If Your Self Esteem Took A Hit After Having A Baby, You're Not Alone

by Megan Zander
Originally Published: 
A mom kissing her baby

Study finds having a baby can lower your self-esteem for at least three years

It’s no secret having a baby changes everything. There’s a ton of emphasis on the way pregnancy changes your body, but becoming a mom can massively change the way you feel about yourself overall. In fact, a new study suggests that having a baby can wreak havoc on a mom’s overall self-esteem for years.

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Researchers from the University of Tilburg in the Netherlands surveyed more than 84,000 pregnant women during pregnancy, and up to three years after their babies were born. They found that even three years after having a baby, most women still hadn’t regained the self-confidence they had before getting pregnant. Duh, say moms everywhere. Yes, we love our kids, but it’s kinda hard to be feeling yourself when you spend your days covered in spit up and your nights trying to get them to go to sleep.

Also, if you didn’t feel like a glowing goddess during your pregnancy, you’re not alone. The study found that women’s self-esteem took a dive as their pregnancy progressed. We can see that. Unless you’re Beyonce, the actual pregnancy goddess, second and third trimester joys like swelling, waddling, the inability to tie your own shoes, and peeing your pants a little when you laugh don’t exactly make you feel great about yourself.

Once the baby arrived, new moms reported an increase in self-esteem for the first six months of their baby’s life. Sure, you’re sleep deprived and pumped full of hormones, but you’ve also caring for another person and managing to keep yourself alive at the same time, so yeah, you’re basically Wonder Woman.

But recovering from having a baby is so much more than how fast we can “bounce back” and get into our pre-baby jeans. Turns out those perfectly posed photos on Facebook of happy couples and their newborn fool are mostly for show. Many moms revealed that once that first six month afterglow period was over their self-esteem took a hit again and stayed that way, even three years after the baby was born. (The slump could be even longer, but that’s as far out as the study went). They also found women’s opinions of their romantic relationship tracked with their self-esteem. The worse they felt about themselves the less secure they felt in their relationship. So as shitty as it is to fight with your husband about who’s turn it is to change the diaper (pun intended), we’re all having the same fights.

This isn’t awesome news, but that’s why it’s so important to talk about it.

The idea that you have a baby and go back to being exactly who you were before just with an adorable, breathing, accessory is crap. Hell yes, it can take time — even years — to find confidence in the new normal and feel good about yourself again. This is why it’s so important for us to be kind to ourselves. We need to take advantage of when we have the chance to take a nap, have a date night, get our hair done, or whatever makes us feel good about ourselves — even if just for a little while. And we shouldn’t dare feel guilty about it.

H/T Quartz

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