The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology just announced guidelines to expand the time frame in which women will receive medical oversight during the post partum months. They also gave heed to the value in the tradition of caring for women for 30-40 days post partum. There is an overall recognition that the mental and physical demand of pregnancy, giving birth and caring for newborns requires this added support.
The medical field is beginning to recognize that women undergo tremendous emotional, physical and mental fatigue growing, delivering and caring for a child. This is fantastic! Now, we as women need to reframe our own expectations when it comes to recovering from childbirth. We have been taught for years that we should be as independent as possible. And, for so many years, women have been marginalized in healthcare. Not only are studies for medicine based on men, but, women’s complaints are often discounted by our medical professionals (PS- this is the framework in which we were taught and I often think it is absolutely un-intentional). This has taught many of us to keep our concerns to ourselves and march forward regardless of what our body is telling us. Social Media tells us we should look perfect during pregnancy and right after giving birth. We are supposed to be all smiles and health. How do we reframe our expectations given this systemic dysfunction in the state of Women’s Health?
I have treated so many women who were frustrated and depressed that their body had “failed” them when they were not fully healed at 6 weeks post partum. I myself was one. The truth s we have a long way to go. We need new systems in place to educate and support moms to be and new moms. For now, I hope that if you are reading this you share it with a young woman you love.
Pregnancy is a physically demanding job that lasts 9 months. The changes in your body begin before you can see them. Your pelvic floor, back and abdominals are under strain for months. Tearing or C section scars are wounds that go beyond the external stitches you see. It requires time and appropriate care to heal optimally. And even if you don’t have scars as a visual reminder, the act of childbirth is intense and exhausting. Your entire body is under strain. This is just the physical change. Emotionally, we are now overwhelmed with the responsibility of caring for a new life. The life shift is something no one can prepare you for. This is said to help you realize the magnitude of work your body has done, not to scare you. It is said with the wisdom of hindsight and scientific analysis. Because we come to this earth with a unique body, our path to recovery will be unique too.
The future of postpartum care will be defined by individual assessment and support that is mom-specific. Yes, we will share many commonalities, but, it is my view that physical recovery can not be tracked to medical pathways. We each deserve no less than a full assessment to determine where our body compensated for the demand of pregnancy and where our body needs the most support to begin the process of recovery. Remember that problems can arise long after an injury (think that old ankle sprain that still bugs you once in a while). We are raising future moms and dads. We need to teach them that self care is critical to a long and happy life. Take the time even if it feels like you don’t have it to at least breathe. If you can reach out to a healthcare professional with questions. Those of us in this profession are here to help. I always take calls and questions to help guide women. If you feel like you are not being heard, move on to someone who will listen and guide you.
To move towards more complete healthcare for women, we ourselves need to value it and demand more complete care. We need to value the notion of true recovery versus looking good and we must learn to be gracious with our bodies during this time.
With love and gratitude for all you do everyday!
Is a mom of two, life long exercise & nutrition enthusiast, women's health specialist & physical therapist.