After a birth, my midwife encouraged me to stay in bed for at least two weeks to heal physically and to avoid overdoing it. I understood the concern, but I ignored it for my first few births thinking, “I’m fine! I’m taking it easy!”
But one week postpartum, I found myself grocery shopping with my kids or cleaning– and then afterwards, feeling exhausted and like my vagina was going to fall out. I was doing too much, too soon. Don’t we all think we’re taking it easy, especially compared to our activity level before baby? In the first postpartum weeks, it isn’t laziness to lounge in your pajamas soaking up baby snuggles. It is necessity.
Picture this: your child has an open, nine inch wound on their belly. Would you make them rest? Of course you would! Something major had to have taken place for that wound to appear. Their energy may be lower, bleeding would need to be watched, wound dressings would need to be changed and you’d need to watch for an infection. You’d want your little darling to recover quickly and you’d encourage rest, right?
That’s what your placenta site is inside you– a large wound averaging nine inches in circumference that needs healing after birth. Every movement of walking, lifting, and standing up and down tugs on the scab internally, extending the time it takes to heal. Why would we short ourselves the rest that we would insist on for others? Spouses and family need to understand this as well so they can care for you– just as you would for them after surgery or an accident.
If you have any tearing from your delivery, your perineum will also need to heal. If you’ve had a c-section delivery, you’ve had major abdominal surgery. Be gentle with yourself.
5 signs that you’re overdoing it:
Red & heavier bleeding
As women, bleeding is one of the less enjoyable aspects of our femininity. The time after birth can feel like a giant, extended period. However, did you know that resting can lessen the bleeding? The first red flag your body will send you is your bleeding. It will become bright red again and heavier if you’re overdoing it.
Pressure in your vagina
Along with the extra bleeding, you may feel heavier and sore in your girly bits from the gravity pulling the uterus lower. Bed rest in the early postpartum weeks is shown to help prevent prolapse. That pressure you feel is a sign that your internal organs aren’t toned up enough yet to be active.
Feeling anxious or depressed
The baby blues can be no joke– I’ve been there before– and studies show that adequate rest can help prevent postpartum depression. If you are finding that you are weepy, angry, overwhelmed, or anxious, this may be another sign that you are trying to do too much too soon. Ask for help from family and friends so you can focus on feeling stable– not just for your baby, but for yourself. Make sure to talk to your healthcare provider about postpartum depression if the feelings continue.
Mastitis or plugged milk ducts
Breastfeeding issues are often a signal from your body saying, “Slow down, focus on the baby!” Along with possibly needed antibiotics and working to unclog the milk ducts, going to bed with the baby and nursing as much as possible is necessary for healing. It also establishes a stronger bond and nursing relationship.
Tiring Out Easily
Feeling exhausted after simple tasks is common for postpartum moms. Some moms may even feel tired, but unable to sleep when the baby sleeps. This is a sure sign that your body is telling you to rest, whether you can sleep or not! Listen when your body tells you to rest–don’t push yourself.
Plan Ahead– It’s Worth It
While the burst of adrenaline after birth may make it feel like it’s a good idea to get up and be productive, remember to allow yourself rest. Set up postpartum plans during your pregnancy so your spouse, family and friends can help care for your other children and take care of meals and chores for a few weeks. My midwife advises moms spend at least two weeks in bed after giving birth, before slowly adding in gentle activities.
Trust me– you won’t regret taking it really easy. It will only add to the newborn bliss and make your transition much easier both physically and emotionally.