A Voice of Strength I Didn’t Know I Possessed: Part II of An Interview with Ivy Shih Leung

A Voice of Strength I Didn’t Know I Possessed: An Interview with Ivy Shih Leung, author of “One Mom’s Journey to Motherhood: Infertility, Childbirth Complications, and Postpartum Depression, Oh My!”

 

In this second part of my interview with Ivy, she shares insight into her Chinese culture and pregnancy and postpartum. Secondly, she delves into her experience with infertility and complications during pregnancy. Finally, Ivy shares wonderful thoughts as to how writing, blogging, and communication can help to end stigma about PPD and create the causes for healing. You can read the first part of our interview here.

 

How has culture affected your writing about your experience?

I don’t feel that my culture really affected my writing about my PPD experience.  Though, I have to say that I am one of the few Asian bloggers I’m aware of.  Unlike most of my Asian friends and acquaintances, I am very outspoken and opinionated.  The Chinese tend to keep their emotions bottled up and thoughts and experiences to themselves.  In general, they are a very proud people.  Everything is pretty much about “saving face,” which means not putting oneself out there when it comes to personal experiences, especially if there is anything in the least bit negative.  As we know from the Western culture, pregnancy and motherhood are supposed to be blissful experiences.  I, on the other hand, have a book that shares ALL my thoughts and experiences while suffering from PPD.  It’s a fairly big deal for any woman to share her PPD story, let alone publish a book about it.  It’s an even bigger deal for a Chinese woman to do either.  

 

What would you like mainstream culture to know about your culture regarding pregnancy and postpartum?

Although I am Chinese and even speak Mandarin fluently, I was born and raised here in the U.S.  As a result, I am very Westernized and do not observe many of the traditions my parents and the generations before them may have observed.  Actually, my mother gave birth here and was not privy to the custom of Zou Yue.  She gave birth in a foreign country with no loved ones around her.  She received less help with taking care of me when I was a newborn than I had when I had my own daughter.  At least when I had my daughter, my husband helped, and my mother and mother-in-law each stayed a week to help. 

Zou Yue is like some of the other mother-nurturing customs observed by other cultures (la cuarentena in Mexico, sarantisma in Greece, Jaappa in India) in terms of observing a 30 or 40 day period of taking care of the mother, so she can take care of her baby and get adequate sleep to recover from childbirth.  Forty seems to be a magical number, a number that has survived through the centuries and therefore has special significance….no doubt it has something to do with the fact that 40 days is the average length of time for a new mother’s body to recover from childbirth and return to a pre-pregnant state.  It’s also why an OB/GYN will tell the new mother, once she’s given birth, that he will see her in 6 weeks.  Each of these traditions involves female family members and friends of the new mother providing her and her baby with care, so that the new mother’s only focus is on getting rest and bonding with/feeding her baby.  They also help around the house and prepare meals.  Certain rituals are observed in which food is prepared a certain way to help keep her body/system warm. She is protected from feeling overwhelmed; hence, visitors are kept away (or kept at a very minimum) during this time. She is told to avoid bathing for fear of catching cold.  All these rituals have the mother’s well-being in mind.  In terms of breastfeeding, female family members are on hand to teach her how to do it. In these other cultures, there is no expectation that the new mother know how to breastfeed instinctively and easily.  There is a reason behind the phrase “it takes a village.”

I have blogged about the importance of social support and how, through the years, we seem to have lost perspective on things when it comes to the community coming together to help a new mother who has just had a baby.   Getting adequate social support—comprised of both emotional support (e.g., shoulder to cry on, listening non-judgmentally) and practical support (e.g., help with breastfeeding, cleaning, errands, laundry, taking care of the baby for a few hours so mom can take a nap or shower) is critical for new moms. Having enough support during the first 4-6 weeks—until a new mom’s body recovers from childbirth and her hormone levels return to their pre-pregnancy state—can help keep anxiety levels down, help her get the rest she needs from all the changes her body has gone through with childbirth.

 

When you were pregnant, how was your culture addressed by care providers in ways that were helpful? And what about during your recovery from PPD?

