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Postpartum Recovery for Working Moms

The job of a working mother may be the most difficult, yet the most exciting, of your life. The challenge will begin as soon as you're home from the hospital. One minute you're in charge of your life, dressing up every day and going where you please and when; the next minute you're isolated at home with a new baby calling all the shots.

If you, and others close to you, understand what to expect, you'll be better able to deal with the physical changes and the emotional roller coaster ride of new motherhood. You can expect most of the recovery to take place within the first few days after birth, but some adjustments take place gradually over a four-to-eight week period. With the support of the important people in your life, you ll adjust to your new position and quickly take up the reins of mothering and career.

Recognizing and Dealing with Common Problems

First, you re in a weakened physical state, and then you have the taxing job of caring for a newborn, which gives you no time to sleep. No wonder you re tired! You may feel that you re not as competent as you were, or that you'll never again have time for yourself. But this, too, will pass. Just keep these things in mind, and you'll avoid "New Working Mom Burnout:"

Baby Blues
Over 80 percent of new moms have this dispirited feeling. It shows itself in strange ways: For no obvious reason you may feel angry with your baby, your partner, or even a coworker. Unexpected crying is one symptom; others may be sleeping or eating problems or difficulty making decisions when you return to work. Routine responsibilities may seem overwhelming.

It helps to know that these common emotional extremes are caused to a large extent by hormonal changes taking place in your body. Sleep deprivation plus the natural let-down from the emotional "high" of childbirth also play a part. These feelings will pass, but in the meantime, here are some tips for getting though the rough parts:

Postpartum Depression: A Serious State
There is an anxiety state that lasts longer and is more intense than the more common baby blues. Postpartum depression, which strikes between 10 20 percent of new mothers, may actually begin during pregnancy and not necessarily after a woman gives birth, as many doctors once thought.

It's important that this depression be recognized and treated before it gets worse. Symptoms include restlessness, memory loss, inability to concentrate, anxiety, panic attacks, compulsive behavior, insomnia, an inability to cope despite adequate rest and recuperation, hallucinations, and a feeling that you might harm (or you do harm) the baby. If you experience feelings of intense sadness, anxiety, or despair that interfere with your ability to function:

Body Adjustments
During the six-week postpartum period, your body will be: All of these changes will cause general body aches, leaking breasts, and heavy lochia flow. In addition, you may feel burning, pain, or itching from the episiotomy.

Warning Signs
After delivery, most women are very aware of their bodies. You'll notice the normal changes. But also be alert for abnormal changes. Call your doctor—don't wait for the six-week checkup—if any of the following occur:

What to Expect at Your Six-Week Checkup
It's routine for your doctor to examine you five or six weeks following the birth of your baby. Come prepared with all your questions; discuss anything that concerns you. The examination should include a check of the following: Menstrual Period
Normally, your regular menstrual period will return in seven to nine weeks. If you're breast-feeding, it may not return for several months or until you've weaned your baby. There may be some irregularity in your cycle at first, but gradually it will return to normal. Be aware that your ovaries may begin to function before your regular period starts, whether you're breast-feeding or not.

If you do not want to conceive another child right away, begin contraception as soon as you resume intercourse. Ask your doctor to suggest a safe type of contraceptive for your needs. (If you don't want to have another baby, your partner may want to consider having a vasectomy. Nowadays, it's only a ten minute, non-evasive, relatively pain-free, out-patient procedure.)

Sex and the Working Mother
Decrease in sexual desire is a common complaint among new mothers. It's as though Nature makes sure that mothers will concentrate their energies on their newborns. On the other hand, your spouse may feel rejected if he doesn't understand this normal development. It's a potentially rocky period, which may be avoided by talking about feelings honestly and understanding that your lack of desire is only temporary.

Postnatal Health Tips
As you prepare to reenter the workforce, remember that the first rule of postnatal care is: be good to yourself. Whether there's a crisis at work or you've had a sleepless night—after the care of the baby—you come first. Follow these general rules, and you'll soon be feeling like your old self again:

© 2005 by Marla Schram Schwartz. Excerpted from The Working Woman's Baby Planner with permission of its publisher, Sourcebooks, Inc.

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