Are Our Postpartum Cultural Norms Truly What Is Best For Our Mamas?

January 30, 2021

“As citizens of an industrialized nation, we often act as if we have nothing to learn from low-income, developing countries. Yet many of these cultures are doing something extraordinarily right—especially in how they care for new mothers. In their classic paper, Stern and Kruckman (1983) present an anthropological critique of the literature. They found that in the cultures they studied, postpartum disorders, including the “baby blues,” were virtually nonexistent. By contrast, 50% to 85% of new mothers in industrialized nations experience the “baby blues,” and 15% to 25% (or more) experience postpartum depression.”

The above quote is taken from a blog about women’s health. I briefly mentioned this last week after discussing the lack of self-care that many postpartum mothers take for themselves. I wondered why this is and if we, as a culture, really are that different from other cultures around the world regarding our view of postpartum care.

I already knew that France, and other European countries, view the postpartum period quite differently. In fact, in France every newly postpartum woman receives a series (8-12 sessions) of pelvic floor physical therapy to help rehabilitate and heal their bodies from this major life event. So, I was not surprised to read about the results from the above research study.  I was, however, surprised that so many other cultures seem to be getting it right…

As a pelvic floor physical therapist in Bethesda, MD and McLean, VA, I so want this to happen here in our country. Every single postpartum woman deserves to be taken care of and given the support their bodies need to heal.  And, I believe, they deserve our support as well. All postpartum women need what we have to teach to help their bodies, their inner core, and their pelvic floor to heal, recover and strengthen. After all, they need to get ready for the new workload that is put on them as new mothers, as they are suddenly thrust into picking up, carrying, holding, rocking our babies and their car seats.

The thing is that any time a muscle is lengthened for a long period of time, it is weakened. This combined with the hormonal changes causes our ligaments and contractile tissue to be more lax during pregnancy. And these changes affect our inner core muscles.

Is it any wonder that postpartum pelvic floor problems, bowel and bladder issues, and pain is so common?  

If any other area of our body underwent such massive changes in hormones, anatomy and mechanics, physical therapy would be a mainstay.

Any time surgery occurs on our backs, shoulders, or knees, we don’t think thoughts like, “Wow. Physical therapy for that??!?! That is crazy!” 

What is a C-section?

Major abdominal surgery.

Why do we think that we can undergo major abdominal surgery or push down into our pelvic floors for hours (causing those already lengthened and weakened muscles to be more affected) and not even consider the fact that we many need help healing with pelvic floor physical therapy?

Why is it that after having a baby, we feel that if we have back pain or pelvic pain, we think we need to just live with it or hope it gets better? 

Why is it that we just deal with the fact that we now leak urine or that pooping feels different or difficult that we don’t need help?

I wonder if it goes back to what I quoted in the beginning of this blog… Do we not reach out for help because it isn’t the norm in our country? Or is it because we don’t think we need it? Or maybe because talking about our pelvis, our bowel and bladder, and our sexual function is taboo?

Maybe it is just a cultural norm thing.

If that is true-  and it is a cultural norm, is that truly what is best for us?  

When you read the earlier quote and look at the difference in the percent of women dealing with the “baby blues” in our country vs other countries where postpartum mothers are taken care of in their early postpartum time, does that seem like, in this area, our cultural norm is what is best for our postpartum mamas?

Not to me.

I do understand how hard it can be to reach out for help, especially when we tend to have so much on our plates and especially during a pandemic. 

And, still, our postpartum mamas deserve to be taken care of. 

Actually, they need to be taken care of.

Healing from pregnancy and the delivery – two major life and body changing events- takes a TON of energy.

Self-care and postpartum recovery should not be a luxury.

This is why Ellicia and I put together Empowered Healing After Baby that is starting on January 25th. We want to offer a place where pregnant and postpartum mamas can come together and be supported and nurtured by a community of health care providers and other mamas.

We want to hold space for you and teach you things that we know, after seeing hundreds of postpartum mamas over the past two decades, you NEED to know.

You need to know this for your health, your recovery and for your future pelvic health.

What you do now for your pelvic health and what you do not do now will absolutely affect your body and your pelvis for years and decades down the line.

