Most people know enough to except some degree of physical healing after delivering a baby. Both vaginal and cesarean deliveries take their toll. I find our culture has a very insensitive, matter-of-fact perspective concerning self care after delivery. There tends to be a “suck it up” undertone that does little to encourage women to find space for healing. Whether the delivery was routine or had complications, most women will tell you they feel sore and battle worn after giving birth. They are bone tired. They are ravenous. They are totally and utterly spent. Unfortunately, newborns do not care one bit. They require feeding and care from the moment they enter this world until you pack them up for college 18 years later.
Changing of the family unit
In the past, family units were multigenerational. Grandparents were nearby or living in the same residence. There were other hands eager to make the work light while mom focused on breastfeeding and HEALING. Today, many new parents do not live near grandparents or they do not seek out the help. The expectation is that new parents should be able to figure it out … just like everyone else.
The hidden secret unbeknownst to these new mothers is this:
most women struggle postpartum, but very few talk about it.
Women are tired
I work with postpartum women regularly. I have seen all kinds of worry, strain, and anxiety. Ninety percent of the women crying on my shoulder simply need a nap. I’m not kidding. They are EXHAUSTED both physically and mentally. The whole world weighs heavy on the shoulders of a person who is sleep deprived. Yet, instead of napping, these women are expected to host a parade of guests to coo over her new baby without offering ANY form of help or support. When the guest finally leave, it is evening. The baby is waking up to cluster feed and she is up all night without help or support again. It is a viscous cycle and totally unproductive.
my body will never be the same
Many women struggle with physical healing and believe they must simply accept their postpartum body in it’s broken altered state. Painful sex, urinary incontinence, or trouble with bowl movements are not normal. Women think because they get the thumbs up at 6 weeks, the rest is par for the course. There is no education about pelvic floor disfunction and it’s effects on sex life. Most women are too embarrassed to ask detailed questions. Open conversation about what is normal and what needs further treatment should be the norm to assess if a consult to a pelvic floor physical therapist or scar tissue remediation specialist is needed.
Women need to be taught how to strength their pelvic floor BEFORE and AFTER childbirth. They need to be told why it is important. Nobody thinks, “Man, I can’t wait to get a beefy ripped pelvic floor.” Yet, nobody wants to pee a little (or a lot) after every sneeze for the rest of their life. Kegels are an important part of strengthening our pelvic floor but there are a variety of other accessory muscles that can be helpful to strengthen in preparation for birth. Did you know walking postpartum can help strengthen your pelvic floor?
Check out this AWESOME podcast from the Birth Kweens with their guest Colleen Flaherty. She outlines the importance of healthy movement pre-coneption, throughout pregnancy, and postpartum.
Breastfeeding is hard
Painful breastfeeding is another postpartum ailment commonly glossed over. Breastfeeding should NOT BE painful. Initially, some women will have tender nipples and experience some breakdown as they learn how to get a deep latch. CLICK HERE for TIPS FOR YOUR NIPS
If this does not resolve, mom and baby need to be evaluated by a lactation consultant. Actually, EVERY BREASTFEEDING MOTHER should be seen by a lactation consultant. No other healthcare provider is schooled in the arts of breastfeeding and milk supply. Painful breastfeeding can be as simple as a shallow latch or possible a undiagnosed tongue tie. Read here for a step by step guide to getting a deeper latch.
Misinformation is rampant and can potentially sabotage breastfeeding dyads before milk supply is established. Check out my 10 Tips to Help you Breastfeed in the Hospital to get off to a good start! Then, schedule a postpartum lactation consult immediately.
During pregnancy, women need to be making plans for postpartum support. Plan for grandma, a hired doula, or friend to come stay during the first few weeks home. It takes a village to raise kids. We need a cultural shift making it acceptable and desirable to ask for help postpartum. Women need the physical help, they need sleep relief, and they need community from other women.
Check out the Birth Kweens! Awesome podcast about Pregnancy, Birth, Women’s Health, and everything in between!