Have you ever seen a placenta before? No? It’s okay, most people haven’t. Actually, most people don’t think about their placentas very much at all (assuming, of course, that it’s been happily doing it’s job throughout your pregnancy). Even delivering it is often kind of anti-climactic. By that time, of course, your baby is finally in your arms, you’re exhausted and overwhelmed, and you might not even care about the thing.
But if you have the stomach for it- and if you can take your eyes off of your sweet baby for a second- you may want to take a look at it before it’s put away. Not only was it your baby’s first home, keeping them healthy and helping them grow, but it gives you a really good visual of just how much healing your body needs.
If you’re planning to pass on placenta show-and-tell, here’s the gist: your placenta is, more or less, the size of a dinner plate. On one side, the umbilical cord stretches from the placenta to your baby (it’s usually about 50-60cm long). The other side of the placenta is firmly attached to the inside of your uterus. After the baby is born, the placenta detaches from the inside of your uterus and is delivered the same way your baby was. What’s left is a large, open, placenta-sized wound on the inside of your uterus.
Imagine that you had a similar large, serious wound covering most of your upper thigh. How would you treat it? You would rest with your feet up, keep it clean and dry, alter your activity levels or go on bed rest completely, and generally just treat the whole thing pretty seriously. You’d understand that when you give your body time to heal, the process is generally faster and less complicated. When we can see an injury, it’s much easier understand how to treat it and to keep and eye on your healing. When the injury is on the inside- like it is after you give birth- it’s much easier to forget about it, ignore it, or to push yourself too far (think of the times you’ve pushed yourself too far during a workout and regretted it the next day).
The reality is that after giving birth, most people feel pretty rough for at least a few days (and, more realistically, a few weeks). Not only are you recovering from the physical feats of nine months of pregnancy and giving birth (which may or may not include surgery), but you’re also establishing a milk supply, adjusting your own fluid and nutrient levels, caring for your newborn around the clock, and, yes- healing that wound that you can’t see. During this time, it’s critical that you rest to allow your body to begin to heal from everything that it’s been through. The idea that we should be “bouncing back”, “getting over it”, or doing anything other than focusing on our health and healing is misleading, unrealistic, and dangerous. When you take on too much physical activity too soon, you put yourself at risk of increased bleeding, hemorrhage, infection, reduced milk supply, postpartum mood disorders, and generally just an all-over bad time. Prioritizing your healing (and we mean both physical and emotional) will allow you to be a healthier, happier, and more present parent to your baby. This isn’t just a nice perk for when your to-do list is complete: it’s literally the only thing on it.
In most cases, it takes about 4-6 weeks for that wound to be mostly healed. Note we said mostly. There’s really no way to know for sure what’s going on, and it’s better to be safe than sorry. If you feel great sooner than that, amazing! Celebrate that, and then go right back to resting. At the risk of sounding annoyingly cliche, time really does speed up once you’re a parent. You really won’t look back on this time and wish that you’d rested less– promise. Soon enough, you’ll be ready to get up and take on a little more. For now, in the early weeks, you and your baby both need a ton of sleep, healing, and downtime. There’s no rush to find a schedule, to start “getting things done”, or to do anything more than sleep, cuddle your baby, and rest.
In most cases, this quiet, slow postpartum period doesn’t just happen: it’s designed. Modern lives are busy and it may sound difficult or downright impossible to plan for a 4-6 week time-out from real life. Creating a postpartum plan is the best way to plan for this huge adjustment, figure out how you’ll keep the household running, make the best use of the many offers of help from friends and family, all while making your rest and healing a top priority. Our Postpartum Planning classes are designed to help you create a realistic plan to guide your family through postpartum. Get in touch today to learn more!