I don’t remember if my OB/GYN and hospital staff asked me any questions, either orally or via a written questionnaire, as to whether I had any cultural preferences that needed to be taken into consideration during or after childbirth.  There definitely was no attempt on the part of my OB/GYN to ask me if I had any preferences for the duration of my pregnancy.  Fortunately, I didn’t have any preferences, anyway.  I just wanted to be treated with respect and care, both of which my doctor ended up failing at. Now, in terms of the GP who treated me during my PPD, he was the ultimate example of a doctor with extremely poor bedside manner.  The way I was treated by him and my OB/GYN angered me so much that I wrote them both letters during my recovery from PPD, telling them that their treatment of me aggravated my already extremely painful experience, they should get with the program when it comes to PPD, and I was dropping them and moving on to doctors who didn’t lack bedside manner the way they did.

 

Infertility and Complications

Can you share a little about your experiences with both?

Without getting into the details as covered in my book about my infertility experience and childbirth complications, I’ll just say that, like more and more women these days, I got married late (at age 36 ), had a dermoid cyst removed a year later to increase the likelihood of getting pregnant and not having it get in the way of a developing fetus, tried to conceive naturally for over a year before being referred to an IVF center where we failed our first cycle (it was such less than optimal experience mostly because the staff and environmental overall were cold and disorganized), and got pregnant successfully via my 2nd IVF cycle at a different center.  What started off as 2 fetuses became only one after a car accident I had about 2 months into the pregnancy.  Other than nausea that lasted my entire pregnancy, some spotting, and overall anxiety that I would carry to term, my pregnancy went well.  I delivered vaginally (with an epidural and episiotomy), but ended up having my uterus removed 3 days afterwards due to placenta accreta.  During my entire 7-day stay, I was constantly woken up for blood work and extremely exhausted as a result.  On top of that, I was starved for nearly the whole time I was there.  Due to my surgical procedure, I was kept in an entirely different wing from my daughter for over a day, and whenever I called for a nurse, no one came.  Some nurses were not nice to me at all.  It was like a living hell for me most of the time I was in the hospital.  To get the full details of my infertility, childbirth complications, and PPD experiences, you can read my book. 

 

How can your experience help the readers of Giving Birth with Confidence?

My hope is that those who read about my experience in my book—which covers a lot, including key statistics and information on the biopsychosocial factors behind PPD (infertility and childbirth complications are risk factors)—will become more knowledgeable about perinatal mood disorders.  I hope that they will also read the growing numbers of blogs of mothers who are speaking up about their struggles with perinatal mood disorders.  Why?  Well, knowledge is power.  With more knowledge, there would be less ignorance and stigma, and motherhood myths will have less of a negative impact on mothers than they do today. I want to see fewer mothers being caught off guard and not knowing what is happening to them, should PPD strike.  Being ignorant and unprepared for it causes unnecessary fear, anxiety, guilt, and inability to appreciate one’s baby. For example, insomnia after the third week postpartum is a common first symptom of PPD. 

My blog is hit numerous times each day via Google and other search engines using words like “postpartum insomnia,” “new mom insomnia,” “insomnia four weeks after childbirth,” “can’t sleep when the baby sleeps,” “can’t sleep six weeks postpartum,” and so on, which means that there are many moms out there who are going through what I went through, in terms of insomnia as a symptom of PPD, beginning at around 40 days.  That’s right, there’s that magical number again!  Had I known about PPD before my daughter was born, I would not have been as scared as I was as to why I had insomnia and couldn’t sleep even though I was exhausted beyond words and even during the times she slept. My fear would not have escalated to full-blown anxiety attacks. I would’ve recognized other symptoms like loss of appetite (I lost so much weight so fast that within a couple of weeks I weighed less than I did before I got pregnant!). As soon as I started to have insomnia, instead of merely taking the Ambien prescribed to me by my OB/GYN, I would’ve immediately known to question it as a sign of PPD and gotten the right treatment then.  As they say, hindsight is 20/20….

 

I would like to thank Ivy for her wonderful work and sharing her experiences and knowledge with Giving Birth with Confidence. To learn more about Ivy, visit her blog at http://ivysppdblog.wordpress.com/.

