“You have to give yourself a break. As a mom, I still remind myself: ‘I grew three humans.’ And after delivery, you’re still growing them! That’s the biggest thing. You’re not done after you deliver, especially if you’re breastfeeding. It’s going to take time to find a groove. You have to be forgiving for the first six months to a year. Because it’s all a work in progress.”
If you haven’t experienced it yourself, talk to a woman who’s given birth in the last year: A friend, a relative, a co-worker. Many of them will say the most unexpected part was not the pregnancy or delivery itself, but the effects that lingered after birth.
We don’t talk about postpartum changes to women’s bodies. But we need to start.
The Importance of Normalizing the Postpartum Experience
By not talking about the postpartum experience, we’ve created a negative stigma around it. We’ve reinforced that this is an uncomfortable, unpleasant, or even abnormal topic. In failing to normalize this part of pregnancy, we’re limiting the education and support available to new moms and their families.
“The truth is, there’s not a whole lot of education out there about the postpartum period for women,” says Dr. Elspeth Call. Dr. Call is an accomplished and experienced OB/GYN. She’s also a mom to three kids of her own.
“Postpartum to me, means you’re in between. It’s an uncomfortable state,” she says. “The maternity clothes don’t fit, but your regular clothes don’t either. You’re swollen and uncomfortable.”
When it comes to her patients, Dr. Call thinks a lack of education has created a need for validation amongst new moms. “I think my patients are always reassured when I say, ‘you’re not the first one to tell me this.’ And when I say, ‘as a mom of three, I felt this way, too.’”
What to Expect Postpartum, As a New Mom
Dr. Call shares the concerns she hears most often from mamas-to-be:
“I give my patients real talk. It’s not going to be comfortable. There is bleeding that comes after delivery, which is like having your period for a few weeks. And if you’re breastfeeding, it’s going to leak.”
“The biggest concern is incontinence, how women experience leakage of urine when they stand up, cough, or strain in those first few weeks. And then that always leads to worries about pelvic organ prolapse. They worry it’s never going to go away…which it does!”
How do you know what’s a cause for concern?
“We have discussions that include looking out for bleeding that reminds you of a heavy period. After delivery you can’t use tampons, so if you’re soaking through two or more pads an hour, or you’re passing blood clots, that’s cause for concern. If you’re experiencing extreme cramping that’s not helped by Motrin, call your doctor.”
Schedule a Visit with Dr. Call
Dr. Elspeth Call is a board-certified obstetrician, gynecologist, and gynecologic surgeon. She practices at Trinity Medical OB/GYN Delaware District, on Delaware Avenue in the heart of downtown Buffalo. Call the office to set up an appointment at (716) 846-1190.