New mothers may be told that they will be back to ‘normal’ within six weeks of giving birth, but a new study has found that most women take much longer to recover.
Dr Julie Wray, of Salford University, interviewed women two to three weeks, three months and six to seven months after they had given birth to gain a unique insight into postnatal recovery.
She concluded that it takes a year to recover from childbirth. Her study also revealed significant dissatisfaction amongst new mothers with postnatal services.
Still recovering: A University of Salford study has found that it takes a year – not six weeks – to get over childbirth
The new mothers Dr Wray spoke to said that the six week recovery time was a ‘fantasy’.
Many were disappointed by the six week check, which all mothers receive from either their midwife or their GP. Some did not receive a physical examination, and others were not told whether or not their bodies had recovered yet.
The psychological effects can also take much longer to recover from.
Dr Wray’s study found that hospital wards can have a negative impact on women’s ability to recoup and celebrate the birth of their child because of the constant stream of visitors and the unfamiliar rules and regulations.
Helping new mothers adapt to having a baby in the home has also changed a lot over the years.
In the past women were shown how to perform tasks such as baby bathing and were only discharged from hospital when they were ready.
Now women can go home as soon as six hours after childbirth and many feel they are just ‘left to get on with it’.
Additional pressure: Amanda Holden went back to week just two weeks after she almost died during childbirth
Dr Wray said: ‘The research shows that more realistic and woman-friendly postnatal services are needed.
‘Women feel that it takes much longer than six weeks to recover and they should be supported beyond the current six to eight weeks after birth.
‘However, government funding cuts and a national shortage of midwives means that postnatal services will only face further challenges. The midwifery profession must raise the status of postnatal care as any further erosion can only be bad for women and their children.’
The Royal College of Midwives welcomed the research.
Sue MacDonald, Head of Education and Research at the RCM told MailOnline: ‘We are very aware that the postnatal period has always been a bit of a fairy tale.
‘We are often not able to see women as much as we would like to. Community midwives may be able to help at home but not always, and mothers do not stay in hospital for very long after childbirth any more.
‘Women do suffer ill-health, which involves back ache and feeling tired. They could be seen as minor problems, but they are not minor for new mums.’
The physical recovery is, of course, just one side of the story. Women also need to make the psychological transition to being a mother – which is even tougher for those who were working before giving birth.
Many feel the pressure to get back on their feet soon after childbirth. And seeing celebrities like Amanda Holden looking fantastic just weeks after almost dying during childbirth must be ‘very, very frustrating’, MacDonald said.
She added that recent studies have shown that women will put up with a lot of discomfort after childbirth because they think that it is normal. The Royal College of Widwives is conducting its own studies to see how they can make sure that discomfort is not the norm.
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