Cesarean Awareness Month: Postpartum Recovery Tips for Cesarean Birth

April is Cesarean Awareness Month. What should you be aware of? Be aware that a cesarean, while it can be a life-saving procedure for mom and baby, is often prescribed when vaginal birth is a safe and sound option. Be aware that you have options, that you have a right to ask questions, and a right to know your risks. Educating yourself about birth is your best and first defense against an unnecessary cesarean. 

Throughout the month, Giving Birth with Confidence will be posting cesarean resources for moms. We encourage you to add comments with your experience as well as any questions — we will tag cesarean questions and answer them in a subsequent post. For more information and stories this month, check out the International Cesarean Awareness Network Blog.


Postpartum Recovery Tips for Cesarean Birth

By Sharon Muza, CD(DONA), BDT(DONA), LCCE, FACCE

 

Giving birth, whether vaginally or by cesarean, is a major physical event. A mother’s body goes through immense physical changes in the minutes, hours and first days after birth.  Recovering from major abdominal surgery while making the transition to not being pregnant and caring for a newborn can be extra challenging.  Here are some tips for the very first days after you have had a cesarean, and some of this information is just good info for the first days after birth, no matter how your baby arrived.

1. Discuss with the anesthesiologist about the possibility of having them administer Duramorph for immediate post-op pain.  This medication is placed through the spinal needle or epidural catheter during the surgery, and usually provides effective regional pain relief for 18-24 hours.  After that, you can switch over to oral medications as prescribed by your doctor or midwife.

2. Stay on top of your oral pain medication.  This is not the time to be a hero!  Make sure you are taking the right dosage of meds at the right time, even if the pain has not returned fully yet.  It is really hard to play “catch-up,” so taking your medication in a timely manner allows you to feel your best, be more open to moving and functioning, and gently participating in baby care. You may even want to set your smart phone to “alarm” a few minutes before each dose is due, to help you track and remember what is needed and when. Give yourself some time before you try and reduce the amount of oral pain meds you need. The more you move and do some gentle, easy walking, the faster your recovery may be. Adequate pain medication will help in this process.

3. Think about your recovery set up at home?  Where is your bedroom?  Is your bed very low to the ground?  Where are your baby changing stations?  If you have a lot of stairs, consider relocating your sleeping area to one that is more accessible, close to a bathroom and the kitchen/place to eat.  It will only be a temporary move, but may make things easier for taking naps and resting.  If your bed is very low, consider placing it temporarily on cement or wooden blocks to make it higher.  It will be easier on your abdominal muscles to get up and down from a higher bed.  You can set up a portable changing area for the baby close by or in the same room as where you will be spending most of your time.

4. Use a pillow to “brace” your abdomen when getting up from a chair, couch or bed.  Sometimes, when you are laughing, sneezing or coughing, that can be helpful too.  If your couch or favorite chair is too low, think about adding some extra pillows for the additional height that you need in the early days.

5. Consider using a TENS (Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation) unit to help with post-surgery discomfort.  Several studies show that women who used a TENS unit around the incision area needed less narcotic pain medication during their cesarean  recovery. (TENS units can be purchased online or may be acquired from your care provider.)

6. You may want to consider using a gentle belly binder or even a rebozo to “hold things together” for the first days or even weeks post cesarean.  Some women find that the gentle support offered by these products helps them to feel less sore and more supported.  Just be sure that whatever you use does not irritate the incision. (Some care providers offer belly binders automatically during your hospital stay. If not, you can ask for one.)

7. Work at becoming an expert in the side-lying breastfeeding position, which I consider the hardest to master for the mother-baby dyad, but the most useful once you do.  This way, you can rest as much as possible, and even doze for a few minutes during those extended feedings.  The key to doing this successfully is lots and lots of pillows!  A couple for your head, one between your legs, one behind your back at a minimum.  In general, your milk may come in a little slower after surgery than after a vaginal birth, so frequent nursing sessions, and lots of skin-to-skin time with your baby will help this to happen sooner.

