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5 Reasons Kate Looked So Good After Giving Birth

"Duchess of Cambridge steps out looking immaculate just hours after giving birth," screams one headline.

OK, so yes, it can't be denied that the Duchess of Cambridge really did look amazing after she gave birth to the 8-pound 3-ounce bouncing royal bundle. "How does Kate do it?" The Daily Mail UK asks.

Well, obviously Kate "does it" with the help of a professional stylist who came to her hospital bed to give her a polished and perfect blowout, and apply her makeup. I'm guessing she even put very careful thought into her wardrobe choice this time around, not wanting to evoke the media blast that ensued after the last royal birth, on her "brave" decision to show that women's uteruses don't magically deflate an hour after delivery. (Shocker, I know. Poor Kate probably just wanted a comfortable postpartum dress, like the rest of us.)

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But beyond what Kate looked like after delivery—and don't even get me started on why we even care so much on her physical appearance—I think most of us were generally in awe that she looked so, well normal. The professional blowout helped, yes, but she certainly didn't look exhausted, nor was she walking gingerly in that "I've just been through war down there" manner that many a mother is familiar with. I mean, for crying out loud, the woman was wearing heels and had nary a swollen ankle in sight.

We definitely associate giving birth as doing battle and expect new mothers to go through hell and thus, look like hell. Pushing or otherwise extracting another human being (or more) from one's body is no easy feat, indeed. "And here I thought it was amazing that she was even standing," wrote one commenter wryly.

And while I won't downplay how downright hard birth can be, I also have to take this opportunity to do a little labor and delivery refresher here and remind us all that birth does not have to be horrible, you guys. It is possible to look "normal" after having a baby, even for us non-royalty types and here's why:

1. Not all labor and births are long, drawn-out affairs

With my first daughter, I labored for something like 16 hours and pushed for over four. Did I look like actual death? You betcha. My sister still shudders in horror at the sight that I was during that time. The Duchess, on the other hand, gave birth within hours of getting to the hospital, so it's safe to say that her labor and delivery progressed a little more smoothly.

Kate didn't pull off a labor and delivery miracle just because she's royalty.

2. No epidurals = faster recovery time

The Duchess also reportedly gave birth without an epidural, which—speaking from my experience as a labor and delivery nurse—I can say may have helped her recover a little faster than we might expect. Epidurals, fabulous inventions as they may be, really do slow down the pushing stage of labor (which can mean more trauma and complications down there), keep a woman confined to bed longer and thus delay the whole post-birth process of getting out of bed, dealing with the first postpartum blood bath, and in general, moving around. Some women's epidurals can take hours to even wear off, so the fact that the Duchess didn't even have one means she was probably out of bed and cleaning up very quickly after birth, which actually can help reduce swelling and get the healing process started.

3. No IV fluid = less swelling

I was most struck by Kate's cheerful appearance in heels without any apparent swelling because I feel like I'm still dealing with swollen feet, nine months after giving birth. Many of the new mothers I cared for as an OB nurse were similarly swollen, and in fact, many of them were more swollen after having the baby than during their pregnancies. But the huge amounts of IV fluid that most women in the U.S. receive during their labors play a big part in that—if you're in labor for 16 hours and have bags and bags of fluid, an epidural that requires even more fluid, and then medications after birth to help your uterus contract, of course you will be swollen. In England, however, IV fluids are not routine and, most likely, Kate never even had an IV at all.

4. It's normal to go home within a few hours

Some media outlets made it sound like Kate had performed a miracle to be allowed to go home less than six hours after giving birth, but that's not a rarity at all in London. In fact, it's a policy for mothers with uncomplicated births to be sent home within hours after giving birth. It's totally normal everywhere except the U.S. to see this practice.

5. An episiotomy or a tear makes a huge difference

For my first three births, I had episiotomies, despite being cared for by midwives (like Kate) and I was so sore I cried even weeks after giving birth. Every moment hurt and unlike Kate, I could have never pulled off that jaunty walk down the steps as she did. But, when I had my fourth baby without any tearing or episiotomy, I couldn't believe how normal I felt. I had no pain, I could go to the bathroom just fine, and I was walking all around like it was no big thing. Because it wasn't. I honestly didn't know it was possible to feel so normal after giving birth—but it totally is.

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In short, Kate didn't pull off a labor and delivery miracle just because she's royalty. Sure, she may be genetically gifted and have voluminous locks that most of us can only dream of, but her smiling face and "immaculate" appearance post-birth have more to do with the fact that she gave birth in a low-intervention, natural way under the care of a midwife than the fact that she's a princess.

Image via Getty Images /Max Mumby/Indigo

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