Every new mother is advised to rest after delivery so that her body gets some time to heal. However, neither the doctors and nurses nor the family members exactly tell her why. This is why an advice like “the bleeding makes you weak” or “your body has been through a lot” sounds more sympathetic than logical. Hence, they hardly make a difference. And the result? A new mother continues to run around for her newborn; stresses about breastfeeding, and fusses about keeping the house clean lest her infant gets infected. Even the immediate family members eventually shift their focus to the little baby instead of the mother’s wellbeing. And all this happens simply because neither the mother nor the family is aware of the EXACT reason why a woman needs to rest post delivery.
To drive home the point, Laura Fry, a mother and birth advocate, posted a powerful picture on her Facebook page “Labor of Love – Lancaster, PA”. At first glance, it might seem like a simple picture of a beautiful paper plate. But right below the plate, a measuring tape showing its dimension catches your attention. Laura explained in her post that the plate’s dimension was 22 cm or 8.6 inches, which is approximately the same as that of the placenta. She then went on to explain the significance of it. Following the delivery of the placenta, women are left with a wound inside that is basically the size of the placenta. So, therefore, it is to heal this big a wound that a woman needs to rest!
Now, let’s look at this from a different perspective. Imagine if a person injures himself/herself for which he/she has to undergo a major surgery. The surgery leaves him/her with a wound as big as this. Would anyone in their sane minds expect him/her to be out and about with the daily routine? Yet, a postpartum woman is expected to report back to her work within 12 weeks, or even less. This is a cruel reality, despite many experts recommending postpartum women to rest for at least one whole year to completely recover (1). However, as Laura points out, resting does not mean that a woman can’t move around at all. They can move around and do light activities. But, it is important that they take help of family members or a domestic help whenever they don’t feel up to it. Taking care of herself should be as much a woman’s own priority as that of her family members!
Another scenario where postpartum women take their condition lightly is when they’ve had a perfectly normal delivery, free of any complications. However, just because a delivery did not have any complications does not mean you cannot have one after that. If the massive wound does not heal in time, it could also lead to infections and hemorrhage. And if statistics are anything to go by, the U.S. has the highest rate of maternal mortality, or postpartum deaths (2). This is quite high for a developed country. It is even more shocking that this abysmal trend seems to be on the rise (3). One of the major contributors to this seems to be postpartum neglect. Like in the tragic case of Lauren Bloomstein, who died shortly after giving birth to her daughter (4). A neonatal nurse herself, she died in the very hospital that she worked at. This is because most healthcare professionals and nursing staff generally focus on the newborn’s health and end up ignoring the mother.
So, what is it that can be done to prevent such tragedies and ensure a mother’s good health post delivery? To start with, spreading the word, just like Laura, goes a long way toward helping mothers become aware of their condition. While the healthcare professionals will do their bit, family members and employers can pitch in to help the mother out too. Women, in general, contribute so much to their families and the society at large. So much so that even after going through one of the toughest phases of their life – childbirth – they still focus on their responsibilities. The least that we can do to reciprocate this gesture is to let them have a few, well-deserved moments where they can put their feet up and relax!
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