Why It's Important To Plan For Your Postpartum

How many of us, when pregnant, thought about what might happen during labour and birth? How many of us read about practical baby care? Plenty of both I’d imagine. But... How many of us actually prepared for the recovery period, or what is often called ‘the fourth trimester’?

This is the time immediately following the birth of your baby, the time when everything is raw and new and intense. When you are physically depleted of energy and mentally overloaded. You are faced with a new reality in which you are responsible for the life of another human and it's terrifying. And bloody exhausting!

 

Birth Recovery

A phrase I hear often when speaking with new mothers is this; “I knew it would take a while for my body to recover, but I hadn’t realised quite how long or how many issues I’d be faced with.”

Labour takes its toll on the body, even in the most straightforward of births. That is why rest is the most important tool you can reach for. This doesn’t mean you have to stay in bed for the first two weeks while your partner brings you meals on a tray (unless this idea sounds good to you and your partner obliges, then I’d definitely take them up on the offer!). But it does mean prioritising what you do and being realistic about how much you can actually achieve in a day. If you spend 80% of the first month sitting on the sofa, watching TV and feeding, but manage a short walk or to fold a bit of washing each day, then great! Don’t feel you must become a domestic goddess or the perfect practical parent on day 1. It isn’t going to happen so take it easy!

It’s also essential that you do not forget about your physical health. There is a wide range of issues that you may be faced with post-birth, from pain and discomfort due to tears and episiotomy stitches, separation of the abdominal muscles, bleeding, bladder and bowel leakage, caesarean recovery and scar management, the list goes on. It is essential that these complications are taken seriously and prioritised as much as the health and well being of your baby. If you are struggling with any of these problems, mention it to your midwife or GP. If you are local, Specialised Physiotherapy also offers an incredible service, treating a wide range of postnatal issues. If not, there will definitely be a service similar to this in your local area, so be sure to do some research in advance. I wish I had done this when I had my own children.


Your Environment At Home

During the later stages of pregnancy, many mothers develop an urge to ‘nest’, a feeling of desire to create the perfect environment for their new baby. However, pressure from society and companies selling a million different ‘must-have’ items for your baby has led to this nesting instinct often becoming lost in amongst a world of shopping!

In actual fact, it's better to think of your nest as simply a comfortable, safe space that you and your baby can spend the majority of the first few weeks, rather than a beautifully decorated and well-stocked nursery. You can have one of those too if you’d like, it’s all part of the fun, but I can assure you that in the first few months you’ll hardly spend any time there.

When planning your space at home, consider the comfort of you both. Surround yourselves with the things you want and need. For baby, this is mostly just your arms, access to milk and somewhere to change. In the early days, they need very little else. For yourself, it looks like a comfortable chair or bed, some form of entertainment (let's face it a sleeping baby is cute but a little boring after an hour!) and plenty of sustenance.

 

Food

Thinking about the way you will eat in advance is probably the most important task of all. For two reasons. Firstly, you are recovering from a major physical event. Your body is tired and in need of repair. Healthy, nourishing food and plenty of fluids will absolutely aid your recovery and must be high on your priority list. Secondly, with a newborn in the house (especially if you already have other children) spending ages in the kitchen preparing food is quite unlikely to happen. Everyone is tired, busy and lacking in enthusiasm. So the key is to plan plan plan!

If you are into home cooking (I get it if not, lots of families aren’t and that ok!) then during your pregnancy, if you have the energy, batch cook and freeze as many meals as you can. Throwing them in the oven and onto the table in the first couple of week will be a lifesaver. Alternatively, Cook do the most incredible New Parent Meal Kits and New Mums Survival Boxes. So good!

If this still all sounds too daunting, consider a Postnatal Doula. One of the key roles they take on is cooking fresh healthy food for you and your family during the time they are with you. Secretly, after the baby cuddles, the cooking is my favourite part of my postnatal work! I’m terrible at baking though so my cakes always come from the tastiest local bakery. (Don’t worry I always provide cake. It's a necessity.)

 

Visitors

Covid-19 has certainly had a massive effect on childbirth and parenthood for all families. Parents have had to face challenges alone and felt very isolated at times. However, for many families, the usual swell of visitors wanting to meet the new baby, bring gifts and talk about the birth outside of Covid times was equally as challenging. Once restrictions start to ease and life finds a normal pace again, it’s about finding a balance between the two. Many new mothers strongly need the support of their closest relatives, but at the same time, do not have the energy to get up and look presentable, with a tidy house so that their work colleagues can pop in.

I would recommend establishing who you want to include in your close support network prior to the birth and then limit other visits until you feel totally ready. Again, a postnatal doula can help you to manage both by offering support with your day to day life in the beginning and also by entertaining any guests, making their drinks etc so you can simply sit and chat. Best of both worlds I’d say!

I offer planning sessions for pregnant couples to ready themselves for the time after the birth of their baby - see available services for details. If you are pregnant and would like to meet with me, drop me an email and we can book an appointment to discuss this further.