Women Need A Year To Fully Recover After Childbirth

Women Need A Year To Fully Recover After Childbirth
Valeria Sabater

Reviewed and approved by the psychologist Valeria Sabater.

Written by Valeria Sabater

Last update: 22 December, 2021

To many people, saying that a woman needs a year to fully recover from childbirth is an exaggeration. However, a recent study makes it very clear: a 6-week maternity leave does not reflect the real needs of a mother who has just given birth.

Dr. Julie Wray, from Stanford University, conducted a study on the postpartum life of women in various countries around the world, demonstrating that although everyone’s body is unique, on average, most new moms need at least 12 months to fully recover both physically and mentally.

This information is not a sign of vulnerability in women. Because motherhood is possibly the hardest, most beautiful and dedicated work that can be done, and even though the vast majority of women return to their professional responsibilities after a few weeks, this does not mean that their body has fully recovered.

This is something that should be taken into account. Not only in order for maternity and paternity leaves to be more reflective of these needs, but also to promote better awareness and strategies for physical, psychological, and social health.

Let’s look at some interesting facts that will help us to better understand this subject.

The Postpartum Period: The Difficult Stage Following Childbirth

The postpartum period begins immediately after childbirth and lasts until the mother’s body returns to its original state prior to pregnancy – that is to say, the physical and hormonal characteristics that she is used to.

It is commonly thought that the postpartum period lasts an average of 40 days. However, what sometimes eludes us is that within the postpartum period there are actually three phases. We will describe them in detail.

The Phases of the Postpartum Period

  • The acute postpartum period: This lasts about 24 hours and includes the physical recovery from childbirth.
  • The acute postpartum period has to do with uterine inversion, the emergence of lochia, and the production of breastmilk…
  • The subacute postpartum period: This lasts about 45 days, until menstruation.
  • The delayed postpartum period: This can last for up to 12 months, and according to many specialists, this stage spans the complete recovery of the woman’s body after childbirth.
    drawing of baby in the womb

The Changes Women Go Through During the Postpartum Period

  • Changes in the circulatory system: The mother’s heart rate returns to normal after childbirth, in fact it is common for there to be a drop in blood pressure during the following few weeks. This is something to be aware of. It is also common for hemorrhoid knots to appear.
  • Hormonal changes associated with progesterone, endocrine glands, and the pituitary gland regulating milk production…
  • The size of the mother’s abdomen decreases so that the position of her diaphragm can return to normal allowing her to breathe deeper.
  • The stomach and intestine also go through changes in dilation, which is why there are few weeks in which the mother suffers from slow digestion, constipation, and a lack of appetite
  • During the months after childbirth it is common to suffer from urinary infections because of the recovery of muscle tone in the bladder.
  • We should also mention that many women can have a weakened immune system after childbirth.

To think that the woman’s body recovers just 6 weeks after childbirth is a “fantasy.”

it takes a year for a woman to fully recover after childbirth

When a woman gives birth, in less than a day she takes on a new life that only she can understand and experience: no matter the pain of birth or C-section. She steps up and takes care of her baby when it needs her.

No matter how few hours of sleep she gets, how tired she is, or the strange process that her own body is going through, which is unrecognizable, and hurts as much as it scares her that it is changing so much.

A mother would do anything that her baby needs. However, if that mother has to work, in just six weeks she will have to separate herself from her baby in order to resume her professional responsibilities. Although her body has still not recovered, and her emotions are running high and focused only on her baby.

In countries like Norway or Sweden there is more awareness of this physical, hormonal and emotional reality. This is why their maternity leaves can last for up to 16 months.

And, this practice also includes a lot of fathers because it is understood that parenting is a job for two and that in those first months of life, it should not just be the baby and mother.

These social policies are enviable, no doubt. The welfare of these countries is in the hands of the population’s authentic and real sensitivity for their own needs and also for those of new generations. It is clear that a six-week leave is not enough time for a mother to fully recover after childbirth.

A mother will be able to do her job, no doubt, and do it well, of course. But her body still feels pain, and she also misses out on precious time to strengthen the much needed bond between a child and their parent.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.