“What do you expect? You just had a baby.”
That statement has been uttered to countless women in many situations and circumstances:
- at the doctor’s office
- at her fitness facility
- by her colleagues and friends
- by her spouse
She might have said something about how her body is not healing the way she thought it would. Or, she might be exhausted, dealing with a mood disorder, overwhelmed, or dealing with serious mental health issues.
She is brave enough to say something, just to get shut down.
“You just had a baby. This is par for the course.”
“Be grateful for your baby’s health”
“Eh. You’ll be fine. Women have given birth since the beginning of time. You got this.”
The underlying tone, though, is pure misogyny.
The roots of misogyny run deep, so don’t think you’re immune. You might have said something similar, not even realizing that you are coming from a place of distaste for the feminine. We carry stories and statements for generations, and it’s only rerouted when we decide to change.
What just happened to that woman that went outside her comfort zone to tell you something went wrong? Only to be dismissed or worse? Well…. she’s probably not going to speak up again.
And if she is really struggling, the damage could be really painful.
Symptoms of an emergency physical issue postpartum include:
- chest pain
- difficulty breathing
- excessive vaginal bleeding (soaking the maxi in less than an hour)
- high fever
- redness and swelling around an incision
- pain in urination
- low back pain
(source: March of Dimes)
If you are struggling with these symptoms, have a loved one take you to a medical provider immediately. Don’t wait.
Symptoms of postpartum mental health problems include:
- Depressed mood or severe mood swings
- Excessive crying
- Difficulty bonding with your baby
- Withdrawing from family and friends
- Loss of appetite or eating much more than usual
- Inability to sleep (insomnia) or sleeping too much
- Overwhelming fatigue or loss of energy
- Reduced interest and pleasure in activities you used to enjoy
- Intense irritability and anger
- Fear that you’re not a good mother
- Feelings of worthlessness, shame, guilt or inadequacy
- Diminished ability to think clearly, concentrate or make decisions
- Severe anxiety and panic attacks
- Thoughts of harming yourself or your baby
Source: Mayo Clinic
What about other things? What about:
- painful, distended abdomen
- heavy pelvic floor
- issues in digestion
- trouble relieving bowels
These could be diastasis recti and pelvic floor issues. And though they don’t necessarily indicate an emergency (unless accompanied by severe pain, bleeding, fever, urinary tract issues, etc), they are indicative of a physical health issue that should be addressed by a physical therapist.
In the months following childbirth, we quite often also see a shift in hormones. Symptoms include:
- Slow heartbeat or rapid heartbeat (tachycardia).
- Unexplained weight gain or weight loss.
- Diarrhea or more frequent bowel movements.
- Numbness and tingling in your hands.
- Higher-than-normal blood cholesterol levels.
- Depression or anxiety.
- Being unable to tolerate cold temperatures or warm temperatures.
- Dry, coarse skin and hair.
- Thin, warm and moist skin.
- Irregular body fat distribution.
- Darkened skin in your armpit or the back and sides of your neck (acanthosis nigricans).
- Skin tags (small skin growths).
- Extreme thirst and frequent urination.
Source: Cleveland Clinic
Hormonal imbalance issues can lead to depression, anxiety, sleep and rest issues, and many other problems that affect a woman’s life. They should be addressed by a physician or hormonal therapist.
All in all, my point is to listen to postpartum women.
They know their bodies and know if something is wrong. It also takes courage to say something. Being dismissive about it can just cause her to be quiet, suffer in silence, and then can cause more problems in the short and long term.
It takes all of us to care for the mothers of the world. To give them the space to heal. To honor them and help them with their own recovery.
I would encourage you, if you ever hear yourself or someone say something like “You’re fine; you just had a baby!” to stop right there, take a beat, backtrack, and be an advocate for that woman.
There is a lot of shame around asking for help, and that needs to change.
There is a lot of shoving aside of women during postpartum, and the result is a health and wellness crisis that won’t go away until we change the narrative. Her situation is unique, and her voice is important.