Let’s talk about something that’s none of our business: Kelly Clarkson’s postpartum body. We’re not going to talk about her third number one album on the billboard charts, her awesome duet with Jimmy Fallon or her adorable baby girl. We’re going to put her recent accomplishments aside and talk about her postpartum body because she had the nerve to have a baby in June and not be “skinny again” by March, and that’s what really matters.</sarcasm>
Before we talk about Clarkson specifically, let’s talk about what’s average and what’s recommended in terms of pregnancy and postpartum weight gain. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends a gestational weight gain (GWG) of 25-35 pounds for a
woman that began her pregnancy with a body mass index of 18.5-24.9 and is pregnant with a single fetus. In reality what we’re seeing is an increasing trend in women gaining both less than and more than the recommended GWG. This is because more women are beginning their pregnancies with a BMI considered overweight or obese.
Postpartum trends also show that a year after giving birth, women that began their pregnancy at a “normal” weight and gained the recommended amount retained three pounds of their pregnancy weight a year later. Those that gained more than the recommended weight retained about 10 pounds. Within some weight ranges the retained gestational weight can become problematic, putting women at risk for the development of type 2 diabetes post-pregnancy.
Retained gestational weight gain can compound with subsequent pregnancies, increasing a woman’s pre-pregnancy BMI and putting them at risk for gestational complications such as gestational diabetes, HELLP syndrome and preeclampsia.
A major assumption in previous research (and it seems by society in general) is that postpartum “baby weight” serves no purpose, but that assumption is being challenged by evolutionary biologists. Research in this field over the last decade has posited that postpartum weight retention plays an important role in lactation, providing nursing mothers with energy reserves should their baby’s need for milk outpace the mother’s energy (food) intake.
Pregnancy is hard, recovering from childbirth is hard, new motherhood is hard and in the West we do an abysmal job of supporting new mothers. One of the unspoken rules of new motherhood is that if you’re not pregnant anymore, you have to look like you never were. That’s an incredibly powerful but negative message to send to a woman. This is where we get Tori Spelling’s “Just Keep Your [Bleeping] Mouth Shut and Eat Air [postpartum] diet,” which is incredibly dangerous, new mother or not.
I’m glad that we can now put Kelly Clarkson in the category of women who have openly taken a healthy approach to postpartum weight loss, along with Tia Mowry, Hilary Duff, Jenna Fisher and Bryce Dallas Howard. At the end of the day, what Kelly Clarkson’s postpartum body matters only to herself and her doctor, new album or not.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Pediatric and Pregnancy Nutrition Surveillance System (PNSS). Updated December 17, 2014. Retrieved March 11, 2015.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Infant Feeding Practices Study II and its Year Six Follow-Up. Updated August 26, 2014. Retrieved March 11, 2015.
Weight gain during pregnancy. Committee Opinion No. 548. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Obstet Gynecol 2013;121:210–2.
Leahy-Warren, P., McCarthy, G. and Corcoran, P. First-time mothers: social support, maternal parental self-efficacy and postnatal depression. Journal of Clinical Nursing. March 25, 2011. Retrieved March 11, 2015.
Bedor, E. and Tajima, A. No Fat Moms! Celebrity Mothers’ Weight-Loss Narratives in People Magazine Journal of Magazine & New Media Research Summer 2012. Retrieved March 11, 2015.
American Pregnancy Association. Pregnancy Complications: HELLP Syndrome. Retrieved March 11, 2015.
Mayo Clinic. Preeclampsia Risk Factors. Retrieved March 11, 2015.
Mayo Clinic. Gestational Diabetes Risk Factors. Retrieved March 11, 2015.
Dufour, D.L. and Sauther, M.L. Comparative and evolutionary dimensions of the energetics of human pregnancy and lactation. American Journal of Human Biology. August 21, 2002. Retrieved March 11, 2015.