Being pregnant and giving birth is no easy task – even if you have what everyone’s deems an “easy pregnancy” or a “complication-free, normal labour.”
Growing a human, from conception to birth, is a massive undertaking and requires your body to go through some pretty crazy and mind-blowing changes. Organs shuffling around to make room? Yup, it happens. Hormones all over the place? You bet. Breastfeeding? Using a lot of your body’s energy production to keep up milk supply. Learning to survive on a lot less sleep? Been there, mama.
And those are just some of the physical changes happening. Emotionally, our minds and bodies are also going through a lot when pregnant and as new mums.
Which is why many experts are now saying we are not allowing mums enough time after pregnancy and birth to recover.
Having had my babies in Norway, I enjoyed a generous 12 months of maternity leave both times, and felt with every ounce of my body that this is the time needed – I could not, and still can not, understand how mums can even begin to feel “normal” and back-to-their-old-selves-again any sooner.
And it seems there is something in the 12-month thing.
According to a study at the Salford University in England, new mums needs at least one year to recover from childbirth and to give her time to adapt to having a new baby at home. In fact, many mums interviewed by the researchers said England’s current maternity leave was not enough, mostly due to the lack of help from the government. Many of them also said they feel the pressure to quickly go back to work because celebrity moms make postpartum recovery look easy.
“The research shows that more realistic and woman-friendly postnatal services are needed,” explains Julie Wray, Ph.D., the study’s lead author, to The Daily Mail. “Women feel that it takes much longer than six weeks to recover and they should be supported beyond the current six to eight weeks after birth.”
Researchers said that recovery starts in the hospital. Women ideally should be able to stay longer in the hospital to learn how to take care of their newborns, and practice breastfeeding with health professionals by their side. Now, more and more women are being discharged from the hospital earlier because they are already expected to know what they have to do, as if learning about it in a class is the same as having an actual baby to take care of.
More research is backing this up. A study conducted by Janis M. Miller, Ph.D., and her team of researchers at the School of Nursing at the University of Michigan, U.S. also arrived at the same conclusion. They used MRI scans show the kind of trauma pregnancy and childbirth inflicts in a woman’s pelvic area. Results showed that six weeks barely covered the physical healing a woman needs after delivering a baby.
“Our data shows a wide range of time for women to complete their healing after a very strenuous birth. Women are not given permission to have more time to recover after childbirth,” Dr. Miller told The Guardian.
Not surprisingly, when it comes to emotional and mental recovery, an Australian study found that new mothers still have high levels of exhaustion, back pain, urinary incontinence, sexual problems, and perineal pain (the perineum is the area between the vagina and the anus), even six to seven months after giving birth. The mental stress and physical recovery can take a toll, and research has shown it increases her risk for postpartum depression.
What are YOUR thoughts on this? Did YOU feel like you had enough time off before returning to work after baby? Or would you have wanted to stay home a little longer?