The postpartum period is one of the most difficult transitions in any mother’s life. During this time, so many changes are occurring for new mothers from both a medical and psychosocial standpoint. Physically, this a period of recovery for the entire body and each woman experiences a unique combination of postpartum issues, including: abdominal pain, pelvic pain, weight fluctuations, hormonal shifts, urinary incontinence, etc. Mentally, women are battling sleep deprivation, fatigue, navigating motherhood, and hormonal shifts that could lead to an exacerbation of underlying anxiety/depression, or postpartum blues/ postpartum depression. Socially, women are adjusting to an entirely new lifestyle, including a different relationship with their partner and increased susceptibility to intimate partner violence, substance abuse, and other concerns. For breastfeeding women, there is an additional challenge of navigating the breastfeeding relationship, maintaining an adequate milk supply, and the complications associated with breastfeeding, including infections, clogged ducts, and breast abscesses. Although a time filled with so much joy, the realities of this period are serious and can lead to significant health concerns for women.
Postpartum recovery must focus on self care. When you’re at this critical stage, mothers always put themselves last, and by doing so can lead to harmful complications for themselves. Here are my top tips for your recovery period:
- Don’t skimp on rest: When we are in a state of sleep deprivation, the body does not function optimally. Many instances of postpartum depression and anxiety stem from the deep bellows of sleep deprivation. Lean on your support system to prioritize sleep: your partner, family, or even a night nurse if you’re able. As a second time mom, I found that by prioritizing my sleep the second time around, I was able to be more present for my newborn on a day to day basis.
- Lean into your emotions: Hormones, sleep deprivation, the fact that a human just exited your body, are all reasons that we feel like we’re on an emotional rollercoaster. Talk them out, vocalization is key to finding the source of why you’re feeling the way you are. When things feel overwhelming, take pause, talk it out, if even to yourself.
- Move your body: Movement should be prioritized as it can not only function as a form of exercise and release of endorphins, but it also physically helps with the postpartum recovery. Strengthening, stretching, walking, and diaphragmatic breathing are all ways to reduce stress levels and start physically manifesting your new strength.
As someone who recently had two postpartum recoveries, the most important thing that I’ve learned is that when you emerge from this period, you are no longer the same person. You have experienced some of the largest milestones in your life. For me, I had a major abdominal surgery (cesarean birth), moved homes, was readmitted with severe postpartum pre-eclampsia, experienced the death of my dog, took my sick infant to the ER twice, and was readmitted a second time with postpartum endometritis requiring IV antibiotics; all while adding a human to my family. The woman I was when I left the office no longer exists. Whether you work outside or within the home, realizing this new sense of self is paramount. Find your new purpose, new routine, new awareness. Prioritize this and taking care of yourself.
Please let me know about your postpartum recovery! How were you able to cope with the difficult days? Also please share your triumphs and your favorite memories.
Dr. Shweta Desai