Most women understand the value of preparing for pregnancy, even if that is limited to making diet & lifestyle changes and taking a prenatal vitamin. During pregnancy, mothers-to-be are busy choosing OB care providers, prepping the nursery, and managing pregnancy-related symptoms. However, often much less attention is paid to what will happen after delivery. In a matter of just a few minutes, not only is a baby delivered, but a mother is born. This transition to motherhood, often referred to as matrescence, is a process that is largely ignored in the US where the focus that is directed toward the woman in pregnancy is shifted dramatically to the baby after delivery.
There are significant changes in how the woman perceives herself and how she is perceived by others. Compounding these issues are the effects of social media and the unrealistic portrayal of everything from childbirth to postpartum to parenting as ease, breezy and beautiful. When reality sets in, and it will, new moms are often left feeling physically & emotionally drained and sometimes traumatized by the after effects of birth and the postpartum experience. It is important to note that 1 out of 7 women experience perinatal mood and/or anxiety issues, and that does not even capture those that have mild symptoms or are left to suffer in silence.
Though this description paints a bleak picture, all hope is not lost, not by a longshot. Though the term matrescence was first coined in the early 70’s by Dana Raphael, it is finally breaking through into popular culture; even Beyonce has been talking about it. We can take direction from other cultures that implement a “lying in” period, a window of time of up to 3 months where the new mom’s only job is to care for self and baby. This ashewing of social engagements and asking for & receiving help allows mom, dad, baby, and any sibling to bond, feed, and sleep as needed. Meals and housekeeping assistance are routinely provided by extended family & friends allowing mom to take care of herself. In 2018, the American College of OBGYN published a position paper in support of increased postpartum care for new moms, though scheduling issues often preclude any real changes beyond administering a screening tool for diagnosable mood & anxiety disorders.
So what can be done to improve your chances of success as a new mom? Arranging support, stocking your pantry, and identifying providers that are specially trained in postpartum care will allow you to get assistance quickly when a need arises: The main thing is to ask for help early & often.
- Sleep ends up being the number one thing a new mom can do in terms of self care and to speed healing from delivery, prevent mood symptoms, improve energy, and decrease stress. Extended family, friends, or postpartum doulas/nurses can help provide that extra support.
- Proper nutrition is also key. If breastfeeding, this is not a time to worry about losing baby weight; emphasis on a whole foods diet, with plenty of protein and good fats is key. This type of diet also sets the stage for healthy eating habits for the whole family.
Dr. Leigh Lewis
Certified Menopause Practitioner, American Board of Oriental
Reproductive Medicine, and Postpartum Support International.
Arcadia Women’s Health
503.490.3723 ask for an appt with Dr. Lewis
Preconception counseling, fertility, pregnancy/postpartum support, perimenopause; acupuncture, lab testing, diet/lifestyle counseling, supplements/medication/hormone prescriptions. Phone appointments available.