8. Be sure to use stool softeners, stay very hydrated and eat food with lots of fiber. Oatmeal is a galactogogue (food that helps increase milk production) and is high in fiber at the same time.  Narcotic pain medication can cause constipation, and post surgery, the thought of having to strain to have a bowel movement can be emotionally challenging.  Most women find the fear is worse then the reality, but it is good to do what you can to keep things “moving,” so to speak.  Also, your bladder and urethra may be a bit irritated from the foley catheter that was placed to drain urine during surgery and the first hours of recovery. You may want to take cranberry pills or drink cranberry juice to help with bladder health and prevent a urinary tract infection.  Also, you will have received IV antibiotics before or during the surgery to prevent infection, and some women are more prone to getting yeast infections after receiving antibiotics.  A  yeast infection on your nipples (Thrush) is no fun either, and can be shared between you and the baby. You may want to use some probiotics (found over the counter in a pharmacy) or eat yogurt with live cultures, to help restore the balance of good bacteria normally found in your digestive tract.

9. Create a “nursing bag” full of all the things you need during a nursing session.  Cell phone, snacks, filled water bottle you can operate with one hand, something to read, burp cloth, breast care products, etc. can all be put in a bag or basket, and moved around with you, so that you have everything you need when you sit down to nurse.

10. Ask your friends and family to do some of the more physical household tasks and contribute meals during your recovery.  Use a website like Takethemameal.com or Care.com for scheduling assistance and for letting people know how and when they can help.

11. Recognize that you will have lifting restrictions that limit the weight you can carry to just the baby for at least a couple of weeks or even more!  It is recommended that you not lift the carseat with the baby in it until you have done some healing.  You also may not be driving for several weeks, (and certainly not while on narcotic pain meds) and your partner may have returned to work already, leaving you feeling a bit isolated.  It would be nice to have someone stop be every day to help, visit, or take you out for a short trip if you are up for it.  You may want a baby carrier (sling, Moby Wrap etc.) to help you hold/carry your newborn while your physical recovery moves forward and your mobility returns.

12. Working with a massage therapist who specializes in postpartum recovery can also help with postpartum pain and minimize the development of internal adhesions and promote healing.  Get a recommendation for someone skilled in this type of scar work and see if they make house calls!  Some massage therapists will come to the house in the first days of your postpartum period.

13. Connect with your local International Cesarean Awareness Network chapter, (www.ican-online.org to find one near you) and consider joining their online group or attending a meeting when you are ready.  This peer-to-peer support is invaluable as you process your birth and recover from a cesarean.

 

Go easy on yourself after you have had a cesarean birth.  It is hard to recover from surgery and ease into parenting a newborn at the same time.  Ask for help, make little changes around the house to support your recovery, and take it easy to give your body a chance to heal.  Laying low and resting will give you plenty of time to connect and snuggle with your new little one while you get your strength back.

 

Sharon Muza, CD(DONA), BDT(DONA), LCCE, FACCE, is a birth doula, doula trainer and Lamaze Certified Childbirth Educator in Seattle, WA.  Sharon is also the co-leader of the Seattle chapter of the International Cesarean Awareness Network, (ICAN.)  Sharon can be reached through her website, www.newmoonbirth.com, if you would like more information. 

Maternity Leave: How Much Is Enough?

In a recent article on Slate, Sharon Lerner discusses the variations in length of maternity leave and the ensuing effect on moms and babies. In the United States, the standard time off is as little as four weeks and a maximum of 12 weeks, often unpaid. Most of my working mom friends were back in the office at six weeks. In Europe, the standard paid leave is six months, with many countries granting up to three years off.

For those of you who have experienced life as a new mom, the first couple of months after birth are hectic. I look back on the first few weeks of life with my three children and it’s a blur, I’m sure due to the severe sleep deprivation. As Lerner says:

Let’s take a moment to think about what’s going on just four weeks after birth. Babies haven’t even cracked their first real smiles yet. Mothers are still physically recovering from birth, particularly if they’ve had C-sections. They’re both probably getting up several times during the night to nurse. In fact, they’ve barely begun what’s supposed to be half a year of exclusive breast-feeding, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Beyond sleep deprivation, new research suggests that too short of a maternity leave can have detrimental health effects on moms and babies, including “developmental delays, sickness, and even death.” However, too long leave (beyond 40 weeks) is linked with “an economic and professional downside for women, and at best a neutral effect on children.”

