If you’re currently pregnant or recently delivered - congratulations on both! Once you’ve given birth, you’ll enter a new phase and be considered a postpartum mom. With that, you’ll discover that along with your changing body, your new bundle of joy, and a new set of emotions – that this new and exciting period can also be challenging. Postpartum is the time after giving birth and it describes issues relating to mom. Postnatal is also sometimes used when referring to this period of time but it is specific to baby. Keep reading to learn what postpartum motherhood is like, how to help postpartum mom and how to have a healthy postpartum experience after delivery.
What is a postpartum mother?
A postpartum mother has just given birth and postpartum is considered the period of time after childbirth that usually lasts around 6-8 weeks. Every woman is different, but this is the typical amount of time it takes for your body to adjust somewhat, to a pre-pregnancy state. After 6 weeks, your uterus will probably go back to pre-pregnancy size, and your mental and emotional health begins to “get back to normal” around this time, too. Six weeks is also a baby milestone as that is usually when feeding and sleep routines become more structured.
What is the duration of postpartum?
The postpartum period is typically considered the first six weeks after birth. But since every woman is different, as is their birth experience (vaginal or cesarean delivery) the time to recover after childbirth can vary. Other factors, like whether this is your first child, second, or third, etc., can also influence your recovery period.
Keep in mind that some experts believe that complete recovery after childbirth can take up to a full year so try not to compare your progress to someone else’s, or even your own compared to other labor and delivery you’ve experienced.
Why is postpartum so difficult?
When you become a parent and hold your little bundle in your arms for the first time, it’s easy to understand how your heart expands. But often times, along with all of that love and wonder comes worry, anxiety and sleep deprivation. The postpartum period involves so many changes - physically, mentally, and emotionally – that it can feel overwhelming. That’s because you’re also trying to navigate taking care of your baby and adjusting to your new, expanding family. Remember that with all of that taking care of baby, you need to make time to take care of yourself, too. That includes rest, a proper diet, and ask for help when you need it. Of course, if you’re having a hard time adjusting to life as a new parent, discuss it with your doctor or health care practitioner.
What does mom need postpartum?
When it comes to mom after giving birth, the thing she needs most is rest, rest, and more rest. But with a newborn comes a lot of new adjustments. Crying, diaper changes, potential challenges around feeding and sleeping, not to mention the physical and mental changes that you’re going through… It’s a LOT. But it’s important to take care of yourself the best that you can. That really does mean rest – sleep when you can. Often times, it’s when baby is sleeping. Try not to worry about the dishes in the sink, or the onsies that need to be washed. That’s where your partner comes in… or family members or friends who want to help. Be specific with your needs – ask someone to bring you coffee or meals or to watch the baby so you can shower. Well-meaning friends and relatives will appreciate your being direct, so don’t hold back. Involve your partner, too. People want to help, try to let them.
How can I stay happy after having a baby?
Self-care is essential after giving birth. With so many changes taking place – physical, mental, and emotional – chances are you’re feeling a bit overwhelmed. In those early days with your newborn, some new moms admit that they have a hard time distinguishing between 3am and 3pm because they are on an endless loop of feeding, diaper changing, putting baby to sleep, etc. It’s important to try to find a balance between taking care of baby, and taking care of yourself. So when possible:
- Sleep! Sleep is so important in helping you feel centered and in control.
- Eat well, especially if you’re nursing. Eating balanced meals with plenty of fruits and vegetables can be a mood booster you’ll be happy to have
- Limit caffeine and alcohol
- Exercise – a few minutes of fresh air everyday can do wonders for your state of mind. A brisk walk or gentle exercise can help improve your mood!
- Take breaks! That means getting some time away from baby. Read a book, meet a friend for dinner, enjoy some adult time.
- Join a new mom group – there is comfort in community and being around people who are new at this, too, can be a wonderful source of strength, not to mention a social outlet
- Be kind to yourself. This is all new and you’re doing the best that you can!
If the challenges of new motherhood seem particularly difficult and you just don’t feel like yourself, and/or that you are putting yourself or your baby in danger, please talk to your doctor. You don’t need to suffer silently and certainly not alone.
What is the importance of postpartum care?
At around 3 weeks after birth, and no later than 12 weeks, your doctor will have scheduled a postpartum checkup. It’s important to go even when you’re feeling fine as it’s essential for your doctor to make sure that you’re recovering properly from labor and delivery. Postpartum checkups are important as new moms can be at risk of serious complications in the days and weeks after giving birth. A lot of these health problems are preventable when the proper amount of postpartum care is received.
While the physical part of the postpartum checkup is important, it’s also a time to check in with your doctor about your emotional state and/or for your doctor to assess if your baby blues (which are entirely common) are potentially more serious. Postpartum
health conditions, like postpartum depression, are treatable. It’s important to speak to your doctor openly and honestly about everything from the changes in your body to how you’re bonding with your baby.