This blog post is not just written to expecting mothers. This post is directed to everyone as postpartum care drastically changes people’s lives. This post is a means of educating people that the first few weeks after birth are not the only time new families need assistance. Really the continued need for community is through the whole first year. If you know of new families in your inner circles, check in as often as possible and be a breath of fresh air and strength.
When the postpartum period is treasured with the patience, diligence and nourishment it deserves, women have the capacity to overcome chronic ailments and redirect their personal health. The time after birth is one of those amazing moments in life when we are capable of unparalleled recovery. I seek to empower women to be as thoughtful of the first postpartum year as they are of their pregnancies. Wonderful things will happen!
My practice is mostly women. It is no secret that my persona and my interests align well with women’s health. But the ailment I treat most often is postpartum depletion in women of all ages. I’m not just treating new mothers—I am treating women who never fully recovered from the initial stages of motherhood.
Birth to Six Weeks
Very often when we think about postpartum health we think about the first six weeks. The new mother needs to stop bleeding, heal the pelvic floor and vaginal canal and/or allow stiches to heal from a C-section. The new mother needs to learn how to eat enough to nurse a hungry baby and how to nurse every few hours during the day and night.
These first six weeks can be hallmarked with night delusions, brain fog, constipation, muscle cramps, extreme exhaustion, pain and unexpected weakness.
Six Weeks to Three Months
A bit of a settling into a routine comes during this period as family and baby become more comfortable with each other. The mother is becoming increasingly independent and support systems begin to wilt away. The diligent self-care may begin falling by the way-side. These next six weeks may show more frustration, irritability, urinary issues, sleep issues (unrelated to baby), low libido, poor memory, loss of appetite, decrease in will power.
Three Months to Six Months
The longevity of nursing and shortened sleep as the baby grows older and more active is a significant drain on the resources of even a healthy, well-rested mother. If the support is not continued, if a good diet and exercise and social network are lacking even slightly the body may begin to move into depletion mode. This is a common point for women to return to work and for all sorts of new health issues for the mother to arise. Symptoms at this point will always go in the order of the mother’s weakness. Whatever her personal health history includes may now come back and rear its ugly head. This is when depression, anxiety and chronic low energy become unavoidable.
Six Months to One Year
Society’s expectation is the mother is fully back to work, highly functioning and eagerly back in her romantic relationship. This perfect picture may not take into account body changes, continued low energy, new or old sleep challenges and a still recovering body. Women who have really taken care of themselves throughout the first year may be feeling the strongest of their whole lives as nursing slows or ends. Women who have struggled with poor sleep, colicky babies or who are simply working too hard will begin to reach the limits of continuing without change.
Similar to an injury, we only get one chance to recover from childbirth. If we postpone it like credit card debt, it will wait patiently for us and gently accumulate interest. It will show up in weird symptoms like migraines, painful periods, digestive issues, memory problems, back pain, depression or anxiety, extreme anger or lack of will power and it will persist. I treat post-menopausal women who are really recovering from issues they’ve had since giving birth 20 or 30 years earlier and I treat a lot of women with little ones at home who just can’t continue being sturdy mothers without some assistance.
Postpartum recovery is one of my favorite things to treat because I get to fully mother the mother. I remind them they don’t have to worry about their kids for a whole hour (whether their kids are 2 months old or 40 years old). The recovery of a mother determined to get healthy is usually rapid and exciting. It is so much fun to see.
Image credit: pimonova / 123RF Stock Photo