For some, this new piece of evidence will be seen as just another item to tack onto the ever-growing list of “mommy guilt.” The reality is, maternity leave usually isn’t something that women can change. Financial constraints force women with unpaid leave to go back to work sooner in order to collect a paycheck.

But perhaps, as evidence mounts, we will reach a tipping point that changes maternity leave standards in the United States. Perhaps, employers will begin to see the link between shorter maternity leave and increased absences due to child illnesses:

Checkups can help diagnose and treat illnesses, but they are hard to schedule when you’re working. And while exclusive breast-feeding for at least six months has been shown to prevent respiratory infections, bacterial meningitis, and other illnesses, going back to work can make it difficult if not impossible.

What was your maternity leave like? How long did you take off? Was it paid? How did you feel — physically and emotionally — upon going back to work? Do you feel like you had enough time off or did you wish for more? What, if anything, would you do differently with your next child?

 

Postpartum Care: “After Pains”

Among first-time expectant moms, “after pains” are little known and seldom discussed. Ask any second-time (or beyond) expectant mom about after pains and she knows them all too well. The sensation of uterine contractions in the hours and days after birth — also known as after pains — is a normal but typically uncomfortable experience for women. The 40+ weeks of pregnancy cause a woman’s uterus to grow 25 times its original size; post-birth contractions help shrink the uterus back down to pre-pregnancy size within about six weeks.

Many women are surprised to find that after pains can feel as powerful as contractions during labor. In my three postpartum experiences with after pains, I had to summon deep breathing and focusing exercises that I used during labor! Breastfeeding helps to stimulate these postpartum contractions, which speeds up the shrinking process, but can also mean added discomfort during feeding sessions in the early days after birth.

While after are pains one of the “necessary evils” of postpartum recovery, there are some things you should know and can do. First, they are very temporary — typically, within a few days, the uterine contractions will become so subtle that you won’t even notice them. There are ways to lessen the discomfort caused by after pains in addition to (or in place of) the hospital standard of ibuprofen or tylenol. For my most recent birth a couple of months ago, my doula brought a rice sock to provide comfort during labor. As it turned out, my birth was way too fast for any of the standard comfort measures! But the warmed rice sock was AMAZING for the after pains. It lay across my abdomen perfectly and provided wonderful relief from the cramping. A heating pad would provide similar relief. Gently massaging your lower abdomen may also feel good during the contractions. Experts also recommend emptying your bladder often as a full bladder causes inefficient uterine cramps. Belly binding, or other forms of abdominal pressure, can also help relieve the pain.

And if all else fails, remind yourself, “My body is working the way it should — this is shrinking my tummy and slowing my bleeding!”

What did you do to alleviate after pains?

Transforming Depression, Increasing Awareness: An Interview with Liz Friedman

Liz Friedman is the Program Director at MotherWoman, Inc. and the Founder of the Postpartum Support Initiative.

What do you remember from your experience of postpartum depression?

Liz: When I became a mother almost 9 years ago I experienced a severe perinatal emotional crisis.  My pregnancy was complex, my birth was traumatic, my postpartum period was disastrous. I did everything right and everything went wrong.What I recall most distinctly from that period was the fear that I was losing my mind. I was terrified that I had made a terrible mistake and that I would never be an adequate mother for my beautiful son. I thought I would never recover. The isolation of that time was deeply damaging and my loneliness in the face of that crisis still brings me to tears. Yet step by step I found a path and began to recover with the help of a few excellent resources in my community.

 

How did that experience influence your work with MotherWoman?

Liz:  With every step forward that I took, I became angrier about what no one told me. How could I not

have known there was the possibility of this happening? Why didn’t I know that isolation, difficult pregnancy and traumatic birth are some of the key risk factors for perinatal emotional complications?  Why didn’t I know that there are ways to prevent and prepare for the risks of postpartum depression?  Most importantly, why didn’t I know that postpartum depression is the leading complication of childbirth? Why didn’t I know that 1 in 8 mothers experience perinatal emotional complications?

By the time my baby was 6 months old, I began to gather mothers together to share our experiences of pregnancy, birth and the postpartum period.  MotherWoman was born from the same desire to create a place for women to share their REAL stories of motherhood. Annette Cycon, LICSW founded the organization in 1998 and I joined in 2005 with the explicit goal of bringing a focus to perinatal mothers. We founded the Perinatal Support Initiative and developed the MotherWoman Support Group Model to address this issue. We believe in mothers’ ability to heal and lead powerful lives as the mothers and women they are meant to be.

