A study from 2011 by Dr. Julie Wray at the University of Salford has recently been revived and is making the rounds on parenting sites. The finding from Dr. Wray’s research boils down to: women need more than six weeks to recover from childbirth. In other breaking news, water is wet and the sky appears to be blue.
The vast majority of women who have had a baby are sitting there thinking, “I could have told you that without a study.” Look at it logically: six weeks is a month and a half. It took nine months, or somewhere in the neighborhood of 40 weeks, to grow that baby. Muscles stretched and shifted, tendons twanged, organs got shoved out of the way, joints flexed and changed, skin stretched like a full water balloon. That’s not going back to normal in less than two months.
In fact, “normal” might have changed for that new mom’s body entirely. Every woman’s body is different and while some new moms might feel healed up and ready to go at six weeks, a lot of moms don’t. Physically, mentally, emotionally, there are a lot of changes to get used to and healing to do. Dr. Wray’s finding was that a year would be a more realistic timeline to give. Another study by Dr. Janis Miller at Michigan University showed the same need for a more realistic timeline. In 2015 Dr. Miller and her team used an MRI to evaluate how the trauma to the pelvic area of new moms was healing, first at seven weeks postpartum and then again at eight months. Guess what? Six weeks wasn’t enough.
And yet the prevailing advice new moms get is six weeks. FamilyDoctor.org gives a more cautious statement, saying it might take months to fully recover, but they still mention that many women feel mostly recovered by six to eight weeks. WebMD spends a lot of time detailing all the things that need to heal and avoids saying something like “will be” feeling normal, but then gives six weeks as the timeline for when you can start doing strenuous things again. Bouncing around on the TV are celebrity moms who are back on the red carpet days after birth. What new moms hear is six weeks. It’s a constant refrain, a theme– six weeks. You’ll feel better, be back to normal, have your check-up and be able to start doing energetic things again in a month and a half.
Mamas, it takes more than a month and a half for most of us. Don’t feel pressured to perform up to your normal energetic standards before you’re ready. Don’t let six weeks beat in your head, making you feel bad when that date flies by and you still feel pummeled. There’s a study out there that says a year would be more like it. There’s another study that backs that up. Take the time you need, listen to your body, and when you feel recovered then that’s the time you needed, however long that might be.
Mamas who are back to feeling normal a couple weeks after delivery? You go mom. Your body did an amazing thing.
Mamas who feel fit and ready after that six weeks? Awesome. You did a great job.
And mamas who are feeling recovered eight months later? Just right. You grew and nurtured an entire human being, and that’s something to be proud of. Your body healed when it was supposed to, and you rock.
Don’t feel pressured to bounce back like a rubber ball, no matter what you see on TV or how many stories you hear. Everyone’s body is different. Everyone recovers at a different pace. When you feel recovered, then that’s the time you needed, however long that might be. And if anyone wants to be obnoxious and say you should have been healed up in a couple weeks? Just send them over to read the studies. Science, for the win.