The irony of a man writing to men about understanding postpartum women is not lost on us here at Recharge.
In an attempt to enlighten men who may otherwise have no idea where to look (for information), we present the following guide on understanding postpartum women.
This guide is for you to understand a few basic things about your wives, friends, siblings, or any woman for that matter who had a child and is now getting back into fitness.
I help women get back into exercise as a physical therapist at Recharge and below is a list that I have learned from these wonderful women who've trusted me with their recovery.
- Have you carried around another human being for 9 months and then given birth to that human? I didn’t think so. Although this line is often used as a joke for our eternal debt to women, it speaks to the larger point that no matter your empathy or understanding abilities... You will never experience pregnancy and birth in that way. Accept it. You can't fix anything afterwards. You can be there. You can listen.
- Understand that a great deal of women have a hard time prioritizing their own health as an important factor when all questions from others and time are devoted to the baby.
- Understand that all the instagram posts of women running a marathon the day after giving birth, although amazing, significantly affect some women who do struggle to get back into exercise after giving birth. Not all women "bounce back" immediately, nor should they be expected to.
- Expectations. Women have enough expectations of themselves. They then have the expectations set on them by society of how they should be responding after giving birth. Don’t pile on more expectations. Understand that each woman is unique in their recovery after pregnancy. Their own perception of how they feel and how their body responds to physical activity should be the only expectation that you have of them as they get back into exercising. Still confused? Reference point number 1.
- On that note. Respect the time it takes to recover. You aren’t telling your favorite NFL player to get back on the field the day after he tears his ACL are you? Then why would you expect any woman to jump immediately back into exercise (climbing stairs, sitting/standing, picking things up) the day after giving birth to a human being. Think about that for a second.
- Typically, it takes 6-8 weeks for a physician to clear the new mother for physical activity after birth barring any other medical issues. However, being cleared does not mean that they are ready for anything and everything. Be supportive. This is uncharted territory with a lot of unknowns. If in doubt, reference point number 1...again.
- Postpartum depression is a real thing and falls on a spectrum of what is experienced by women. The "baby blues" is a phrase that was once used and underplays the mental component of giving birth and raising a child. This can be a serious issue that should be addressed via open communication. Don't fall into the "it will pass" trap. Be proactive while respectful of external stress and societal stigma.
- Postpartum is forever. It's not a few weeks and everything is as was. Establish open, trustworthy communication from the start in order to maintain it. This will benefit everyone involved.
For any family the time following giving birth is often difficult, exciting, and exhausting. For us men it is an opportunity to help and understand a role we can play in looking out for the health of the woman in our lives.
Following this guide is a good start to get in the right mindset. However, sometimes the best thing you can do is provide an opportunity for the woman in your life to have some time in the week to herself.
Often when women participate in our postpartum class they appreciate the hour they get to work on themselves, to focus on themselves, and to realize that their health is important to the health of their baby and family. Provide them the opportunity to experience this.