Becoming a mother is one of the most exhilarating experiences. But it can also be a challenging transition, especially when you need more support.
Most of the time, society places importance on the nursery or the pram. There need to be more conversations around giving birth and who will nourish and nurture the mother.
Postpartum care is essential for both physical and mental health after childbirth. For mothers, postpartum care, as a minimum, includes self-care activities such as taking time for themselves to relax and rest, forming a support system with family and friends, eating nutritious food and accessing professional resources if needed. This personal care can positively impact the mother's mental health by helping her feel more connected to herself and others around her, improving her sleeping patterns, relieving stress, and providing an overall sense of well-being, remembering that postpartum care is just as crucial after childbirth as prenatal care during pregnancy.
What is postpartum?
Postpartum is the time after giving birth. During this time, women experience physical and emotional changes. It is a time of adjustment and recovery, during which new mothers need extra care and support from their families and caregivers. As mothers move through postpartum, they can experience various emotions, including exhaustion, joy, crying spells, sadness, loneliness, anxiety and more.
During the postpartum period, new mothers need to take time for self-care to restore energy levels, rebuild strength and adjust to the new stage of their life.
When a baby is born, so is the mother.
How long does postpartum last?
The postpartum period is different for every mother due to family history, health risk factors, finances, birth, previous pregnancies and her newborn baby. There is no set time. New mothers are led to believe it's six weeks due to the one appointment they are told to attend with their GP.
During the postpartum period, a new mother's body is healing from childbirth and adjusting to the demands of caring for an infant. Postpartum can be physically and emotionally draining, so mothers need to get appropriate rest and nourishment and allow themselves to take breaks when necessary. While this sounds simple, it may only be achievable with support. Speak to a loved one about your needs; if this isn't available, a support group in your area may connect you to the right people.
In the first few weeks, new parents must prepare to care for the new baby and the mother. Setting up a roster with friends, family members or paid services will relieve stress and overwhelm for the mother when she is alone.
What is Matrescence ?
Matrescence is a relatively new term first used in the late 1990s. It was coined by psychologist Riccardo Tempesta, who described it as "the process of becoming a mother without renouncing being oneself". Since then, the concept has become more widely accepted and referenced in academic work and popular culture.
Matrescence encompasses the physical, emotional, and psychological changes during pregnancy, birth, and postpartum. This can include feelings of joy, sorrow, anxiety, worry, and excitement. It is essential to recognise matrescence as its unique life stage to better understand new mothers' needs. During this period, it is imperative to practice self-care by taking time for yourself and connecting with other mothers for support.
How to Optimise Your Postpartum Recovery for a Healthy Mind and Body
Postpartum care has many layers and is more than your body recovers after childbirth. Your doctor or midwife will check in with you during your postnatal checkup to ensure you're healing correctly and answer any questions or concerns you may have about your recovery process. Unfortunately, the visit might be poorly timed when a mother is exhausted or is still trying to come to terms with her new reality. A new mother could be trying to feed her baby and not be able to think clearly about what recovery will look like when she is at home. She may not ask the right question to get the answer she needs. This is why support should continue for weeks, even months, after birth.
There will always be questions to ask, and having the right people around you can help point you in the right direction if they cannot answer your question. Physical support that postpartum care provides can help reduce the risk of complications associated with childbirth, such as infection, bleeding, depression, and other conditions. It is crucial that a new mother is heard, validated and feels seen. The immediate time after birth isn't about putting up your feet and waiting until the six weeks check to be cleared to return to life pre-baby. This is when a mother is born; she evolves, adapts and adjusts her life. She is getting to know herself and the new baby she has to care for and nurture.
Women's health needs to be monitored for months after giving birth, not just 6 weeks. Having blood work done every three months can help prevent potential health problems and deficiencies. Seeing a woman's health physio can investigate if you need any exercises that can support your pelvic floor or if you need any medical attention. If you are suffering from pain or discomfort, it is best to communicate this to your healthcare provider.
The emotional rollercoaster of motherhood is real! Having someone who understands the struggles of being a new parent can be incredibly helpful in navigating these emotions. Postpartum care offers support and is unique.
Not every mother requires the same care. A new mother deserves respect and support without judgment or criticism. Sadly the village we thought would arrive doesn't. You must plan, organise, and be clear with people before the baby arrives. If you have the budget organise care for older siblings, book laundry services, order pre-made meals, and hire a postpartum doula.
Build your own village. Creating your own support system allows you to express yourself without feeling overwhelmed or scared of judgement or criticism from others. Only some have family that can help, and there is no shame in asking or paying for help. By being organised, focusing on your healing and spending time with your baby, your future self will look back and be grateful.
Mental Health Support
It's no secret that motherhood comes with its own unique set of mental challenges. Becoming a mother is life-changing and, at times, can feel lonely. Allowing yourself to take breaks and ask for help can help improve your mental health and well-being.
Having trained professionals you can speak to can help prevent or treat postpartum depression. This mental support will allow you to feel more confident in your parenting decisions and take better control over your life after giving birth.
Allowing yourself to have the time to nurture yourself during postpartum can make a difference in years to come. Attending therapy sessions to group classes on parenting techniques, postpartum care professionals provide guidance for new mums to develop healthy coping mechanisms and manage stress better.
There is no one size fits all when it comes to postpartum care
There are many ways to cope with the intense emotions associated with postpartum. Reaching out, asking for help, and focusing on self-care is essential. Good nutrition, adequate sleep, and movement can help to reduce stress and improve mood. Connecting with other new mothers who can provide support and understanding is also helpful. Different strategies that can be beneficial include mindfulness activities such as yoga or meditation, making time for hobbies or activities that bring joy, seeking counselling or therapy if needed, and allowing yourself to take breaks when needed.
Whether physical, emotional, or mental support, postpartum care provides invaluable assistance for new mothers during this extraordinary yet challenging time. Not only does it help promote good mental and physical health, but it also gives mums an outlet through which they can express themselves freely without fear of judgement or criticism from outside sources.
Postpartum care should be part of every woman's plan for motherhood so they can enjoy this incredible experience while taking precautions against long-term medical issues related to childbirth.
If you have a personal or family history of mental health disorders or mood swings or are currently feeling depressed or having trouble sleeping, please reach out to your healthcare provider.
Feeling sad over an extended period is a reason to contact a mental health professional. It is common to experience a range of moods with all the hormonal changes that occur during pregnancy and postpartum.
If you need any further support, there are professionals that are only a call away.