Okay, I’m just going to say it…
The six-week postpartum check up is not enough for women recovering from childbirth.
And telling women that they can resume regular physical activity following that appointment does nothing but instill false hope to postpartum women everywhere, and I am not okay with it.
For 9 months, you carry precious life inside you, nourishing it until you bring him/her into this crazy, wonderful world to love forever.
And during those nine months, you’ll have somewhere close to 15 appointments with your OB to assess the health and wellbeing of you and your babe.
But once you’re postpartum, you one get 1…. At or around the 6-week mark.
While baby has already had 5 or so doctor visits postpartum, this 6-week follow up is when you (finally) go back to the doctor to have yourself examined.
We all know about that 6-week postpartum check-up. Some women get so antsy waiting for that appointment to come and go so they can get the green light to go back to more strenuous activity.
At this appointment, the doctor will typically see how you’re healing externally by checking the healing of either the perineum (vaginal deliveries) or the cesarean scar, and also doing a pelvic exam to check the uterus, ovaries and cervix. If you’re lucky, the doctor may do a short mental health screening to assess the presence of any perinatal mood disorders.
All in all ssuming that things are healing well, you will receive a go ahead to return back to “regular activity” as you were pre-pregnancy (exercise, sex, etc.).
But here’s where things get tricky… and honestly, very frustrating.
Just because your body seems to be healing well after delivery, it does not actually mean that returning to regular activity is the way to go, even if you’re chomping at the bit to get active again.
When it comes to workouts and any other type of physical activity, it’s so important to start slow and build up. This is super important for keeping your body safe and at a lower risk of injury. Starting slow helps warm up your muscles- including your deep core and abdomen, your pelvic floor, heart rate, etc.
Being pregnant and having a baby puts a lot of stress on your body. No matter how you deliver, your body takes a toll and is ultimately subjected to quite a bit of trauma. And it’s SO important to heal that trauma properly.
And guess what? 6 weeks is not enough time to heal. When you think about a general bodily injury, like a sprained ankle or even a broken toe, it can take that sort of injury up to 16 weeks to heal! So why would we expect a postpartum body to heal in only 6 weeks?
Starting slow when getting back into any physical activity is also really important for your mental health and state of mind too. Remember, you still have a newborn that relies on you day and night. So that will mean that your sleep will be off, your mood may be off, your will power might not be there and your sex drive might not be there either… Those are important factors to consider while healing during postpartum as well.
And if you are experiencing any of those things, it’s completely normal, and it’s all is completely OK!
It is so important to remember that postpartum recovery ebbs and flows. Some days may be really good- you feel good, you’ve got lots of energy and you’re ready to tackle your day. And the next day, you may be exhausted and not want to even get off the couch. Again, BOTH are okay and normal. And it’s crucial that you honor how your body and mind feel from one day to the next.
There are so many factors to consider when recovering in the postpartum days that are oftentimes not addressed in that 6-week appointment. Things like mental health, prolapse, sex drive, incontinence.. the list goes on and on.
Knowing all of that, why do we insinuate that it’s good and fine for postpartum women to go about their pre-pregnant daily active lives after only 6 weeks of recovery? Women need to be given more knowledge, more resources and more support than that.
So to the recovering mamas who are in the thick of postpartum: Take it easy. Take it slow. Take it one day at a time. And if you need help, guidance or just a word of encouragement, I’m here for you.