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What is Postpartum?

Updated: Aug 8, 2022

The postpartum period is the term used for the time that begins immediately after giving birth to a child.

It can be briefly divided into 3 phases, the initial/acute phase which is up to 18 hours after childbirth, the next phase which is also critical and lasts up to 6 weeks, and posts that the delayed postpartum phase which can last up to 6 months.


Postpartum meaning? What happens during the first 6 weeks of the postpartum period?


Physical changes to the Mother's body


Soon after childbirth, the placenta is also discharged from the body, the area where the placenta was attached to the uterine wall starts bleeding, the uterus starts to shrink, and changes in the hormones. There will be discharge from the uterus, called lochia. Due to increased blood flow, there will be some swelling in the vagina.

Cesarean cuts will be stitched or if there was tearing at the vagina in vaginal delivery, it will be stitched too.

One thing to be noted is that these changes would not really be about returning the body to its original state, as the body also prepares for lactation, to nurture the newborn baby.

The New Mother's body will be sore and she will be in pain.


So basically, there are many physical changes happening in the mother's body, due to this during the first few days the new mother is monitored by the healthcare providers, just to ensure that there are no health problems cropping up.

Problems like urine leakage, improper bowel function, excessive bleeding leading to postpartum hemorrhage, intense cramping, infection in the stitches which can lead to sepsis, and constipation, these are just to name a few.

In the period of up to 6 weeks from childbirth, around 90% of women report at least one health problem.



The much-needed Mental Care


Even the World Health Organisation mentions that the first 6 weeks after childbirth are the most crucial days in the life of a woman and she needs to take utmost care of herself.

Physical care and Mental Care.


If the mother chooses to breastfeed the baby, she has to feed the baby once in every 2 hours and the duration of feeding can be around 15-20 mins in some cases. So, how can she rest? And this pattern continues for at least the next few weeks. And, Remember, that she is still sore from the delivery and it is very likely she may have some other physical problem too. Not to mention the never-ending diaper changes, the cries of the baby which she really cannot decipher, she may not really know how to handle the baby, how to put the baby to sleep, or how to understand what the baby needs. She may have some postpartum blues and she may just sit down with the baby and cry. Can you imagine the kind of stress she is handling?

She does not deserve to go through this alone. She needs full-time support, either from her partner or any other family member or maybe even a friend, but she needs someone by her side all the time. She deserves to be pampered and celebrated because she has just given life to another human.


Issues are faced by most women.


As per statistics, most mothers and newborn babies die during this 6-week period throughout the world, especially in underdeveloped countries. Definitely, these are extreme cases but it cannot be stressed enough that this is the most critical phase for both the new mother and the newborn baby.


In the present world, we don't live with our extended families, we are a part of the nuclear family culture. In many cases, either the woman's or the man's parents drop by and pitch in to help the new parents. But, taking care of the newborn baby itself is a huge task, here, what we often see is that the newborn baby is very well taken care of, but somehow the new mother is put in the backseat. She also is busy taking care of the baby only and does not really focus on her issues, she may just tend to ignore a few of her health issues, by tagging them as not very bothersome. These issues will come back later in life, to trouble her.


What happened in the Postpartum period of our Grandmothers?


In the good old days, the entire family would be busy taking care of the newborn baby and the new mother. It was a full-time activity for which preparations were started well in advance. The house would be prepared for the arrival of the new mother and the new baby. The house would be bustling with a number of activities.


Both, the mother and the baby were kept secluded and warm, ears were always kept covered. Anything cold was strictly avoided. The new mother was never let to be anywhere uncovered in the open. The mother was well rested, she had help at hand to take care of the baby. She was allowed to sleep, while other women in the house cared for the baby. The mother and baby were given sufficient time with each other to establish bonding and successful breastfeeding. The women in the house would also step in to help the mother, to teach her how to breastfeed the baby.


Special meals would be prepared for the mother which was meticulously planned to nurture her, give her strength, and at the same time be easy to digest as her body had recently undergone a trauma. Meals were healthy and nourishing, loaded with warm spices. Milk and ghee were a regular part of the mother's diet. Meals were also prepared to keep lactation in mind, the woman's body would just ease into the lactating phase.


There would be special baths prepared for both the mother and the baby, massages were given to both with special oils, and the new mother would be massaged to relieve her from body aches and to help her uterus return back to its original size. Herbal powders were used for the new mother's bath which was antiseptic in nature, the new mother was to use a ubtan for bathing and not soap. Water was warmed with herbs. Post bathing, the mother was further warmed up using the heat from burning charcoals. Her aching joints and pelvis would be fumigated. Her vagina was also fumigated.


This was the kind of care our great-grandmothers and even our grandmothers received, and they stood strong even at the age of 80 and after having given birth to a dozen children.

Whereas, nowadays, we have every other woman complaining of backache due to childbirth. The hormones are all over the place. We face so many health issues which our ancestors may have not even heard about.


What is missing now?


Actually, everything that our grandmas had.

- A proper care and support system

- A nutritious and well-balanced diet

- A ritual to get back the body to its original state

- Time. Time, to enjoy motherhood.


Well, you may say that we cannot really get all this. Now, the time has changed, and we are always in a hurry. We have everything on our plate, we need to prioritize things to get them done. We have so much to achieve and so little time in hand.

I completely agree, but, take a step back and think, will you be able to achieve whatever you want to, with an aching back and sore muscles? with a depressed and tired mind? with a painful experience?


If, your answer to any of the above questions is a 'no'. Then,

It's time to re-think postpartum the old way.

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