 

Before you had children, what was your awareness of depression and anxiety in pregnancy and postpartum?

Liz: Awareness? What awareness? Not until after having lived through the experience did I gain any real awareness. And it wasn’t until I became an advocate and educator that I received a true education. This is the one thing that mothers say again and again as they walk into our perinatal support groups: “Why didn’t anyone tell me??”

I strongly believe it is our responsibility as educators and advocates ensuring that all mothers have accurate information regarding depression/anxiety disorders so they can be informed, and thoughtful about how to best approach the childbearing period of their lives. We need to do this in a way that doesn’t frighten them but rather empowers them. If we do not do this as part of our prenatal education we have done mothers a huge disservice.
What would you suggest to childbirth educators and doulas?

Liz: Pregnant women trust you because you are their childbirth educators and doulas. They will listen to you. Have courage and tell them the facts of the postpartum depression and anxiety mood disorders.

Every childbirth educator and doula must make it an essential part of their curriculum to cover the basics regarding PPMAD (perinatal and postpartum mood/anxiety disorders). This means telling mothers and their partners what symptoms, prevalence, and risk factors, and treatment options may be, and referrals in the area.  Partners need to know what to look for because often they are the ones who first notice a mother struggling.  Childbirth educators and doulas need to insist that pregnant women put attention on what emotional life is like postpartum and prepare for it.   Mothers and partners need to be encouraged to create a Postpartum Plans that is evidence-based and addresses some of the most common challenges in the postpartum time.   Partners need to be made aware of how much support they will be expected to give and how much physical and emotional support a new mother actually needs for the entire postpartum year!

 

What questions should pregnant women ask potential doula about depression/anxiety?

Liz:

  • Do you have experience supporting mothers who have had depression/anxiety?
  • Are you philosophically opposed to your clients using medications to assist with depression/anxiety?
  • How can you help me prepare for the possibility of experiencing depression/anxiety?
  • What resources do you have to help me if I develop depression/anxiety?

 

What advice would you offer pregnant women today?

Liz: Many mothers make a birth plan to prepare for their birth.  I recommend that every women make a postpartum plan!  If mothers had a real idea of what the postpartum period would be like, they would PLAN! In order to make a plan, you need to understand the risk factors, the likelihood of different outcomes and path for prevention that works for you. Could you imagine what our postpartum experiences would have been like if we had real support set up for us after we gave birth to our babies?

 

What was it like doing TEDtalks?

Liz: I won the TEDWomen’s contest in Dec 2010 and it was the first time in the history of TED that a postpartum mother’s story was highlighted and given international attention.  At TED you have to be bold so I told them the truth.  I spoke about the incredible despair and isolation I experienced during my postpartum time.  I told them my dream: I will do everything in my power to ensure that no other mother has to go through what I went through; alone
, terrified and not knowing if she will ever be ok again.  And then I showed them the path: through the MotherWoman Support Group Model we will bring women together to transform our lives and build solid foundations beneath our feet.

 

Where do you hope to see MotherWoman 10 years from now?

Liz: MotherWoman is going international! Our Support Group Model (SGM) is transforming the way professionals approach the issue of depression and anxiety mood disorders in pregnancy and postpartum.  Our Support Group Model is innovative, ground-breaking and provides the missing link in caring for perinatal mothers. Our model not only educates mothers about PPMADs and provides structured safety for diverse mothers to share their stories and to heal but it is also an empowerment model which believes in each woman’s inherent wisdom and ability to take positive steps that benefit her and her family. Our goal is to have one Support Group for every 2000 births nationally.  In communities utilizing our model, awareness about depression and anxiety disorders in pregnancy and postpartum is growing and the number of mothers who are seeking help and care is increasing– and that means that mothers are recovering and their families are thriving.

 

Postpartum Care: Belly Binding

The Belly Bandit binder.

