Postpartum Recovery for Working Moms


Common problems

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:"

  • Don't try to do it all. Get help if you possibly can.
  • Make the most of your time.
  • Take good care of yourself. Eat well and get plenty of rest.
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:

  • Remind yourself—Even when you know these swings are temporary, you have to keep reminding yourself of this fact. Once you express and accept these feelings, it will be easier to deal with them.
  • Rest—Get enough sleep and rest whenever you can. Try to rest when your baby sleeps. Proper rest strengthens the immune system and helps repair damage. Don't be shy about seeking relief from mothering. Every good parent needs down time. After you're back at work, try to find a quiet time each day—say, at lunch time—just to close your eyes and rest. Don't forget to eat well and exercise gently.
  • Avoid stress—Stay away from making life changes, such as changing jobs. Consider hiring outside help if you need it and can afford it. Ask yourself, "Can someone else do this?" Try not to let things overwhelm you. Set priorities, and the important things will get done. If coworkers, friends, or family ask to help, let them!
  • Be firm—You can't please everyone. Listen to friendly advice, accept what works, discard what doesn't, and then find your own way of doing things. And don't apologize for doing it your way.
  • Share—Talk to your partner or to a close and trusted coworker or friend about how you feel. Talk to someone who has experienced the same problem. Join a support group.
  • Write it down—Keep a journal and write anything you're feeling without fear of interruption, contradiction, ridicule, or reprisal.
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:

  • Consult your doctor—Your obstetrician will assess your condition and may send you to a psychiatrist or other therapist, or prescribe medication if necessary.
  • Before your appointment—Write down your symptoms and consider taking someone with you for support.
  • Look for professional support—For information regarding support groups for postpartum depression, contact


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

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