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Your Pregnancy Matters

‘Postpartum perfect’ in the delivery room? 4 points to consider

Delivery room
The rise of social media has made the delivery-room selfie standard for some new moms.

Every year, new trends arise in pregnancy, labor, and delivery. Most are harmless, but some are a little more concerning. One such trend is women feeling as if they have to present images of their best selves on social media right after delivery.

And patients are certainly opinionated about where they stand on the topic.

Some follow the lead of Today show host Savannah Guthrie, who chose to pose makeup-free for photos after the birth of her son. Others take the opposite path, hiring personal stylists to help them achieve a chic post-delivery look like Kate Middleton, Duchess of Cambridge, who reportedly got a series of hair blowouts before emerging from labor and delivery.

Neither of these choices is necessarily wrong. I’m all about women doing what makes them feel happy and beautiful. But I’m concerned that a lot of women feel pressure to achieve “postpartum perfection” on Instagram and Facebook, adding extra stress after labor and delivery, an already difficult experience.

Consider these four perspectives before you decide whether to pack makeup in your hospital bag – and before you judge another mom for her choice.

“I’m all about women doing what makes them feel happy and beautiful. But I’m concerned that a lot of women feel undue pressure to achieve ‘postpartum perfection’ on Instagram and Facebook after delivery, a time which can be stressful and uncomfortable enough on its own.”

Jamie Morgan, M.D.

4 perspectives to consider before packing makeup

1. You just gave birth; societal beauty standards don’t apply.

Women who are having babies today grew up looking at models and TV stars with “perfect” bodies and “flawless” complexions as our standard of beauty. But remember, labor and delivery can be painful, difficult, and exhausting.

No one should expect you to achieve these idealized beauty standards immediately after going through childbirth. You're already beautiful after delivery – just in a different way than how media standards typically define it. By the same token, if makeup helps you feel beautiful, by all means, put it on. As long as you are doing it for you – not your followers.

2. After delivery, you might not be emotionally ready for the Instagram spotlight.

Especially with a first pregnancy, it’s tough to predict how you’ll feel after delivery. Many new moms are overwhelmed during recovery. They’re dealing with cesarean section incisions, trying to learn to breastfeed, or experiencing the “baby blues” or postpartum depression – or all of the above. The added pressure of looking cute on camera certainly won’t help.

3. Your birth plan might not work out perfectly.

In both of my pregnancies, I delivered before my due date. I wouldn’t have had time to bring makeup if I wanted to. Personally, I’m not a big makeup-wearer, so it didn’t bother me. But not wearing cosmetics might stress some women out. If that sounds like you, pack an extra bag someone can bring to you as part of your birth plan.

Also, serious medical situations, including preeclampsia, emergency C-sections, or stillbirth, can happen unexpectedly. In these situations, it’s best not to have extra people in the room, such as a stylist. Furthermore, if an expected situation arises during labor and delivery, most women will be focused on their health and the heath of their child in that moment rather than their physical appearance.

Pregnancy and social media
Sharing your joy with friends and family on social media is natural. The decision of how much, or how little, you do to get ready for your close-up should be up to you.

4. Capture your joy – and your reality – on social media.

Research suggests that social media, while it has plenty of positives, can also negatively affect a woman’s self-image. Too often, women are expected to be strong, brave caregivers, while also looking our best – lofty goals, but too much stress for anyone, let alone a new mom. 

That mindset is so prevalent everywhere we go – in fact, while writing this article I stumbled upon Pinterest boards and pins dedicated to “not looking awful after delivery.” And the postpartum period can be an incredibly vulnerable time for even the strongest among us.

Women who already struggle with comparing their bodies and their lives to others might feel more pressure to look picture-perfect after delivery. Perceived lack of engagements on their posts – or seeing another mother’s “prettier” images go viral – can be hurtful, if not downright devastating. These false narratives can exacerbate depressive symptoms during the postpartum period.

Perhaps most importantly, we live in an era of “women supporting women.” Displaying faux perfection conceals the physical and emotional rollercoaster that often comes with labor, delivery, and caring for a newborn. 

A few closing thoughts

Some women never wear makeup. Some wear just a touch. And some put on a full face to go to the grocery store. You don’t have to change what makes you feel good about yourself just because you are in the hospital. But you also shouldn’t feel pressured to look a certain way for social media followers.

Just be yourself. It’s hard enough to be a woman - don’t pressure yourself more. Keep the focus on the real reason you are there – to leave the hospital as a healthy mom with a healthy baby.

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