We Skimm'd other women's reproductive health topics for you...
So I had a baby. What now?
Time to relax. Not. There’s a lot that happens to your body after the baby.
Well first, swelling. You just pushed a tiny human out of your body. There’s going to be swelling and soreness down there. Maybe stitches depending on where you landed on the tear scale. It takes weeks to recover from childbirth. We believe in you.
Can't wait. Anything else?
Oh, for sure. Get ready for some bleeding. Whether you had a C-section or went au naturel, your body’s getting rid of excess blood and tissue from the uterus. So it’s going to be acting like that time of the month. This is normal for the first few weeks. Say hello to maxi pads. You might have trouble peeing. And leak a bit when you cough or laugh. Fun.
What about the mental and emotional effects?
See: the baby blues. It’s relatively common in the first days after birth. Your hormones are on a rollercoaster and you’re tired AF. Cue moodiness, tears, anxiety. It should go away in a week or two.
What if it doesn't?
Then it may be postpartum depression – which affects a little more than 10% of women. Anxiety and mood swings can be extreme, and can last months or even years if it goes untreated. Research suggests that birth mothers aren’t the only ones at risk. Fathers, adoptive parents, and LGBT parents could also experience it. Here’s help finding out if that’s what you’re going through.
What about the breastfeeding?
Do it. Don’t do it. It can be a way of bonding with your baby. And research suggests it can help keep babies healthy – like lower the risk of things like infection, asthma, and diarrhea. Other studies suggest these risks are tied to other factors. So you do you. If you decide to breastfeed, don’t be surprised if it’s difficult, hurts at first, or worse. See: mastitis (an infection that can be caused by clogged milk ducts, among other things).
Yikes. How do I juggle this and a job?
That’s where parental leave comes in. Spoiler: the US has the worst policy of the developed world. Employers aren’t required to give new parents any paid time off. Even though research shows that getting paid while you nest at home improves life expectancy for babies and more generous policies help keep women in the workforce longterm. Sigh. The law says that generally, new moms and dads can take 12 weeks...without pay. LGBT parents might have an even harder time managing this.
When will this improve?
Things kinda sorta are. Some states (read: four) and companies are upping their game. Netflix and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation are the overachievers of the group. They both offer new parents up to a year of paid leave.
Having a baby takes a major toll on your body and upends life as you knew it. The estimated six-week recovery period is just an estimate.