Pregnancy and birth are such exciting and transformative experiences, they tend to get all the attention. From the moment you found out you were pregnant so much of life is about what to eat, what to avoid, which antenatal classes to sign up to and have you made a birth plan yet? While much attention is focused on antenatal care, it's equally crucial to plan for postnatal recovery, mama.
This period of healing and adjustment after giving birth is often underestimated, but it plays a vital role in a mother's and her family's overall well-being. The early postnatal period may not be as flashy or dare I say it, photogenic, but it is in no way less transformative as pregnancy and birth. It is a crucial time to rediscover ourselves and integrate the experiences of pregnancy and birth into this new life, this new identity. While every postnatal journey is deeply unique, there are common supportive elements we should all be aware of as we prepare to welcome our babies.
In this blog, we will explore the four pillars of postnatal recovery as summarised by doula S. Messager in her book "Why Postnatal Recovery Matters": support, rest, massage/bodywork, and nutrition. We will also emphasize the importance of planning for this phase during pregnancy and communicating your needs to loved ones.
1. Support: The Backbone of Postnatal Recovery
No mother should have to navigate the postpartum period alone. We're not designed to as a species and it's time we reclaim and normalise accessing lots of support through this stage of motherhood. Surrounding yourself with a supportive network of family, friends, and professionals is essential. Communicate your expectations and needs to your loved ones during pregnancy. Whether it's delegating household chores, arranging for meal deliveries, or simply having someone to talk to, having a solid support system ensures you can focus on your recovery and bonding with your baby. This may include hiring professional support such as an independent midwife who can develop a flexible plan of visits for you and stick around much longer than the NHS can offer. It is truly invaluable the support your own trusted midwife can offer during this stage of motherhood.
2. Rest: Nurturing Your Body and Mind
Rest is a precious commodity during the postnatal period. Sleep deprivation and exhaustion are common challenges for new parents, so it's crucial to prioritise restorative rest. Establishing a routine may feel impossible at first, so focus on getting naps and breaks throughout the day whenever you can. Share night time responsibilities with your partner or consider hiring a postpartum doula to provide overnight support. Remember, getting adequate rest is not only crucial for a speedy physical recovery, but it is also essential for your mental well-being.
3. Massage: Healing Touch for Mind and Body
Massage is a powerful tool for postnatal recovery. It offer numerous benefits, such as reducing muscle tension, promoting relaxation, improving circulation, and alleviating postpartum discomfort. I offer postnatal massage for mamas in East Sussex, mostly in the Hastings and Eastbourne area. If you're not local, seek out a qualified professional near you who's experienced in postnatal care and can provide specialised treatments. Your body has gone through an amazing and demanding journey, help it recover by giving it time, love and attention. It's not uncommon to feel awkward in our postnatal bodies. Our clothes don't fit us the same way and body dysmorphia is a common experience for new mothers. Massage can help you connect with your body again, reclaiming it and feeling once again at home in your own skin.
4. Nutrition: Nourishing Your Body from Within
Proper nutrition is crucial during the postnatal period to support your healing and overall well-being. There's a lot of repairing your body needs to do after birth as well as feeding and hydrating a little human if you're breastfeeding. While I would never suggest you skip the chocolate and cake, it is important most of your diet is made up of whole meals, ideally homecooked. Focus on nutrient-dense foods that provide essential vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Incorporate plenty of fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, whole grains, and healthy fats into your meals. Stay hydrated by drinking lots of water and herbal teas. You'll be looking after baby 24/7 and you'll be surprised how easy it becomes to forget to eat. Make sure you have people around you to prepare food for you or a plan to remind yourself.
Planning and Communicating Your Needs:
Planning for postnatal recovery should begin during pregnancy. There's no way you'll want to make sense of all the above after having your baby, when you're deep in the postnatal haze, not a chance! Take the time to educate yourself about the postpartum period now, including the physical and emotional changes you may experience. Discuss your expectations and concerns with your midwife, and check that any antenatal classes you may wish to join cover postnatal recovery. Pregnancy is also a great time to inform your loved ones about what you might need from them during this time. Whether it's help with household chores, meals, or giving you space and time to recover initially, clear communication ensures that your support system is well-informed and can offer the assistance you require.
Postnatal recovery is a crucial phase that deserves attention, planning, and support. By embracing the four pillars of postnatal recovery—support, rest, massage, and nutrition—you can lay the foundation for a healthy and fulfilling postpartum experience. Remember, you are not alone in this journey. Reach out to your midwife, seek support from your loved ones, and prioritise self-care above all else. Your baby can only thrive if you do, there are no shortcuts here. By investing in your recovery, you are setting yourself and your family up for success while fostering your own physical and emotional well-being.