Normalizing what’s Normal: Post-Baby Bodies

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When a traumatic delivery left local photographer Ashlee Wells Jackson with emotional and physical scars, she reached for what was familiar: her camera.

Jackson took a picture of herself and her surviving daughter, Nova, and shared the image online. The response was overwhelming and the 4th Trimester Bodies project was born.

“The 4th Trimester Bodies Project is a photo-documentary dedicated to embracing the beauty inherent and the changes that are brought to women’s bodies through motherhood, childbirth and breastfeeding,” Jackson says. “The goal of the project is just to normalize what is normal.”

But in a world where toned tummies and perky chests are celebrated, it can be hard for people to differentiate between what’s normal and what’s not. That’s where Dr. Colleen Fitzgerald of Loyola University’s Medical Center comes in.

“The images that we see … in the magazines and in the news, they’re just not what the normal woman is going through” she says. “It takes up to a year for that recovery and I think most women should understand … give yourself a year.”

So what should new mothers expect? Fitzgerald highlights just a few of the many changes that can occur:

  • As the baby grows, a woman’s back will begin to sway
  • Women typically hold more weight in the pelvic region, which can widen as a result
  • Weight gain of 25-35 pounds
  • Muscles in the abdomen can stretch and change as the stomach grows to accommodate a growing baby and childbirth

That being said, there are some changes new moms shouldn’t have to accept:

  • Pain. If pain persists, be sure to tell your doctor at your 6 week checkup (or before!)
  • Persistent incontinence (leakage of stool or urine)
  • Painful intercourse

Both Jackson and Fitzgerald urge everyone to accept and embrace the beauty of pregnancy and birth.

“Whether a pregnancy ends in a healthy baby or a sick baby or no baby at all, that woman is powerful and courageous and worthy,” Jackson says. “I would encourage her just to love herself for who she is.

To check out the 4th Trimester Bodies Project or learn how to get involved, head to their website.


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