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Body image after having a baby

9-minute read

Key facts

  • After giving birth, you will notice physical changes about your body.
  • This can impact your self-esteem, and other aspects of your life.
  • Look after yourself and focus on the hard work your body has put in to nurture your baby.
  • If you are struggling with your body image after having a baby, it is okay to seek help.

Your body after pregnancy

Pregnancy and giving birth can change your body in many ways.

It might take some time for your body to return to the way it was before you were pregnant. It’s even possible you won’t get your pre-baby body back.

These changes to your body can have an impact on your:

  • body confidence and self-esteem
  • energy levels
  • mental wellbeing

Weight changes

You will gain weight during pregnancy as your baby grows. It’s important for your long-term health to return to a healthy weight after pregnancy.

You can talk with your doctor or see a dietitian if you:

  • were overweight before you got pregnant and you’d like to lose weight
  • feel you're losing too much weight

Other physical changes

After giving birth, you may encounter other physical changes, such as:

Some of these changes will be temporary and some may be permanent.

You may also encounter some complications, such as:

If you are having trouble with any of these problems, you can speak to your doctor. They can provide help, such as:

  • pain relief when needed
  • advice for managing tiredness and how to sleep well
  • exercises to strengthen your pelvic floor to manage incontinence
  • exercises to help your abdominal muscles recover

How can I look after myself?

After having a baby, there are ways to:

Eat well

Eating well after giving birth can:

  • help you manage your weight
  • help you feel good
  • give you enough energy to care for yourself and your new baby

Your diet is especially important if you are breastfeeding.

Make sure you have enough:

  • calcium — from dairy and green leafy vegetables
  • protein and iron — from meat, fish, eggs and legumes
  • fibre — from fruits, vegetables and wholegrains
  • vitamins and minerals — from fruits and vegetables

It’s also important to drink enough water to help your bladder and bowels work well.

While caring for a new baby, parents may find less time to eat properly, or overeat from stress. It’s very important to keep up a nutritious diet.

Make sure you don’t skip meals. Try to eat small, nutritious snacks throughout the day to keep up your energy.

For more information on what foods to eat, visit the Eat for Health website.

If you need help managing your diet after having a baby, you can speak to your doctor or a dietitian.

Return to exercise

Exercise after giving birth can:

  • help you to feel good
  • help get back to a healthy weight
  • improve your body confidence

Before you start exercising after birth, talk to your doctor. They can advise you on when to start exercising again. For most women, this will be 4 to 6 weeks after the birth. It may be longer if you have had a caesarean.

Walking is a great exercise after birth to be active and get outside. Start with gentle walking, and gradually increase how long and how fast you walk. You can also take your baby with you in the pram. This can help your newborn to sleep.

You can also do exercises to help your pelvic floor and stomach muscles recover from birth.

Caring for a new baby can make it seem like there is no time to exercise. You may also have other things going on in your life. You can try to walking for just 30 minutes a day. This can improve your health and wellbeing.

When exercising after birth, stop if you feel:

  • tired
  • unwell
  • in pain

During your first 12 weeks after giving birth, avoid high intensity exercises, such as:

  • weights
  • sit-ups
  • running

Don’t compare yourself to others

People in the media and online always seem to have 'perfect' post-baby bodies. This can give you unrealistic expectations of how your body should look after giving birth.

It can be tempting to compare your own post-baby body with those of your friends or other people. But we are all different. Someone else's post-baby body is no guide to how you should look.

Give yourself a break from social media if you need to. If you are on social media, you can engage with body-positive content that shows different post-pregnancy bodies.

Be patient. Focus on all the hard work your body has done to nurture your baby.

Embrace your changing life and identity

Becoming a parent can be overwhelming. As well as the physical changes you may be going through, you may feel a change in your identity.

Having a baby often means that you will have less time with your partner and friends. You may also have less time to yourself.

Some people will embrace being a parent and the changes that happen to their life. For others, it can be very difficult to adjust to these changes. It may feel as though you are more of a ‘parent’ than an ‘individual’.

It’s normal to struggle with these feelings, but it can be difficult. It can also affect your body confidence If you are struggling with your identity after having a baby. It is important to get help when you need it.

Get help when you need it

Body consciousness after pregnancy can impact your life. It can also contribute to postnatal depression and anxiety.

If you are struggling with your body image and mental health after having a baby, you are not alone. Be kind to yourself — these experiences are common. They do not mean you are a bad parent, or that you don’t love your baby.

It can help to speak with your partner, family or friends about how you’re feeling. You can also talk to your doctor about where to find support.

See the Resources and Support section for more information.

Relationships and sex after pregnancy

After having a baby, your relationship with your partner may change. You and your partner may not have as much time together to be intimate.

Sex after having a baby may also be different.

You might not want to have sex for a while, because of:

  • lack of energy
  • low libido
  • hormonal changes
  • low body confidence

This is perfectly normal and it's important to give yourself time to adjust to your post-baby body.

So that your partner can best support you, it’s important to talk to them about:

  • how you feel physically and emotionally
  • your expectations and concerns about sex after pregnancy

You can also find other ways to be intimate, such as by:

  • cuddling and kissing
  • eating together when your baby is asleep
  • going on walks together with the baby in a pram

When you feel ready to have sex again, you can speak to your doctor for advice on contraception.

Resources and support

If you need support, you can:

Speak to a maternal child health nurse

Call Pregnancy, Birth and Baby to speak to a maternal child health nurse on 1800 882 436 or video call. Available 7am to midnight (AET), 7 days a week.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: June 2023

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