10 Apr The 3 Basic Tenets of Recovery after Childbirth
Mamas sometimes forget… that since it took 9 months for your body to grow and develop a baby, it can also take months to feel “normal” again after giving birth. If you’re breastfeeding, you may not feel “back to normal” until after you’ve weaned. Many women never look and feel the same after giving birth. And, truly, why should we? A woman has grown, nurtured, and given birth to another person from her own body. As a result of this physiological process, some bodily changes will be temporary, others permanent. We encourage new mothers to embrace this reality and accept it as a loving initiation into motherhood.
Now, acceptance doesn’t mean to stop caring for yourself. Raising a family takes boundless energy and a mother who feels strong, healthy and clear headed. There are some cultures that say that the first 40 days postpartum impacts the next 40 years of the new mother’s life. This pearl of wisdom is meant to encourage new mothers to rest and recover, while protecting the fragility of the newborn, until both are strong enough to reenter society.
In our do-do-do, go-go-go culture, the idea of staying inside one’s home for 40 days seems unimaginable, and often, impossible, because of a lack of help with household responsibilities and the necessity to return to work. American maternity benefits are often far too short, if they exist at all in a job, and many mothers must return to work as early as 6 weeks postpartum. Comparatively, many other industrialized countries have generous maternity leaves of 1 year or more. American laws around this are starting to change slowly. And, new philosophies are popping up in birth culture to encourage mothers to take more rest and self-care time in the postpartum period. These include: the 40 Day Rule, the 4th Trimester and the 5-5-5 rule.
The 5-5-5 rule is a great start because it’s only for 2 weeks and with the right preparation, most women can work this out in their work/life situations. The rule encourages postpartum women to stay in bed for 5 days, on the bed for 5 days, and near the bed for 5 days.
There are so many physiological changes taking place after giving birth, whether it’s vaginally or via c-section. Some of these include:
- Vaginal bleeding and discharge (lochia)
- Perineal soreness
- Hormonal shifts (hair loss, night sweats)
- Hemorrhoids and constipation
- Healing from stitches (perineal or c-section)
- Nipples pain and soreness
- Baby Blues and/or postpartum depression and anxiety.
These are reasons enough to stay in, on and close to bed. But, these are temporary symptoms and most will go away in the weeks to months following the birth.
Underneath these inconvenient truths of childbirth is the basic need for 3 things: rest, nutrition, and low impact movement. A new mother must sleep a lot and often, eat well, drink well and care for herself and her new baby. These 3 basic tenets of childbirth recovery are the foundational elements of good health and will promote the body’s healing and recovery from pregnancy and birth. This is what is meant by the old adage that 40 days postpartum will impact the next 40 years of a woman’s life.
A postpartum mother should sleep when her baby sleeps; rest frequently. If she is feeding the baby, a partner, friend or family member can take responsibility for soothing the baby (diaper changes, swaddling and cleaning). Mommyato has more information about postpartum fatigue.
A postpartum mother should eat simple, warm, easy to digest foods. Smaller, more frequent meals are best; cutting down on the sugar and fried, fatty, heavy foods. Drink plenty of water, especially if you’re breastfeeding. Drink a glass of water every time you nurse. Ensuring you are getting the right nutrition is key for your recovery.
A postpartum mother should outsource other responsibilities to willing friends and family. A chart where everyone can sign up for a chore is helpful, such as grocery shopping, making meals, laundry and other childcare. The presence of friends and family will also help buffer feeling overwhelmed, lonely or isolated and be a useful antidote against postpartum depression.
In the birth community, there is a lot of new attention being placed on the critical 4th Trimester. A woman’s pregnancy may end with the birth of the baby, but her journey into motherhood continues into the postpartum period, rife with more physical changes and marked by the profound need to heal her body, mind, and spirit. Once the postpartum period has passed, you can never regain this unique window of time. Don’t let the opportunity to restore and recover yourself pass you by.
- Photo by Igordoon Primus on Unsplash: Newborn with Mummy. https://unsplash.com/photos/Bf8DX9ijTH0