In Chinese culture, women stay inside for a month after giving birth. Nobody comes in; nobody goes out. It’s called “confinement” or “sitting for the month” and to those used to more Western cultural approaches, it sounds unusual. However, we could really learn a lot from the practice of Postpartum rest that is practised by tens of millions of women every year in China.
Instinctively, we know that we should be resting, but in reality, most of us are much busier, more active and are putting more stress on ourselves, physically and mentally, than we should.
Why Postpartum Rest is so Important
Until 100 years ago, 10% of women died in childbirth, and the weeks following the birth were a risky time too. Now, within a few days of childbirth, especially with our second or subsequent child, we are often back to rushing around, getting up and down, in and out of a car, not to mention lifting our babies (and toddlers) all day.
Although we are no longer pregnant, our bodies are still going through immense change in the post-partum period.
I recently came across this information shared by Kelsi Ludvigsen – it’s eye-opening to say the least, and I encourage you to visit her page:
The average diameter of a placenta is 22cm/8.6 inches.
You could say that it’s the size of a side dinner plate, an average watermelon, paper plate or a soccer ball for reference. It’s also the size of the average placenta that we have just grown for 9 months.
After we birth the placenta, we are left with a wound inside of our uterus where the placenta was attached. If we had this wound on the outside, say on our back or chest, EVERYONE would be telling us to rest and they would help us!
Also, the placenta is an organ, that we just expelled from our body, if we had lost a kidney or an appendix, 40 days of recovering would be pretty minimal and probably unheard of.
Our doctors and family would expect us to rest longer…. The wound site from the placenta is one of the main reasons for postpartum bleeding/lochia.
We lose about 1/10 of our blood supply from this open wound! So whether you had a c-section birth or vaginal, everyone has this bleeding wound.
It takes on average 6 weeks for this wound to heal. And this is just an average, because it depends on how much we rest, the nourishment we receive from food and support. So mothers who receive less may take longer, and mothers who prepare and set themselves up may heal quicker.
The longer the wound site is left open, the higher risk we have for infection and hemorrhage, even if you had a safe vaginal delivery or zero complications from birth. But because this is an internal aka hidden healing part of the postpartum recovery we don’t always take it seriously. And neither does our community.
After birth we are hormonal, exhausted, emotionally vulnerable, learning to feed our baby AND our body is working hard to heal this huge wound.
It’s a lot. Do yourself a favor and REST and ask for help! If you are a partner or friend or family member, take this information in, SUPPORT is what they need.
How to take care of YOU
- Rest: Carrying your growing child for 9 months is hard on your body as it is and leaves you depleted, but labouring and then delivering a baby is exhausting. You probably didn’t get much sleep in the hospital or birthing unit, not to mention the first few nights wherever you were with your baby, so if you keep doing too much in the next few weeks, your body may suffer. Do as little as possible, rest while your baby sleeps. Do not do laundry, or cooking, or cleaning that you don’t have to do. This rest will help you recover.
- Avoiding heavy lifting: If possible, avoid lifting anything heavier than your baby for the first couple of weeks. This is especially important if you’ve had a C-section delivery, because of your abdominal muscles, but equally necessary for vaginal delivery because of the aforementioned placenta wound. You also need to limit your stair climbing or opening your legs to get into the car – try to slide in while keeping your legs together.
- Keeping baby’s care simple: Don’t add to your to-do list when it comes to your baby’s needs. Your baby doesn’t need a bath every day. Instead, use wet wipes to make sure your baby’s face, hands and genital area are cleaned daily.
- Limiting visitors in the first few weeks: Although your friends will want to come and meet the baby, this may put pressure on you to host and even just be social, at times where you could be resting. You’ll be adjusting to your new life with your baby, as well as healing from your delivery. When you do have visitors, try not to stress over the house being tidy, or your hair being clean. Leave piles of laundry all over the house – the best friends will do it for you.
Being aware of Post-partum Depression
Just by being aware of the mental health risks to new Mums, you can help protect yourself – by knowing when to ask for help.
There are three types of childbirth-related depression:
- Postnatal or maternity blues are very common. A new parent feels down and tearful in the week after her baby is born. This feeling passes after a few days.
- Postnatal depression, a more serious condition, is also common. The person becomes seriously depressed in the first months following the baby’s birth. It can occur any time during the baby’s first year.
- Postnatal psychosis (sometimes called post partum psychosis) is rare and involves symptoms of psychosis (being out of touch with reality) as well as changes in mood – either a depressed or an extremely high mood. It usually begins in the first two weeks after the child is born. It can be managed well – particularly if help is sought early.
People who have never been mentally unwell before can experience postnatal depression after pregnancy. Others may have had depression or a psychotic illness in the past. Regardless of whether you have prior experience of mental distress, the symptoms and treatment of postnatal depression are similar.
The major difference between this form of depression compared to other forms is you have a newborn baby to look after while you’re experiencing depression. It’s very important to get help and support as early as possible.
Because postnatal depression can affect how you feel about and care for, your baby and other children it is important not to ignore any signs that something may be wrong. You’re not a bad parent and postnatal depression doesn’t mean you don’t love your baby. It just means you’re human and you need some extra support. Talk to your midwife or doctor as soon as you can (source).
If you are currently pregnant and would like to join our village, let us know your due date, and we will send you monthly emails with stories from our readers about their unique journeys, as well as advice to keep you busy as the months go on.