Please pass along this email along to your friends who have also had little ones. They will thank you too!

“As citizens of an industrialized nation, we often act as if we have nothing to learn from low-income, developing countries. Yet many of these cultures are doing something extraordinarily right—especially in how they care for new mothers. In their classic paper, Stern and Kruckman (1983) present an anthropological critique of the literature. They found that in the cultures they studied, postpartum disorders, including the “baby blues,” were virtually nonexistent. By contrast, 50% to 85% of new mothers in industrialized nations experience the “baby blues,” and 15% to 25% (or more) experience postpartum depression.”

The above quote is taken from a blog about women’s health. I briefly mentioned this last week after discussing the lack of self-care that many postpartum mothers take for themselves. I wondered why this is and if we, as a culture, really are that different from other cultures around the world regarding our view of postpartum care.

I already knew that France, and other European countries, view the postpartum period quite differently. In fact, in France every newly postpartum woman receives a series (8-12 sessions) of pelvic floor physical therapy to help rehabilitate and heal their bodies from this major life event. So, I was not surprised to read about the results from the above research study.  I was, however, surprised that so many other cultures seem to be getting it right…

As a pelvic floor physical therapist in Bethesda, MD and McLean, VA, I so want this to happen here in our country. Every single postpartum woman deserves to be taken care of and given the support their bodies need to heal.  And, I believe, they deserve our support as well. All postpartum women need what we have to teach to help their bodies, their inner core, and their pelvic floor to heal, recover and strengthen. After all, they need to get ready for the new workload that is put on them as new mothers, as they are suddenly thrust into picking up, carrying, holding, rocking our babies and their car seats.

The thing is that any time a muscle is lengthened for a long period of time, it is weakened. This combined with the hormonal changes causes our ligaments and contractile tissue to be more lax during pregnancy. And these changes affect our inner core muscles.

Is it any wonder that postpartum pelvic floor problems, bowel and bladder issues, and pain is so common?  

If any other area of our body underwent such massive changes in hormones, anatomy and mechanics, physical therapy would be a mainstay.

Any time surgery occurs on our backs, shoulders, or knees, we don’t think thoughts like, “Wow. Physical therapy for that??!?! That is crazy!” 

What is a C-section?

Major abdominal surgery.

Why do we think that we can undergo major abdominal surgery or push down into our pelvic floors for hours (causing those already lengthened and weakened muscles to be more affected) and not even consider the fact that we many need help healing with pelvic floor physical therapy?

Why is it that after having a baby, we feel that if we have back pain or pelvic pain, we think we need to just live with it or hope it gets better? 

Why is it that we just deal with the fact that we now leak urine or that pooping feels different or difficult that we don’t need help?

I wonder if it goes back to what I quoted in the beginning of this blog… Do we not reach out for help because it isn’t the norm in our country? Or is it because we don’t think we need it? Or maybe because talking about our pelvis, our bowel and bladder, and our sexual function is taboo?

Maybe it is just a cultural norm thing.

If that is true-  and it is a cultural norm, is that truly what is best for us?  

When you read the earlier quote and look at the difference in the percent of women dealing with the “baby blues” in our country vs other countries where postpartum mothers are taken care of in their early postpartum time, does that seem like, in this area, our cultural norm is what is best for our postpartum mamas?

Not to me.

I do understand how hard it can be to reach out for help, especially when we tend to have so much on our plates and especially during a pandemic. 

And, still, our postpartum mamas deserve to be taken care of. 

Actually, they need to be taken care of.

Healing from pregnancy and the delivery – two major life and body changing events- takes a TON of energy.

Self-care and postpartum recovery should not be a luxury.

This is why Ellicia and I put together Empowered Healing After Baby that is starting on January 25th. We want to offer a place where pregnant and postpartum mamas can come together and be supported and nurtured by a community of health care providers and other mamas.

We want to hold space for you and teach you things that we know, after seeing hundreds of postpartum mamas over the past two decades, you NEED to know.

You need to know this for your health, your recovery and for your future pelvic health.

What you do now for your pelvic health and what you do not do now will absolutely affect your body and your pelvis for years and decades down the line.

Please pass along this email along to your friends who have also had little ones. They will thank you too!

 

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