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The postpartum phase of motherhood is often overlooked and not talked about enough. While many expecting mothers prepare for the arrival of their precious new baby, there is not enough preparation for caring for herself after birth.
There is a saying: “The moment a child is born, so is the mother.” This couldn’t be more true. Each time a woman gives birth, she is a new mom once again.
During pregnancy, there are ways you can prepare for the postpartum phase and the journey ahead. Here is my ultimate postpartum guide to healing and surviving the fourth trimester.
What is Postpartum?
As defined by medical terminology, postpartum is referred to as the period immediately following birth. Unfortunately, in the eyes of medical professionals, this period is only relevant for the first 6-8 weeks after birth.
The problem is that it takes at least one full year to adjust to a new life, therefore, making the postpartum period significantly longer than those early weeks.
6 Things to Expect After Delivery
When you give birth, that’s not the end of the work your body has to go through. Here are six things to consider when preparing for after birth.
Following birth, your body has to heal after the effects of pregnancy, labor, and delivery. It takes time to do so and is often overlooked by many new moms. It’s easy to feel that you have to do all and be all for your baby.
However, consider that it took your body roughly 40 weeks to grow and birth a human. You deserve to take it easy and you need to rest. “One week in bed, one week around the bed, two weeks around the house.” Follow this rule and your healing will be much quicker.
For all your postpartum recovery essentials, here is my guide to which products will help you recover quickly.
Emotions and Hormones
Once the placenta has been birthed, the happiness and calming hormones (estrogen and progesterone) drop off completely from your body. You won’t see them again until approximately six months later, roughly around the time your menstrual cycle returns. If you are a breastfeeding mama, this could prolong the return of your cycle.
This explains why there is a period of the “baby blues” as your body experiences a withdrawal in regulating your emotions. In one pregnancy, a woman will have more hormones in her body than she will at any other point in her life. The sudden depletion of these hormones can be shaky on your emotions.
Body Changes Months After Birth
It’s no secret that your body has grown, stretched, and changed significantly during pregnancy. What many new moms face is the overwhelming pressure to bounce back and fit into their pre-pregnancy clothing. This is simply unrealistic.
The uterus has grown many times its normal size throughout pregnancy to accommodate a baby. It will not automatically shrink down in a day or two. It can take weeks for it to return to its normal size.
Additionally, your abdominal area has expanded, potentially causing diastasis recti. It will take even more time to regain that core strength back. Follow Dr. Jena for postpartum ab rehab and learn safe, effective ways you can strengthen your core.
Finally, there are some changes that occur months after birth, such as postpartum hair loss. Your hair did not go through a regrowth process during pregnancy. Therefore, you held onto your luscious locks. Two to four months postpartum, many women report experiencing postpartum hair loss.
One of the most underestimated parts of postpartum is how much a relationship can change. There is a shift of roles in a relationship when you bring in a new baby and it can be challenging for both parties to understand their new role.
No matter how long you’ve been with your partner, there is a change that happens in your relationship. It is important to keep communication open, make a plan before baby comes, and continue to check-in with one another. (Easier said than done when you’re sleep deprived and going through hormonal shifts). Download some conversation starters to get ahead of the communication challenges.
The fourth trimester is filled with many ups and downs. Postpartum is a journey to finding yourself again. However, you will never be the same person you were before birth.
Throughout pregnancy, there is a subtle shift in who you are; you have to stop smoking and drinking, steer clear of certain foods, exercise safely, and many other things. Your identity begins to change here as you change for your baby.
After birth, you are suddenly attached to an infant 24/7 and only do what is needed for your baby. Through broken sleep, breastfeeding struggles, financial stress, lack of self-care, and basic needs not being met, you can slowly lose yourself in motherhood.
Probably a common fear among pregnant women is the fear of suffering with postpartum depression (PPD) or postpartum anxiety (PPA). In truth, there is no way to prevent it. What you can do is prepare for the possibility of having it by knowing the signs and symptoms of postpartum depression.
It is important to have a plan ahead of time because when you are in the thick of it with PPD or PPA, it’s difficult to notice the difference in yourself. Having a support person or village who can help identify the signs and symptoms should be part of your birth plan.
Keep in mind, postpartum depression does not have a time limit on when it will show up. It can present itself at any point in the first year of baby’s life. While there is much research that still needs to be done on the maternal brain, studies that have already been conducted show postpartum women reporting signs and symptoms even after their baby’s first birthday.
How to Prepare for the Postpartum Phase
In the United States, postpartum women who give birth in a hospital setting typically only receive one follow-up postpartum visit, which occurs around six-weeks postpartum. This is absolutely unfair and unreasonable to expect a new mom to know all and do all for her baby with little guidance. Below are ways you can prepare for your postpartum journey.
Have Products at Home for Healing
To maintain the stress, keep products at home that will help you in your healing so you are not having to worry about a trip to the store. This will also help you in recovering safely as you are less likely to over exert yourself.
Designate Someone to Check-in With
No matter if it is a friend or family member, designate at least one person whom you can be completely open and honest with to be your check-in person.
Make a plan for them to text or call you often to check on you. The trick here is that you have to be completely honest with them or this won’t work. Some days, you might need to call them just to cry and that is okay!
Keep a Journal
Write down how you’re feeling and things you are accomplishing each day. Things like feeding the baby 8 times and changing 4 diapers are accomplishments!
Don’t short yourself; you are doing important work. Keeping a journal is also beneficial for identifying any symptoms of postpartum depression or anxiety.
There is no trial run before bringing baby home. It’s a marathon without the training. Go easy on yourself and take frequent breaks to rest and recharge. Give yourself grace all the time and know that you are doing the best you can.
Don’t Forget About You
You are important too, Mama! Everyone was so excited you were pregnant and it can feel like all they care about now is the baby. Remember that you also need care.
You have needs that need to be met and you are a mama who needs to feel that love too. Your baby may be the most precious thing in everyone’s life at the moment, but you are also important.
Enroll in the Postpartum Mindset Program
Postpartum Mindset Program is a 90-day program designed to get new postpartum women from confused, nervous new mom to confident and intuitive in their new identity as a mom.
Whether this is your first, second, third, etc. baby, you’ve never had to do this with a baby plus one or more children. You are a new mom after each pregnancy and no postpartum journey is the same.
In the program, I guide mamas through a structured course with once weekly group check-ins to see how you are doing and what areas you need help with. I’m your personal coach! Learn more about my Postpartum Mindset Program here.
The Baby Gift Registry is Not Important
In the end, all your baby really needs is food, diapers/wipes, warmth, a place to sleep, and their mama. Everything else is extra. While it is exciting to plan and put items on a baby registry, what you should really put on there are items that will help you in the fourth trimester.
The postpartum journey isn’t something to brush aside. It takes time, effort, and planning to make it a positive experience. The after birth effects aren’t talked about enough.
From the drop in hormones to the continuing body changes and the possibility of having postpartum depression, there are many things to consider when having a baby that don’t revolve around the baby at all. Keep this post in mind to guide you in your postpartum journey.