By Hannah Schenker
How long did it take you to recover from having your baby? Six weeks? Six weeks is about how long the mainstream media deems necessary, with images of famous new mums, vibrant and confident and sporting abs and clean hair. Was that how long you thought it might take? That you would be “back to normal” in a month or so? Was it a shock to realise that you just weren’t “bouncing back” the way you expected to? Emotionally and physically, growing a tiny human and then birthing them into the world is a HUGE experience, and not something everyone finds natural or easy to do. In fact, research released by Dr Julie Wray, back in 2011, found that it can take mothers up to a year to fully recover from the challenges of childbirth.
Dr Julie Wray, of Salford University in England, interviewed women at different stages in their post-partum life (two to three weeks, three months and six to seven months after childbirth) and concluded in her report that the general thinking that six weeks was enough time to recover, was a total fantasy.
She also found that many mothers were dissatisfied at their post-natal care and services, based as it was around the six-week checkup. The six week check was disappointing because most didn’t receive a physical examination, or it didn’t confirm either way whether their bodies had reverted to ‘normal’.
The fourth trimester is getting a little more air time these days, as women wake up to the fact that the first few months, post-birthing, is incredibly challenging. Having the added pressure to “bounce back” after only six weeks is unnecessary and unhelpful. The silent pressure for new mums to recover faster than they are able, physically and emotionally – either to get back to work, get their body looking the way it used to or be able to process their emotional experience the same way – is thankfully now backed up by Dr Julie Wray’s research.
“The research from the study shows that more realistic and woman-friendly postnatal services are needed. Women feel that it takes much longer than six weeks to recover and they should be supported beyond the current six to eight weeks after birth. However, UK government funding cuts and a national shortage of midwives means that postnatal services will only face further challenges. The midwifery profession must raise the status of postnatal care as any further erosion can only be bad for women and their children.”