Postnatal Healing: So much more than “six to eight”
“Six to eight weeks”. That’s what we’re told: in six to eight weeks, you’ll be back to normal. You’ll feel like yourself again – hallelujah! But will you? What’s “normal”? And what if you don’t?
In practical terms, the six to eight-week milestone serves the purpose of standardising medical care across the acute period after birth. This is when wounds are fresh, our bodies do the bulk of early healing, and medical specialists can keep an eye out for complications.
This is also the time it typically takes for the uterus to contract back to pre-pregnancy size, and for the menstrual cycle to re-activate (common if not breastfeeding).
But “six to eight weeks” is something we tend to hang on in those early weeks, particularly the first time around; but it doesn’t paint a complete picture of rehabilitating the body from pregnancy and childbirth.
In fact, we’d all be a lot happier if we viewed six to eight weeks for what it is: the minimum recovery time!
There is nothing a-typical about you or your experience if you take less or more time than this.
The golden rule of pregnancy, child birth and parenting is that what is good for Sally might not be good for Jane: in other words, no two experiences are the same! It is important to be kind to yourself and run your own race.
You grew a human in nine months: it is one of the most remarkable things you’ll ever do, and no matter how your baby was born, your body has been through trauma and will need time and care to heal.
But what does recovery from pregnancy and birth really look like?
While there’s no hard and fast rule, it is useful to talk about it to get an appreciation of how recovery differs from person to person in its demands, and in general terms.
Get ready: real and raw, here are some of the symptoms you can expect to experience in the weeks, months and sometimes years after you welcome your baby into the world, including, but by no means limited to:
- Ongoing contractions (after-pains).
- Sore muscles: from labour, birth, a long pregnancy, a big baby, from holding your baby, from feeding your baby (arms, neck, jaw, upper back).
- Full-body pain: almost like being in a car accident!
- Bleeding and discharge: between two weeks to two months.
- Vaginal soreness.
- Vaginal and perineal swelling.
- Vaginal and perineal tightness, infection or itching from stitches/tears healing.
- Breast engorgement.
- Sore or cracked nipples.
- Blocked milk ducts.
- Lower belly pain, requiring medication: often post C-Section.
- Wound pain, itching, tightness and infection (C-Section).
- Baby blues: a rollercoaster of emotion!
- Post-natal depression.
- Loss of appetite.
- Increased appetite.
- Hormonal hair loss.
- Hormonal night sweats.
- Fluid retention.
- Light bladder leakage.
- Uterine, bladder or bowel prolapse.
PFI’s Managing Director, Suzanne Newby is passionate about supporting women in this phase of life. She uses her own experience to evidence the time demands that can be involved in rehabilitating the postnatal body:
“Nine months to grow a baby. Nine months to heal internally. Twelve months to regain some feeling of physical “normalcy”.
“Then I stopped breastfeeding at 18 months post, which meant there was another six to 18 months before all my hormones, ligaments and cartilage returned to pre-pregnancy state.
“That’s four years in total: pregnancy and recovery!
“You can see how it is perfectly reasonable that most women feel that it takes much longer than six weeks to recover!
“We are too often not given permission, from ourselves and our support network, to take time to heal psychologically and physically; permission to be human!
“Time, kindness and support are things new Mums not only need, but deserve well beyond six to eight weeks after birth.”
Be the best Mum you can be. Take care of yourself!
PFI’s Mums & Bubs Pilates classes are specifically tailored to the physical needs of the postpartum body. Learn more here, or phone (08) 9330 8900.