Giving birth to a baby is an incredible accomplishment. Any mother who has given birth can tell you just how challenging it can be to recover from pregnancy and childbirth, all while tending to the needs of a newborn around the clock. The medical system concludes with postpartum care at six weeks following a newborn’s arrival. Yet, many mothers will say that six weeks is not enough time for mothers to recover, and research supports this.
A 2012 study at the Salford University in England indicates that mothers need at least one year to recover from childbirth. Dr. Julie Wray, the study’s lead researcher, interviewed women two to three weeks after giving birth, then again at three months and at six to seven months. Through the interview process, she was able to gain insight into what women truly experience during postpartum recovery.
"The research shows that more realistic and woman-friendly postnatal services are needed. Women feel that it takes much longer than six weeks to recover and they should be supported beyond the current six to eight weeks after birth," Dr. Wray told The Daily Mail.
Further supporting the fact that women need more than six weeks to recover from childbirth, a study of 68 women conducted at the University of Michigan's School of Nursing suggests that pelvic floor recovery can take longer than eight months to fully resolve. The study used MRI imaging to assess healing at seven weeks postpartum, and again at eight months. While some factors like swelling improved by eight months, pelvic floor weakness had not.
The lead researcher, Dr. Miller told The Guardian: "our data shows a wide range of time for women to complete their healing after a very strenuous birth. Women are not given permission to have more time to recover after childbirth."
Further still, a 2000 Australian study investigated the connection between physical recovery after childbirth and maternal depression. The study found that women, even six to seven months following birth, still have high levels of exhaustion, back pain, urinary incontinence, sexual problems, bowel problems and perineal pain. The study confirmed a link between maternal emotional wellbeing and physical recovery, and that women should be in close contact with providers for a year after the birth of a baby.
In the US' medical system, it’s common practice for mothers to receive postpartum care up to six weeks following the birth of their baby. Yet, multiple research studies have shown that it takes up to a whole year to fully recover from pregnancy and childbirth. It would be wise for the medical community to extend postpartum health care beyond six weeks, and provide a year of coverage for women to improve health outcomes.
Jennifer Mayer supports parents through pregnancy, birth, new parenthood and the transition back to work. Shes the founder of Baby Caravan, a birth & postpartum doula agency and Baby Caravan at Work, a corporate consulting practice based in New York City. Jennifer lives in Brooklyn with her husband and son.