Postpartum Moms Proudly Show Their Stretch Marks in New Ad to End 'Unrealistic Expectations'

A study found that 80 percent of moms compare their post-baby bodies to "unrealistic ideals"

Photo: Sophie Mayanne/Mothercare

When a woman gives birth in movies and TV shows, her baby belly is — poof! — magically gone as she cradles her newborn. But as mothers know, in real life that just doesn’t happen — and it can lead to body image struggles.

In an effort to “normalize their experiences,” the U.K. parenting company Mothercare launched a new ad campaign featuring real mothers and their babies — scars, stretch marks, bumps and all.

The company said in a press release shared with PEOPLE that they were inspired to launch this campaign, called Body Proud Mums, after research found that over 80 percent of U.K. moms said they compare their postpartum bodies to “unrealistic ideals” from the media and celebrities. Additionally, 51 percent of moms said they filter or alter their post-baby photos to change their appearance.

Mothercare’s Body Proud Mums Campaign. Sophie Mayanne/Mothercare

And 84 percent agreed that celebrities and brands should show real, unretouched postpartum bodies — which Mothercare decided to do.

Photographer Sophie Mayanne said that the photos show the beauty of growing a child.

“The images depict the raw and incredibly emotional experience of childbirth,” she said. “The aim is for mums of all shapes and sizes to be able to identify with these photos in one way or another, and to feel more confident with their imperfections.”

One of the women featured in the ad campaign, Tina, said that she feels pressure to “bounce back” everyday.

Mothercare’s Body Proud Mums Campaign. Sophie Mayanne/Mothercare

“Society, social media, people’s comments all make you feel that way,” she said. “All over social media it shows these perfect bodies saying they’ve had children and now bounced back so quickly.”

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Tina said that Kate Middleton taught her that baby bellies don’t immediately disappear.

“I, myself remember being really surprised when Kate Middleton came out of the hospital holding Prince George. She had the baby bump, and I remember being surprised that your belly doesn’t just go down after giving birth,” she said. “I also thought how stupid I was to have ever thought it would. I guess pre-children you just have unrealistic expectations.”

Another mom, Harriet, said that she “struggled internally” with her body image but she’s since embraced herself.

Mothercare’s Body Proud Mums Campaign. Sophie Mayanne/Mothercare

“I am proud of my body, but I have pregnancy weight to lose — but, I’m okay with it taking time,” she said. “I expected to feel the need to lose it all at once, but I’m okay with it. I have a scar on my stomach from a hernia operation, but I quite like it. I have it because of [her son] Teddy.”

Sabra said that seeing her body change so significantly was difficult at first.

Mothercare’s Body Proud Mums Campaign. Sophie Mayanne/Mothercare

“Having been a small size ALL MY LIFE with a flat belly and slip legs and arms, I did feel under pressure to ‘bounce-back’ to my pre-birth body,” she said. “Some people laughed at my new body and I felt insecure. I did feel embarrassed and I tried to hide my body. Then I realized that the changes are normal. My body doesn’t have to ‘bounce-back’ to my pre-birth body as long as I’m healthy.”

Nardy, a mom of six, said that she’s happy to be her own person.

Mothercare’s Body Proud Mums Campaign. Sophie Mayanne/Mothercare

“I don’t measure up to what society tells me should be the ideal,” she said. “I feel people need to put less pressure on mums to go back to their previous bodies before the babies and worry about their overall health mentally, emotionally and physically, to live a fulfilling life in order to give love and care for the new life.”

“I’m not represented, as most mums in the media are skinny and go back to their pre-pregnancy bodies,” she continued. “But it doesn’t matter — I am at peace with my body and I’m grateful for it.”

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