Most moms struggle after having a baby. This statement is simply a fact! The transition to the postpartum period is one of intense physical and biological changes that can bring even the strongest to their breaking point. As an OB/GYN, I am humbled by the unfailing demonstrations of strength and love that I see in new mothers every single day. It is amazing to witness the miraculous resilience and I can’t imagine how they would ever doubt themselves regarding the struggles they encounter while attempting to nurture, protect and bond with a brand new baby. Nonetheless, I regularly see patients who feel defeated and ashamed in spite of all they have gone through and withstood.
The recovery period following the delivery of a child is a time marked by changes and challenges that are not just manifested in physical pain or discomfort – Although this is certainly a worthy adversary. Depending on the characteristics of the mother’s labor and subsequent delivery, the immediate in-hospital recovery period could be as straightforward as letting the epidural “wear off” and then getting to know their baby. For most, on the other hand, it is not that simple. Difficulty sitting, walking, getting in and out of bed, pain with urination, unbearable constipation, intense uterine cramping, painful & engorged breasts, complete exhaustion and lack of sleep are just a few of the many challenges of being “postpartum.”
We know that a vaginal delivery is what is best for a mother’s physical recovery, but in some situations indications arise that warrant a Cesarean section. It cannot be overstated that a C-section is a major abdominal surgery and as such, it is one that is quite difficult to recover from, even if you’re a strong, healthy, young woman.
There are also, often under-recognized, intense hormonal changes that can lead some moms to question their stability and happiness with their new baby. It is estimated that up to 80 percent of mothers in the postpartum period will experience the “baby blues” (ACOG Postpartum Depression). That is why your OB/GYN should be inquiring about your mood and possible feelings of sadness and may ask you to complete a questionnaire regarding this.
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I never underestimate the strength of a mother and all she is capable of, but at the same time, it is overwhelmingly common to struggle and doubt oneself after having a baby. Talking with your doctor should help to first, get your feelings out in the open and second, to discover if any special follow up or management is necessary. Once you have been heard and appropriately evaluated you will be in a better position to recover and abandon the burden of self-doubt. This is when loved ones should wrap you up with a hug and build you up with encouragement! You are the definition of strength – You’re a mom!