Meghan Markle Just Dispelled a Huge Myth About Postpartum Bodies

An ob/gyn explains why you can still look pregnant after giving birth.

Meghan Markle Belly
Photo: Dominic Lipinski/Getty Images

We humble masses were graced with our first glimpse of baby Archie this morning, but mom Meghan Markle’s first appearance since giving birth was seen by some as even more momentous, and for an unexpected reason: because her postpartum belly was clearly visible beneath her belted dress. From the muumuu-style dress Princess Diana wore after giving birth to Prince William (emblematic of the maternity clothing at that time) to every single one of Kate Middleton’s bafflingly coiffed post-labor ensembles, how royal moms look when they present their new babies to the world always becomes a point of discussion.

In Markle’s case, it’s the fact that, unlike Princess Di, she wore something that didn’t completely obscure her postpartum belly that got people talking — and singing her praises.

It should go without saying that having a baby changes your body, but women (especially those who live under near-constant public scrutiny, like the royals do) often face pressure to “bounce back” to their pre-pregnancy appearance as quickly as possible. However, in the days immediately following giving birth (remember, Meghan delivered her son on Monday, May 6, so when she stepped out to introduce him on Wednesday, it had been a tight two days), this is an all but impossible feat.

VIDEO: Baby Archie Makes His Public Debut

“After giving birth, most women still have a bit of a belly,” Ashley Roman, MD, director of maternal fetal medicine at NYU Langone, tells InStyle. For one thing, the uterus doesn’t snap back to its pre-pregnancy size, and neither does the abdominal wall, which, Dr. Roman explains, has to stretch during pregnancy in order to carry the baby. “By around six to eight weeks after giving birth, the uterus has returned to its normal size,” she says. “This is also the point at which women can return to exercise if they wish.”

Dr. Roman says that it can take a few days after delivery for a new mom’s body to get rid of the excess fluid it accumulated during pregnancy — and thus get rid of some of that postpartum belly swelling — which can happen simply by sweating more or making “more visits to the bathroom.” As far as “bouncing back” goes, she says it can take between nine and 10 months after delivery for a new mom to get back to her pre-pregnancy body. But of course, she adds, “for some women, the body never fully returns to its pre-pregnancy shape.” It definitely wouldn't get there by day two, though, so it's a good thing that Meghan Markle has presented this learning opportunity to the world.

We like to think of Meghan’s life as something out of a fairytale, but her post-pregnancy debut is an important reminder that she, too, is a new mom living with many of the same postpartum realities that every other mom has to deal with. The heart-meltingly sweet PDA she shared with her prince husband, on the other hand, remains the stuff of fantasy.

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