This week we continue our latest blog series by exploring another of the common difficulties experienced by new moms: postpartum recovery.
Wikipedia gives us a pretty clean, straightforward definition of what “postpartum” is:
The postpartum period begins immediately after childbirth as the mother’s body, including hormone levels and uterus size, returns to a non-pregnant state.
Enjoy your baby and return to a “non-pregnant state.” Sounds pretty simple, right?
Personal experience has taught me it’s anything but.
The Struggles of Postpartum Recovery
I reached out to my community of moms on social media and asked what the toughest part of postpartum recovery was. Here are their answers:
The physical recovery was so hard on my body. I just didn’t expect that.
Learning to breastfeed was really difficult. There’s so much I wasn’t told.
I felt like my body would never be mine again.
I felt like my husband’s life didn’t change, but mine had done a complete 180.
Looking back, I definitely walked through depression, I just didn’t realize it was depression at the time.
My whole world had changed but it felt like I was expected to snap back to normal in a matter of weeks.
The hardest part was the hormonal imbalance, lack of sleep, and learning to breastfeed.
I just didn’t feel like myself.
Many moms experience emotions that seem to contradict one another—both joy and sadness, love and anxiety. This wide spectrum of feelings is normal, but can feel isolating. We reached out to our staff RNs (who are also moms!) and asked about practical ways to walk through this postpartum period with strength and confidence.
Postpartum Advice from Registered Nurses
Don’t Be Afraid to Accept or Ask for Help
Welcome help. With my first, it was my instinct to want [my daughter] all to myself and to do it all by myself. Looking back, I would have definitely accepted more help from friends and family in those first weeks and months to allow for a smoother transition.
Allow yourself grace. This is not the time to have your house in tip top shape or be making gourmet meals. Do the things that will make you feel less stressed overall (For me that’s keeping the kitchen tidy and the living room picked up) but allow the other things to wait while you care for yourself and your new baby.
– Hannah Booker, RN
Oftentimes after having a baby, people (especially family members) ask if you need anything or if they can help. Don’t be afraid to take them up on it! Having someone do your dishes or vacuum your floors or even hold your baby while you do something for yourself is super important for your well being.
– Tiffany Hanes, RN
Ask for help! When you don’t feel like yourself, give the doctor a call. If breastfeeding is painful or difficult, call an IBCLC! Just like you are learning how to adjust to life with a new baby, the baby is learning everything for the first time too. It’s ok (and even normal) for things to have a learning curve. An expert’s opinion will make your journey easier.
– Kristen Gish, RN
Make Rest and Alone Time a Priority
Take time to yourself. Maybe that’s a short walk outside, a drive in the car listening to your favorite music, or a relaxing bath. But handing the baby off to a friend or family member for a few minutes and changing your environment is a great way to relieve stress. When you feel taken care of, you will be able to take care of your family even better.
– Kristen Gish, RN
Other Helpful Tips from Moms
We asked other moms about the things that made life a bit easier during their postpartum recovery. Here’s a list of tips and tricks they gave:
- Set up a Meal Train and let friends/family sign up to bring food.
- Let someone take the older children for a while.
- Journal about this time period – it helps to get feelings down in words!
- Mentorship with someone who’s been there. Even if it’s just someone to text, it helps knowing you’re not alone.
- Taking a hot shower always makes me feel like a new person.
- Get out of the house! Fresh air and short walks can go a long way in helping you feel normal again.
- Daily affirmations or Scripture reading.
- Do something that makes you and your partner laugh. Laughter is a huge stress reliever!
Tiffany Hanes, Nurse Manager at our Winston-Salem location, also shared words of advice about postpartum depression:
Feeling overwhelmed and tired after having a baby is totally natural, however, if you have no joy and you are unable to function throughout the day, this may be a sign of postpartum depression. You need to seek professional help. Talk to your OBGYN.
As many as 50-75% of women experience the “baby blues” after giving birth. Research suggests the drastic drop of estrogen and progesterone post-pregnancy contributes to feelings of sadness and anxiety. This typically resolves within a few weeks.
Postpartum depression, however, affects around 1 in 10 mothers, and is a more serious condition than the baby blues. Symptoms typically persist longer than 2 weeks and may include the following:
- Feeling restless or moody
- Feeling sad, hopeless, or overwhelmed
- Excessive crying
- Having thoughts of hurting the baby
- Having thoughts of hurting yourself
- Not having any interest in the baby, not feeling connected to the baby, or feeling as if your baby is someone else’s baby
- Having no energy or motivation
- Eating too little or too much
- Sleeping too little or too much
- Having trouble focusing or making decisions
- Having memory problems
- Feeling worthless, guilty, or like a bad mother
- Losing interest or pleasure in activities you used to enjoy
- Withdrawing from friends and family
If you are experiencing some of these symptoms after pregnancy for more than a few weeks, reach out to your doctor, nurse, or midwife for help. He or she will help you get the support and treatment needed.
You Are Not Alone
Postpartum recovery brings with it many challenges, but know that no matter what you experience, you are not alone. We would love the opportunity to walk alongside you during and after your pregnancy.
You can also find support through our Pregnancy 101 and Parenting 101 classes. As one woman noted in her review, “[the instructor] made me feel empowered in my pregnancy journey.” Another shared, “They presented a great class even in the midst of COVID-19, where I learned so much and connected with so many moms!…They’re an awesome support system.” Find out more about our free classes here.