I first came across the subject of “belly binding” (or abdominal binding/compression) when I came across a product called the Belly Bandit. At first glance, I thought this was some new Hollywood-inspired fad that allowed women to look as if they had never been pregnant just days after birth. When I looked into it, however, I found that women outside of the United States have been practicing abdominal binding after birth as a way to shrink, tone and strengthen abdominal muscles and skin. The practice involves wearing a compression wrap around the mid-section, sometimes extending down over the top of the hips, beginning in the first day or two after birth and up to six to 12 weeks postpartum.

With my most recent pregnancy, the concept of belly binding intrigued me not only because the idea of shrinking my postpartum belly faster sounded appealing, but because I remember just how weak my abdominal muscles felt after the birth of my last two children. There are a variety of options and costs for abdominal compression wraps, ranging from as low as $15 for a no-frills, medical-looking device (like this one) up to $80 for the more haute couture options. Prior to birth and based on the advice of this article on belly binding options, I purchased a simple one-piece girdle for about $15. In addition, I also requested from my midwife while in the hospital a simple, medical-grade abdominal binder (which is usually given to moms after a c-section to aid in healing). After the birth of my third baby, my abdominal muscles felt weaker than I remember feeling for any of my prior births. When I stood up, it felt as if my gut would just plop out of my body! When the nurse brought me the abdominal binder, I put it on immediately — the relief was instant! I felt amazing! Like magic, I had strength and support and could easily get in and out of bed, maneuvering my body with more assurance than just a few minutes before.

Upon coming home, I continued to wear the abdominal binder throughout the daytime hours (they are recommended to be worn at night too for maximum effectiveness, but I took a break). The biggest complaint I have about the binder I received from the hospital is the itchiness of the material. I have found that wearing a thin tank top underneath makes it much more comfortable. And this, I imagine, is where it would make sense to invest more money in some of the other binding options, as they are made with higher quality material that can be worn more comfortably against the skin.

As for results, I am two weeks into the process and have noticed a considerable difference in how quickly my postpartum belly has shrunken down, not to mention the speed with which my abdominal muscles seem to have recovered. I am a believer in belly binding! In fact, I’ve been saying that this is my newest piece of must-know advice for expectant moms. Whether it’s your first or your fifth, you can benefit and feel better from abdominal binding after birth.

Postpartum Care: Meal Calendar

I imagine you’ve either heard of or actively participated in bringing a meal to a family who has recently given birth to a new baby. As someone who has been on the receiving end of such gifts, I can attest that this is a wonderful thing! Having ready-to-eat meals at your disposal with a new baby in the house is so much more useful than a cute new onesie. And this kind of gift is just as appreciated (if not more) by families who are welcoming their second or third (or more) baby.

Wouldn’t it be great if, instead of receiving the occasional meal here and there (and some on the same day) after baby is born, there was a way to allow friends and family to schedule their gifted meals, staggered throughout the first few weeks? Care Calendar and other similar free Web services like it (Meal Train, Feedin Mom Lotsa Helping Hands), are Web-based tools that allows you and your network of family, friends and colleagues to access a shared calendar and sign up for date, time and meal (or other service that helps a family in need, like babysitting, yard work, cleaning, etc.). The family in need can also view the calendar (and receive e-mail updates) to know when they will receive a meal. The Care Calendar is the perfect answer to the question (that many new moms and families hear), “What can I do to help?”

If you are the mom or dad to be, and would like to be the recipient of such a service, set up your calendar and don’t be shy in e-mailing the link to family and friends. Consider crafting a message like this:

“With the upcoming birth of our baby approaching quickly, many of you have asked what we need or how you can help. We’re so grateful to have such a thoughtful group of family and friends. What we would like most is help with meals after the baby is born. We have set up a “Care Calendar” at WEBSITE ADDRESS. This free service allows you to choose a date and time to deliver a meal after the baby is born. To access our calendar, please use the following login/code number: XXXX. Thanks for your offer to help! We look forward to sharing our new little life with you.”

If you are a friend of an expecting family, consider setting up a calendar for them. Share the calendar with their network and invite them to participate. Don’t limit the e-mail to only local people; friends and family who live out of town can help by purchasing a meal from a local delivery restaurant or frozen meals from an online company like Magic Kitchen. Be sure to also inform the family in need about the calendar so they know when to expect meals.

 

Photo by steelashan.