Throughout the course of some 40 weeks, women’s bodies adapt in amazing, dramatic ways to sustain and make space for a growing baby. After childbirth, however, it’s not as if our bodies rebound to where they started immediately. For most of us, a look in the mirror will confirm that postpartum recovery takes time—but it’s also necessary to recognize the healing process that’s going on inside our postpartum bodies, as well.
Case in point: This photo making the rounds on Facebook demonstrates the wound left by the placenta after childbirth.
In the Facebook post, which has been shared more than 14,000 times since it was posted in March, Labor of Love founder Laura Fry explains this paper plate is roughly the diameter of a placenta. Throughout gestation, the placenta grows alongside the baby to facilitate nourishment and support, and is then delivered right after baby. (This is easy to forget about when you’re distracted by the first look at that sweet baby.)
This leaves behind a wound roughly the size of that paper plate that needs time to ward off infection and hemorrhaging.
“Even if they have a complication-free vaginal delivery and feel okay, they will still need to take care of themselves and not overdo it for those first several weeks postpartum,” says Fry, a former health professional turned stay-at-home mom and birth advocate.
And that’s not to mention the fact it takes about six to eight weeks for the process of “involution,” or the uterus shrinking back to its pre-pregnancy size.
Although the standard recommendation is to take it easy for one to two months after childbirth in order to recover, this can be challenging when moms don’t get the support they need. Not only do one-in-two working moms return to the job within five weeks of giving birth, but other obligations and social pressure can put moms back on their feet sooner than is healthy.
As Diana Spalding, midwife and Motherly’s Digital Education Editor and Birth Expert, has said, “You would never expect someone to clean their house a few days after having surgery, or to run errands when they are getting over the flu—so why do we expect ourselves to snap out of giving birth? Pregnancy and birth are not ailments, but they are the real deal. Be gentle on yourself, and allow your body to heal.”
While it’s great (and all relative) to feel good after the act of labor and delivery, there is much more to the process than meets the eye. So to all new moms, accept help, advocate for yourself, take shortcuts (helllllo, grocery delivery!) and don’t feel guilty when saying “no.” Your body deserves the time for recovery.