Post Partum Care
About a week ago I (re) posted an article on the Facebook Page about a study out of England which states that ‘women need a full year to recover from pregnancy and childbirth’. There was also a response by a reader,
“That’s literally impossible for most moms in the U.S.”
Sadly, she’s right. America is probably the worst industrialized nation for new mamas, not providing any sort of paid maternity leave, routine in home support for new moms or adequate resources for self care. While I have always been a fierce proponent of the “Year to grow ’em, a year to recover” philosophy, I completely understand that in America, many women MUST get back to work as soon as possible to help support their families.
Unfortunately, Far too many times I’ve had mamas “up and at ’em” just days after giving birth, trying to tackle the responsibilities of running their homes, caring for their older children, back to work full time and starting right in on an exercise regimen in order to “get back to their pre-pregnancy” physique as soon as possible. Not long after, they call me; exhausted, achey, homes and families in chaos, they’re crying at work and with faltering milk supplies. They can’t understand what’s wrong? Some women have actually sustained injuries from trying to do exercise programs that are just too rigorous for the early post partum, and I can think of two clients that actually developed organ prolapses (internal organs coming out of bodily openings) from putting too much stress on their already weakened pelvic floors.
“But Sarah Jessica Parker looked fantastic 2 weeks post partum and I look like a blob!”
What mamas fail to realize is that Sarah Jessica Parker-and other celebrity moms-usually have nannies, housekeepers, personal trainers, chefs and a hoard of other helpers that help them not only manage their homes and their babies, but also are instrumental in helping them regain that “Hollywood glow”. Most of us are lucky if our mothers can come for even a week after we deliver! Sarah Jessica Parker said as much on “The View” after the birth of her son. She shared that she was required to be back on set and able to fit into her wardrobe, so she had private pilates sessions daily, a personal chef preparing special meals and a personal assistant just to handle her affairs! She had a nanny to care for the baby which allowed her to sleep, a housekeeper and a whole host of other staff at her disposal to handle everything else. So yes, she looked fabulous just weeks post partum.
But that isn’t reality.
Mamas, pregnancy and childbirth fundamentally change a woman’s body. Even women who look utterly fabulous after their childbearing years will still have “badges of honor” indicating that they have successfully been pregnant, labored and delivered children. For some women, there will be the very slightest of slack to her abdominal muscles (until she has a tummy tuck!). Others will have faint-or not so faint-stretch marks on the belly, breasts, hips and thighs. Some women will have c-section incision scars. And still others will have invisible badges; that little trickle of urine that escapes when she laughs, coughs or sneezes, hemorrhoids, and other “inconveniences.”But all of them had to allow their bodies to recover. I can’t think of one woman who has given birth of any sort and not said,
“I never had ______ until after I was pregnant and gave birth.”
It just goes with the territory. Most of the so called “badges” are minor, simply little reminders of our journey. However, if women engage in activity that is too vigorous too soon after delivery, even returning to work before their bodies have had a chance to recuperate from the marathon that was pregnancy, labor and delivery, what may have started out as a minor inconvenience can develop into a major problem requiring more time, therapy and sometimes surgical intervention to resolve. Truly it would have been far less traumatic to simply ease back into daily routines.
American culture does not make it easy for women to recuperate from childbearing. However, women themselves can take these 7 steps to ease back into their pre-pregnancy routines.
- No vigorous activity until at least 8 weeks post partum, but if post c-section, consider waiting until 12 weeks post partum to fully heal.
- Learn and do pelvic floor strengthening exercises.
- Rest as much as possible, and whenever you can, take a nap.
- Let major housekeeping go and even get help with the small stuff if possible.
- Say no to outside activities. You don’t need to chaperone, bake cookies or make calls for any event. Focus on you!
- Spend time at home with family. This is precious bonding time for you all.
- Reduce work hours as much as possible.
I realize that some of these suggestions will be easier to implement than others. This list is also not exhaustive, but just a starting point. It’s just imperative mamas that you take care of yourselves so that you can get back to your daily routines with full strength and joy. It’s also important to fully heal from this pregnancy, especially if are planning to have other pregnancies in the future. If you start back too soon, you may set yourself back several weeks or injure yourself making subsequent pregnancies more difficult.
I know that it’s been a long haul, especially if you’ve spent weeks to months on bed rest. But please, please, please take a little more time to heal. Don’t compare yourselves to other women, especially not celebrities. Your journey is your journey and its best to honor your inner time table as much as possible, allowing your body to heal and prepare for subsequent pregnancies or to simply chart new territory as a mom! Whatever you decide to do, do it with a healthy, strong body!
Do you have a tip for recovering after pregnancy you’d like to share? Do you have a question? Share your thoughts in the comments section below. Your words could be just the thing a mama needs to read today!
August kicks off National Breastfeeding Awareness Month here in the US. Officially designated on August 6, 2011 by the United States Breastfeeding Committee (USBC), the month of educational and promotional activities is designed to raise awareness of the benefits of breastfeeding-physiologically for mamas, developmentally for babies, emotionally for both and economically for families. Here is the full proclamation. Breastfeeding has been reported to have the following benefits. In Babies
- Breast milk is widely acknowledged as the most complete form of nutrition for infants, with a range of benefits for infants’ health, growth, immunity and development. (Healthy People 2010, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, Georgia)
- Breast-fed children are more resistant to disease and infection early in life than formula-fed children. Many studies show that breastfeeding strengthens the immune system. During nursing, the mother passes antibodies to the child, which help the child resist diseases and help improve the normal immune response to certain vaccines. Breast-fed children are less likely to contract a number of diseases later in life, including juvenile diabetes, multiple sclerosis, heart disease, and cancer before the age of 15
- Breastfed babies are less likely to be obese as adults
- Breastfeeding has been shown to reduce the likelihood of ear infections, and to prevent recurrent ear infections. Ear infections are a major reason that infants take multiple courses of antibiotics.
