Meghan Markle: What you need to know about the real postpartum period. (weeks 3-6) Part 2
So it’s been a month since Meghan Markle, The Duchess of Sussex has had her baby. This seems like a perfect time to cover the next part to my postpartum recovery series.
If you haven’t already read part 1 (Weeks 1-2), Click here.
By now, the initial excitement of having the baby has worn off, and the fatigue of 3 weeks of waking every 2 hours all night long has hit. This is around the time when family and friends start to forget that you just birthed a baby and go back to treating you like nothing has happened. Expectations that you will be the consummate host, go back to normal cleaning and cooking schedules, go out for long walks or big grocery shops will often creep in quicker than your body can handle. Explaining that you are not up for the task might be met with resistance from your well-intentioned/oblivious family or friend, and can also bring up feelings of frustration on your side. Frustration that you do not look or feel as good as you expected, or simply that you are not afforded the time to continue to recover.
But I feel good
Or maybe you feel pretty good. This is often a time when people start doing too much too soon. Week 3-4 is one of the most critical periods for your body’s recovery. Just like an athlete whose pain from an injury has subsided and asks to get back on the field to play, getting back out and doing too much too early, can cause long lasting and often irreversible damage.
Signs you are doing too much:
- An increase or the return of bleeding.
- Downward, pulling sensation or pain in your uterus, bladder, vagina, vulva or pelvic floor
- Pain in your lower back
- An aggravation in haemorrhoids, or vulvar varicosities
Tips for this stage:
Light activity only: When I say activity, I do not mean exercise! I mean a little walk, like under 1 km (and for some, it may even be just 1 block). You can be up for a good part of the day but still, allow for many rest periods/naps and activities that allow you to sit or lay. Napping during at least one of your babies naps is a great way to give your body a mid-day recovery period. Remember that standing alone is hard for your internal organs, as the muscles are still recovering and readjusting to their new position. Gravity is giving them a workout, so let them rest frequently throughout the day.
Check in with your body: Do you still have pain? What makes it worse? What makes it better? If you have an incision or tears, they should be healing well by this point. If you notice any heat, redness, or opening, call your midwife, GP or OB and schedule a visit for them to look at it.
Use the signs to your advantage: Remember the ‘signs you are doing too much’ I mentioned earlier? Rather than comparing to others or an idea of where you should be in your recovery, use those signs as a gage for whether you are pushing too hard. Feel some downward pulling? Time for a rest. Increased bleeding today? Think back to what you did the day before, and make a note to do less in one day.
Get help if you are struggling to breastfeed: Sadly, many people struggle with breastfeeding. Weeks 3 and 4 are common times for people to stop breastfeeding, because of pain, frustration or a basic lack of support. Hiring a lactation consultant can make a huge difference in your confidence, in the comfort of the latch and the steady weight gain of your baby. Acupuncture is also a great way to increase milk supply. My patients often see a change after the first treatment.
For a straight forward vaginal birth, this is often when people start feeling like they can go back to a regular routine (well… as regular as life can be with a month old baby). For those who had tearing, complications or a caesarean section, this stage is often bumped to closer to 8 + weeks.
Tips for this stage:
Get assessed! :6 weeks is the perfect time to get a pelvic floor assessment. I urge all of my patients to get a pelvic floor assessment BEFORE they begin getting back into an exercise regiment. This will be key for things like diastasis recti (the separation of the midline muscles of the abdominal wall, which can cause the ‘pooch’/’mummy tummy’). Understanding where your body is at in its healing and gaining tools to protect and strengthen your pelvic floor will help you avoid peeing when you laugh, jump or cough down the road. This is also the best way to avoid needing depends when you are menopausal.
Keep up with your nutrition, especially if breastfeeding. I like my patients eating, colourful, nutritionally dense foods that can help replenish stores that dip during pregnancy and childbirth. I especially like the following foods; dark greens (lightly cooked is best), berries, citrus, yams, free range eggs, nuts and seeds, with small portions of grass-fed, free range meat (slow cooked is best).
By now, baby blues should have passed. Check in with your doctor or midwife if you are noticing persistent sadness, anxiety, crying spells, a lack of interest in things that you normally enjoyed, intense rage or irritability, an inability to sleep (even when the baby is sleeping), or thoughts of harming yourself or your baby. These thoughts and feelings do not make you a bad parent, they are signs that you may be suffering from postpartum depression/anxiety and that you may need support to help you through. Do not shy away from seeking help.
Our support system and promotion of care for the postpartum period has really suffered in the past 60+ years. It’s time to bring it back! It’s imperative that we care and support each other in this critical time. The stronger we are, the better we recover, and the better we can be as parents.
If my schedule permits, I offer home visits (for those living in Vancouver, Burnaby, New Westminster and some areas of Coquitlam) in the first 45 days postpartum, as well as for patients on bed rest during pregnancy. Treatments can range from general postpartum recovery to milk supply, incision or perineal pain, anxiety and depression, too many pregnancy related concerns for those on full or partial bed rest.
If you have any questions regarding your pregnancy or postpartum, or if you are curious to see if acupuncture can help with any pregnancy or postpartum complaints you may have, book a free 15 minute Q & A with me here
Care and respect for the first 45 days of postpartum can be the difference between feeling great and never feeling quite right.
Here is to a beautiful, restful recovery for you all.