Katrina Clarke | July 25, 2013 | National Post
Criticism of the Duchess of Cambridge’s post-baby bump is sparking a global discussion about the need for greater understanding of what happens to women’s bodies during pregnancy.
Before the new mother even left the hospital, UK’s OK! magazine ran a cover story about how she intends to lose the extra weight, while members of the Twitterverse were shocked she still looked pregnant.
“It just smacked of being so massively unfair,” said Katy Hill, a British TV and radio presenter, who sent out a tweet calling for a boycott of the magazine.
“What do they think a post-partum woman looks like?”
Her Twitter account immediately lit up with hundreds of supportive responses. She later tweeted a photo of herself two months after giving birth, confirming most women don’t spring back to their pre-baby body, even when they are in the public eye.
“There are some things that are just so obvious … but actually nobody tells you them. Things like your belly,” Ms. Hill said, recalling the first time she took a shower after giving birth.
“I looked down and I nearly fainted with shock. It looked like someone had strapped an old leather handbag to my stomach.”
Northern & Shell, the company that owns OK!, later issued a statement calling the Duchess one of the “great beauties of our age” and saying the magazine’s readers love her.
“We would not dream of being critical of her appearance. If that was misunderstood because of our cover it was not intended,” it said.
Ms. Hill did not see this as a sufficient apology.
The Duchess’s initial appearance has been greeted by a range of responses, from praise to surprise to fat-shaming. Some asked on Twitter if it was “normal” to still look pregnant after giving birth, while others wondered why she was “still fat.”
These responses are likely the result of a pervasive celebrity culture, in which new mothers hide away until they are ready to emerge fit and flawless.
Katie Schunk, a 32-year-old Connecticut mother who writes for the CT Working Mom’s blog, wants people to see more realistic images of post-baby bodies.
Two years ago, she and several other mommy bloggers posted photos of themselves baring their post-baby stomachs. The pictures ended up going viral.
“It’s like we shun and hide the woman’s body after having a baby,” she said.
“Maybe we should all start sharing and being a bit more proud of just what is natural and normal in the body.”
Ms. Schunk said she was sad to see so many critical comments about the Duchess’s appearance, but adds she wasn’t surprised at the ignorance.
She admitted she also did not know what to expect after giving birth.
Obstetricians are wondering if people need to be better informed.
“Seeing Kate leaving the hospital as though she is almost six months pregnant is not unusual,” said Dr. Douglas M. Black, an obstetrics and gynecological specialist in Ottawa and past president of the Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada.
A woman will generally gain about 16 kilograms during her pregnancy and will lose about seven kg during birth, he said.
However, the uterus has grown and stretched. It takes about three to four weeks for it to return to its pre pregnancy shape and size, he said. This is what makes a woman look as though she is still pregnant after giving birth.
Dr. Black said his patients generally do not start exercising until four or six weeks post birth.
Some may have sore breasts, are tired out and recovering from vaginal tearing or a caesarean. Others don’t see exercise as an immediate priority.
“I would say sleep is higher on the priority list,” he said.