‘blooming’ and ‘glowing’. However, there simply isn’t the same narrative when we consider the postpartum body. We might be a different shape or size than we used to be. Or covered with stretch marks, leaking breasts, or injuries or scars from our birth. These changes might stay with us for the rest of our lives. In some ways, it’s helpful for us all to see real-life images of real-life people at all ages and stages of life, flaws and all. It can make it easier for us to show and share the unfiltered reality of our postpartum bodies. It helps to remind us to be kind and accepting towards ourselves and how we look. However, celebrity postpartum images can still add to the pressure that we pile on ourselves. We might still not measure up to the image of postpartum beauty that they display on screen. And this could make us feel more self-critical or pressured to ‘bounce back’ to our pre-baby selves. It can trigger underlying feelings of perfectionism or low self-esteem.
Why are we seeing more images of postpartum bodies online? Our culture is changing, and we talk more openly than we used to about many of the taboo aspects of our life experience. This includes stories and images around menstruation, pregnancy, miscarriage, fertility, menopause and the postnatal period. If you’re a celebrity who is giving birth in this day and age, you’re likely to be used to showing and sharing your story with strangers.
What impact does it have on us? When we see unfiltered real-life images of postpartum bodies, it can help us to expand our understanding of what is considered to be normal and acceptable as part of the rite of passage of giving birth. It’s not just about mothers seeing these images themselves. It’s also about knowing that everyone around us is getting used to seeing the reality of the postpartum body. Some advice on how to cope. Remember this: Comparison is the thief of joy. While these photos might be positive in promoting real-life unfiltered images for us all, it’s important to stay grounded and accepting of your own reality. Remember that everyone is different, our prenatal bodies, our birth experience, and the time and capacity that we have to look after ourselves while also looking after a baby.
Keen to explore more? In counselling we can take a deeper look at how you feel about yourself, and how it impacts on your daily life. Click here to contact me, or click here to book a 30-minute introductory call.