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People spend months, even years, preparing for pregnancy, labor, and birth, but unfortunately, the postpartum period is rarely given proper attention. This shouldn’t be the case because it’s an extremely important period of physical, emotional, and mental healing, not only for the mother but also the baby.
As a doula, I’ve made it a point to include a special focus on postpartum care in my service package. Offering advocacy, support, and resources to new mothers is a vital part of what I do, and it’s not something to be taken lightly.
Below are some subjects that may or may not be widely discussed when it comes to the postpartum period. I believe these are all things you’ve got to know.
1. Let’s talk about the 4th trimester
I’m sure you have at least heard of the 4th trimester-a term coined by Dr. Harvey Karp to denote the first 12 weeks after your baby is born. It’s a time of great change, of building closeness between you and your baby, and adjusting to not being pregnant.
On top of your insides healing, your hormones are changing. As for your baby, they are figuring out this isn’t the womb any longer. In short, it’s a very crucial time for both of you.
2. The “snapback” culture is so harmful
I’m sure we have all seen it-influencers and celebrities start working out as soon as they get the go-ahead from their doctor, sometimes even before that. While there’s nothing wrong with exercising steadily and eating right after having a baby, there’s this obsession with seeing whose body can snap back the fastest.
As the mom of 3, a postpartum doula, someone in the midst of postpartum, and a gym-goer, I want to tell you this: give yourself time. You don’t have to snap right back. Don’t get caught up in all of this. Do the best for your body and your mental health.
3. Postpartum lasts longer than you think
Most sources say the postpartum period includes the first 6 weeks after birth, and while this isn’t exactly wrong, it’s not right either. In some cases, the effects of postpartum can last for up to a year, sometimes two. It takes time to feel like yourself.
Don’t attach too much importance to the timelines you see in various sources because every birth and every person is different. Postpartum is longer than you think, and it’s truly unique to every body.
4. ACOG recommends more than one postpartum checkup
We need more checkups for new moms, but that’s not really happening. According to The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), your care provider should make contact within 3 weeks of your giving birth, and you should get ongoing medical care during the postpartum period. You should also have a complete postpartum checkup no later than 12 weeks after delivery.
Right now, the average doctor only schedules one postpartum appointment within the first 6 weeks after birth. This puts a lot of pressure on you if you need to reach out for help.
Many issues can arise during the postpartum period, either physical or mental, so new moms deserve more checkups to identify and address any problems.
5. Pelvic floor therapy is a necessity
Have you heard of pelvic floor therapy? Was the state of your pelvic floor properly explored during your postpartum appointment? Pelvic floor issues aren’t talked about nearly as much as they should during postpartum, yet they affect a huge number of women. Many report problems such as painful sexual intercourse, urinary incontinence, pelvic pain, and low back pain. These symptoms can be indications of pelvic floor issues.
Pelvic floor therapy is something that new mothers should seek out separately, but they often don’t even know what it is, to begin with. Part of postpartum care is talking more about the things going on in the bodies of women who have given birth. Education and access to these services are key. Pelvic floor exercise or therapy should be an important part of postpartum.
6. Mental health issues could wreck a new parent if left unchecked
The surging hormones and major life changes take their toll, so the mental health of new parents is extremely important. Checkups are vital, and so is being honest in a safe space about what you’re feeling or going through. This is all part of the post-delivery healing period.
The baby blues, postpartum psychosis, and postpartum depression are some of the issues that could plague you or someone you know. Get yourself checked, listen to other moms, and, if need be, get a postpartum doula and professional counsel.
7. Your body needs to rest in order to heal
This one is quite simple, but it’s also one of the hardest. Get lots of rest. An exhausted body can’t heal. Use every moment you can get to rest.
If you aren’t the one who delivered but someone close to them, one of the best gifts you can offer the new mom is some time to rest. Mind the baby, clean or cook from time to time, start a meal train, look after the older siblings, or do anything else that might give your friend a chance to rest.
8. There’s no shame in asking for help
Don’t be afraid to ask for help. While people say that all the time, many find it easier said than done, struggling to reach out for fear of bothering others or showing weakness. You are a new parent. Postpartum times are hard and there’s no shame in asking for help. Do it whenever you need to-you deserve all the help you can get.
9. Self-care will help you stay on top of things
I know you’ve heard it, but here it is again: don’t neglect self-care. I’m consistently reminded you can’t pour from an empty cup. It’s okay to take a break, meditate, journal, take a bath without the baby, and get some of that rest we talked about. Do whatever makes you feel like you. That’s essential during postpartum.
10. Sharing experiences normalizes postpartum
Don’t be afraid to talk about it. While sharing your experience isn’t really a must, it’s good for you as long as you feel comfortable doing it. It’s time to normalize postpartum, with all of its reality and rawness.
More studies are being conducted on the postpartum period, and moms are being asked for input. I was involved in 2 in the last 6 months. The key to solving some birthing and postpartum issues is hearing from you.
Postpartum is as important as the birthing period, perhaps even more important, so it’s time to talk about it more.