Many pregnant women are extremely busy packing for the hospital, decorating their nursery, and planning their childbirth experience. They don’t give any thought to the period beyond delivery, and how they will handle the stresses of being a new mother. According to Sylvia Brown at About.com, most childbirth preparation classes do not provide future mothers with enough warning about the upheaval that they are about to undergo. The most important thing to remember is that the postpartum period is a time of transition during which we must take care of ourselves. In addition to the stress of childbirth itself, including C-sections, stitching, and long labors, there’s the fatigue that all new mothers need to cope with.
Your body will need time to get back to it’s original state. The first six weeks are a time of healing, re-balancing and recovery. It takes the genital organs from six weeks to two months to return to their original size and function. The pregnancy hormone relaxin, which increases the size and elasticity of connective tissues, will remain in a new mothers body for up to five months. This is why a new mother’s joints are so fragile. Prolactin, the hormone which produces milk in breastfeeding mothers, has a similar effect. In 66 percent of women, the vertical abdominal muscles have separated and take at least six weeks to heal. Although you may be anxious to loose weight and get back into shape, your body needs rest and you should consult your doctor before beginning any exercise routines.
Due to the enormous hormonal upheaval of a new mother’s body, 80 percent of women will experience the “baby blues.” The most common symptoms are tears, often for no apparent reason, mood swings, hypersensitivity, difficulty in concentrating, anxiety, feelings of discouragement and vulnerability, restless sleep patterns. This is not an illness and can be treated with rest and support. However, postnatal depression is a psychiatric illness which affects one in ten new mothers and must be treated with medication and therapy.
Sylvia Brown has three tips for overcoming fatigue. Theoretically they should work wonders, but unless you have live-in help or a mother around the corner, I don’t know many women who can indulge in this advice. But here they are anyway, maybe you can find a way to incorporate some of them.
- Planning ahead before the baby’s birth — Who will help with household chores? Who will take care of the older children? Who will you be able to leave the baby with to get out of the house for a short break? ask your friends for baby-sitting or housekeeping help as a baby gift. Or maybe for someone to shop, cook a meal and wash the dishes for you.
- Sleep whenever you can (ideally, you should have two naps a day in the first few weeks). If the baby is napping, drop everything and sleep as well. Nothing is more important than your rest.
- Recreation: get out of the house, do some sort of “adult” activity each day, even for 45 minutes. You’ll be amazed at how this can lift your spirits.