10 Tips for a Better Postpartum: Tip #9
This post is part of the series, 10 Tips for a Better Postpartum. This is Tip #9 in a list of 10 things you can do in pregnancy to set yourself up for a more comfortable, peaceful, and enjoyable postpartum journey. Check back in the coming weeks as I share the next tips in the series!
Tip #9: Make Your Full, Holistic Recovery a Priority
What do you think of when you think of recovery after birth? The physical recovery? Or perhaps tending to emotional challenges? The mental aspects of your new role? No matter which dimension comes to mind for you, you are right. Giving birth is a transformative experience. It is the birth of a baby, and also the birth of a mother. The experience will touch every part of you, transforming you in challenging and beautiful ways.
Birth is hard work, but perhaps the biggest challenge is in navigating that first year in your new role as your new baby's mother. During this time, you will undoubtedly focus a lot of effort on the care of this new little person. I encourage you to also focus on the care of you - recovering in mind, body, and spirit. This care will look a little different for everyone, but I'd like to offer some suggestions of starting points to consider.
Unfortunately the "standard of care" in the U.S. for postpartum support leaves much to be desired. For many, this looks like a quick check-in with their care provider 6 weeks after baby is born. (If you have chosen to seek the care of a midwife you *might* be seen sooner postpartum and receive more thorough support.) Compare standard postpartum care in the U.S. to that of other countries, and we could learn a thing or two from those who are doing it better. For example, in Denmark, Sweden, Belgium, and other countries, new mothers receive home visits and hours of in-home postpartum care in the early postpartum days and weeks from midwives, lactation specialists, and nurses. In France, ALL mothers receive a referral for pelvic floor therapy to aid in proper healing. Sadly, these supports are not standard in the U.S., BUT I encourage you to take a page from other countries' playbooks and seek out care to aid in your physical healing. Schedule an in-home visit with an IBCLC. Reach out for an appointment with a physical therapist specializing in perinatal pelvic health. Contact a chiropractor experienced in supporting postnatal clients and their new babies. Connect with a yoga instructor who offers a postnatal yoga class to safely build back strength when you are ready.
Giving birth is an emotional journey - whether your birth went smoothly, there were some twists and turns along the way, or if you experienced birth trauma (Sadly, as many as 1 in 3 women report having experienced birth trauma - with provider maltreatment being the leading cause). I've given birth 4 times now, and birth support is my career field, but I can still count on one hand the number of times I've been asked to share my birth stories. It is just something that (unfortunately) does not get talked about enough. I encourage you to make plans for writing down your birth story shortly after birth. Let your partner or doula know during your pregnancy that this is important to you so they can support you in retelling the story. Find outlets for processing your emotions related to your birth and to your postpartum journey. Perhaps this is with a counselor specializing in perinatal mental health, with your partner, with your birth education instructor or the other couples from your class, with a breastfeeding support group, with the other women in your postnatal yoga class, or maybe all of the above.
Finding support in this dimension of wellness can look different for every birthing person. As many as 1 in 7 women report experiencing postpartum depression or anxiety, and if this is you it is so important to seek the support of a counselor who specializes in perinatal mental health. During your pregnancy, compile a list of recommended counselors in your area who you can connect with postpartum. Or perhaps postpartum you find yourself struggling with the mental load of your new role - sleep struggles, getting into the groove of your new routine, figuring out feeding, learning to read baby's cues. With each new baby comes a new learning curve. A postpartum doula can support you in working through these challenges and seeking appropriate resources as you move into your new normal.
With each new person you bring into the world, you will become a new person again. And just as a newborn baby learns about their new world, there can be some bumps along the way as you adjust to yours. I encourage you to take some time in pregnancy to plan how you will tend to your holistic recovery - including discovering the local resources that can help you along the way.