How long is the postpartum period? Way longer than you think.
Our country’s medical and social system, and its treatment of mothers at any stage of the game, is completely atrocious. We demand working and production levels to be equal, while in some countries, women get years of maternity leave because they know the value of raising children, and how pregnancy, birth, and postpartum take a serious toll on the female body. In the good ole’ USA, there is no standard maternity leave, and we consider the “postpartum period” to be 2-6 weeks, with no guarantee of any maternity leave.
In general, the “postpartum period” is deemed at six weeks, giving the notion that a person that just gave birth should feel fairly normal after that. Which, for most women is not the case. There is no variation. Six weeks? So, after all of the changes your body just went through for the better part of ten months… No way!
There is some research that believes the postpartum period to last up to six months. Well, I am here to say all of this is not a rule. I have seen clinically that the postpartum period is different for every individual and has the potential to last to up to six months after breastfeeding has discontinued. There are so many variations of what pregnancy was like, what the labor/birth was like, C-section elected vs emergency, tearing variations and the age of mothers. Not to mention the piling up of general adjusting to motherhood, sleep deprivation, and the expectation of maintaining all the other things one has going on.
Why? Because after the birth of your child, your hormones begin to shift from being a host for the baby to being a physical body that is still there to feed the child, via breastmilk. If you chose to not breastfeed, your shift to getting back to “normal” happens faster, but can still be prolonged by lack of sleep, stress and toll that pregnancy and labor had on your body. Breastfeeding is dominated by the hormone prolactin, which has inhibitory effects on many hormones: (for example, some women not getting their period while breastfeeding or having weight issues). Hormone inhibition will also affect neurotransmitters, which are the little signals that tell your brain to do things, which can affect mood and many other processes. It’s a really big conversation that is much more than this little snippet, but the shift of empowering moms to embrace their individual journeys, and optimize their healing and experience in motherhood is a movement that we are full behind and support.