- Researchers have observed a decrease in the probability of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) in breast-fed infants.
- Another apparent benefit from breastfeeding may be protection from allergies. Eczema, an allergic reaction, is significantly rarer in breast-fed babies. A review of 132 studies on allergy and breastfeeding concluded that breastfeeding appears to help protect children from developing allergies, and that the effect seems to be particularly strong among children whose parents have allergies.
- Breastfeeding helps a woman to lose weight after birth.
- Breastfeeding releases a hormone in the mother (oxytocin) that causes the uterus to return to its normal size more quickly.
- When a woman gives birth and proceeds to nurse her baby, she protects herself from becoming pregnant again too soon, a form of birth control found to be 98 percent effective — more effective than a diaphragm or condom. Scientists believe this process prevents more births worldwide than all forms of contraception combined. In Africa, breastfeeding prevents an estimated average of four births per woman, and in Bangladesh it prevents an estimated average of 6.5 births per woman.
- Breastfeeding appears to reduce the mother’s risk of developing osteoporosis in later years. Although mothers experience bone-mineral loss during breastfeeding, their mineral density is replenished and even increased after lactation.
- Diabetic women improve their health by breastfeeding. Not only do nursing infants have increased protection from juvenile diabetes, the amount of insulin that the mother requires postpartum goes down.
- Women who lactate for a total of two or more years reduce their chances of developing breast cancer by 24 percent.
- Women who breastfeed their children have been shown to be less likely to develop uterine, endometrial or ovarian cancer.
- The emotional health of the mother may be enhanced by the relationship she develops with her infant during breastfeeding, resulting in fewer feelings of anxiety and a stronger sense of connection with her baby. Breastfeeding has also been shown to reduce the incidence of post partum depression in mamas. (See our posts on Breastfeeding and Post Partum Depression!)
August 1-7, 2014 is also World Breastfeeding Week. Coordinated by the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA), the theme for this year’s week of awareness is to impress upon everyone importance of increasing and sustaining the protection, promotion and support of breastfeeding. Breastfeeding is one of the methods advocated in the Millennium Development Goals, developed in 1990 by the United Nations and affiliated governments to help fight poverty and promote healthy and sustainable development in a comprehensive way by 2015.
According to the WABA breastfeeding and the Millennium Develoment Goals are intricately linked, “The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are meant to be achieved by 2015 – next year! Although much progress has taken place, there is still a lot of “unfinished business”. Here are some examples: Poverty has gone down, but 1 in 8 people still go to bed hungry. Undernutrition affects about a quarter of all children globally. Overweight, the other form of malnutrition is becoming more common too. In the last 2 decades, child mortality has decreased by about 40%, but still almost 7 million children under five die each year, mainly from preventable diseases. As the overall rate of under-five mortality has declined, the proportion of neonatal deaths (during the first month of life) comprises an increasing proportion of all child deaths. Globally, maternal mortality has declined from 400 per 100,000 live births in 1990 to 210 in 2010, but fewer than half of women deliver in baby-friendly maternities. By protecting, promoting and supporting breastfeeding, YOU can contribute to each of the MDGs in a substantial way. Exclusive breastfeeding and adequate complementary feeding are key interventions for improving child survival, potentially saving about 20% of children under five. Let’s review how the UN’s Scientific Committee on Nutrition illustrated how breastfeeding is linked to each of the Millennium Development Goals.” So breastfeeding can go a long way to not only benefitting the health of mamas and babies individually, but help reduce poverty, malnutrition and infant and child mortality globally. If you are considering breastfeeding and want more information, the links in this post are from some of the best resources globally, especially if you want to take on an advocacy role. If you want more specific personal information on breastfeeding, I suggest you contact your local La Leche League. These folks really know breastfeeding!! They offer a plethora of information on their website, have many books on breastfeeding available for purchase and do phone and often in person consultations. You can also check with your healthcare provider and local hospital for referrals to lactation consultants who can assist with breastfeeding. Do you have more questions? Join Bedrest Coach Darline Turner for a one hour Q & A session during the Free Third Thursday Teleseminar, August 21, 2014, 1:00-2:00pm ET. She will field any and all questions relating to bedrest, pregnancy and post partum. You can join the conversation live or submit your questions up to 24 hours before via e-mail at email@example.com. Join our interactive bed rest community on Facebook and chat with mamas globally on all things bed rest! Finally, Get your copy of the e-book From Mamas: The Essential Guide to Surviving Bedrest! This guide will help you not only survive bedrest, but THRIVE on bedrest! Order your copy now on Amazon.com Other Resources: Natural Resources Defense Council 101 Reasons to Breastfeed Your Child
Mamas on Bedrest and Beyond introduces the Get Your Body Back After Bedrest Program. These 30, 60 or 90 day programs help mamas regain strength and muscle tone, lose the baby weight, boost their nutrition and increase overall wellness. Each program is customized to individual mamas and begins with a 5 Day detoxification and then slow, steady, transformation to a pre-pregnancy level of health and wellness (or better!) Former Mamas on Bedrest are able to participate in the programs when they are at least 6 weeks post partum and have been released from medical care from their obstetricians or midwives. Our first programs will kick off on Sunday, July 13th, and supplies need to be ordered by July 3rd for timely shipping. If you are ready to “Get Your Body Back!” send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org today and we’ll get you started!