As a midwife I feel that my work really only begins with the birth! Pregnancy is one thing and then postpartum is a whole ‘nother story!
I practice a holistic approach to caring for women which is based on a relationship and involves at least 5 or more postpartum care visits to help you get started on a good foot. The sad thing is that only about 1% of women in my local area are choosing home birth midwifery care! I am on a mission to get as many women as I can to realize that individualized care is the better way to go but until more women start actually choosing out of hospital providers we all have to work harder to change things for ALL women!
It is appalling to me that when women deliver in a hospital they are turned loose in 24-48 hours and are not seen again by their care provider for several weeks! So many things can go wrong during the first couple of weeks after having a baby! Women are experiencing so much more crammed into a few short weeks then the entire 9 months of pregnancy combined!
ACOG is announcing in their May release that they are recommending a change in the postpartum care schedule from 1 visit over 6 weeks to 3 visits over 12 weeks. While I am very glad to see this recommendation I hope the Dr’s will begin implementing this, I am not holding my breath! (ACOG has made many recommendations that have not been embraced by Dr’s.) They are also supporting a full 6 weeks of PAID paternal leave with 100% benefits! Finally they are hearing the women and responding, now all we need to do is get the Dr’s themselves and the employers on board!
In a typical relationship with a family who has allowed me to serve them for their care I see them at least 5 times in the first 6 weeks after birth. I will see them more if needed. The reality is that the transition to motherhood, even if it is not your first time, can be extremely difficult. Half of all women who die from pregnancy related complications do so in the first few weeks after actually having their baby! So these things are happening at home when you have already been released from the hospital! This is one reason why midwifery care is better because we come to you whenever you need it during that important postpartum period of at least 6 weeks. You need a competent and supportive provider who will actually be present to help you with the many different issues:
-Engorgement -Helping baby latch on
-Evaluating for tongue or lip ties
-Healing after birth
-Watching for complications that can be life threatening
-Evaluating the health and well being of the baby
-Supporting the emotional variances in each unique woman
-And so much more!
There is so much that needs to be done to support new moms! This begins during the pregnancy through educating women on what to expect, how to prepare for this difficult yet wonderful time and helping women set up the right support system to help her in those early days.
Mentally prepare yourself to take VERY special care of yourself for an additional full 12 weeks, this is sometimes called the 4th trimester. This is honestly likely the most important phase of welcoming a new baby. This is the time when you really have the HARD life struggles of caring for a new life, a new body, and all the issues that come along with breastfeeding and an expanding family.
So what does this really look like?
Before the baby even gets here make it clear to your extended family and friends that they are only allowed to come over to see baby if they are willing to: -bring a meal -do laundry -clean a bathroom -do some dishes -or anything else you may need done!
They also should not come unannounced! They need to check in first to make sure it is a time when mom and baby are not resting or feeding and only stay a short while.
You need to give yourself a full week of doing nothing but caring for yourself and your baby! Do not plan any outings, stay home. Mom and dad and other siblings need a good several days of bonding without a lot of visitors! Breastfeeding can be hard those first few days and very few women are comfortable doing so in front of visitors. Have another adult or older responsible teenager in the home to help with the other children, laundry, meals and basic household duties. This should be the partner but if there is not a partner or if he must return to work right away then plan for this! Women should NEVER jump right back into their normal work load! They need at least a week to do nothing, then another week to slowly start doing a few more things then still take it easy for a while longer.
As mothers, sisters and friends we should also support and encourage other women to do the same when they become a new mom, I do not care if you are having your first or your 6th baby, the same rules apply here!
I do what I can with my clients who are having home births. I would like to be able to reach more women with this vital information. Please share this with as many as you can and be this support when you have a close woman going through the 4th trimester.