A Portland OB-GYN strikes back at the idea that bodies should quickly return to their pre-pregnancy state, and it is glorious.
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Image of several screen shots of doctor holding models of different sized uteruses
Credit: Dr. Lincoln/TikTok

If you've given birth, I'm betting you've heard about "bouncing back."

It seems that you can't even get a minute to recover before you're seeing ads promising to help you shed the baby weight in x days/weeks/milliseconds, as if ejecting an entire human being from your body is something that can easily be shaken off. The barrage tends to hit you fast, too; and when you're not getting random ads, you have high school acquaintances asking if you'd like to "lose those extra pounds" in a one-week workout group. Then comes the guilt, and the fear that you're doing something wrong.

Does everyone else shed that birth weight immediately? Should you be bouncing back lightning fast?

The answer is no, and Dr. Jennifer Lincoln sums this up beautifully in about 30 seconds on TikTok.

In the video, she presents a model uterus and emphasizes how small its starting size actually is. She then holds up a different, much larger model as she explains how much the uterus has to stretch during birth. Before the end of the video, she implores us to stop buying into "Toxic Bounce-Back Culture" because "you just grew a human."

Comments were largely grateful for the lesson and for the words of encouragement.

"I am 5 days postpartum & feel soooo sore," writes one parent. "Baby girl was 10.3lbs and though my body made it through vaginally, I'm certainly in recovery. Thank you for this! I don't need to stress my mind & body further to 'bounce back' you're the best ."

Another commenter writes, "LOVE this visual!!" [It's] much easier to not be so hard on ourselves when we understand what's really going on in there!"

A number of comments were surprised that this information isn't commonly taught.

"It's so crazy and shocking how much we DIDN'T learn in school about our bodies. Thank you for sharing this! My mouth fell open," one commenter says, finishing the comment with a surprised emoji.

Parents reached out to Dr. Lincoln for further explanation of just how the heck the uterus does something so wild, and she quickly obliged:

"The uterus is an amazing organ—it grows from the size of your fist in the non-pregnant state to be big enough to hold a baby the size of a watermelon." Dr. Lincoln says. "This process takes about 40 weeks, so it's SO important to realize what took 40 weeks to grow isn't going to shrink back down in a day.

The postpartum uterus I show in my tiktok is what the uterus looks like right after the delivery of a baby and placenta. Immediately the uterus starts contracting down, and it's hugely important that it does that because that's what causes all those blood vessels that were going to the placenta just minutes prior to clamp down and stop heavy bleeding. The uterus continues to contract down over about 6 weeks which is how long it typically takes a uterus to get back down to size."

Can we just take a moment to acknowledge how cool and amazing that is?

Dr. Lincoln adds, "The cramping you feel after giving birth or when breastfeeding is from the hormone oxytocin, which is the hormone that caused labor contractions and now is responsible for your uterus contracting down. It might not feel great (and ibuprofen can help!) but it does have a purpose!"

If you take nothing else from this, take away the knowledge that while childbirth is "magical," your body doesn't actually run on magic. It needs nourishment, exercise, rest, and, of course, time in order to recover. Be gentle with yourself and your expectations, and remember that you sorta just grew something the size of Thanksgiving turkey inside your body; if anyone has earned a little compassion, it's you.

You can follow Dr. Lincoln on TikTok and Instagram under the handle @drjenniferlincoln. She is also the author of the book Let's Talk About Down There, which you can order through any of the links in her social bios.