DENVER — When a baby is born, it's easy to focus all of your attention on them, but don't forget mom is recovering too.

Just last year, the  American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) released a revised opinion to reinforce the importance of the “fourth trimester,” and to propose a new paradigm for postpartum care.  

In its opinion, the agency said the weeks following birth are a critical period for a woman and her infant and they set the stage for long-term health and well-being. During the weeks after birth, women are adapting to multiple physical, social and psychological changes. They're also recovering from childbirth, adjusting to changing hormones and learning to feed and care for a newborn.

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Their bodies went through a lot during delivery, not mention pregnancy itself. Even mom who had an uncomplicated delivery are dealing with the effects of pregnancy. They include things like weight gain (25 to 35 pounds on average), hormonal changes, breast milk production and the shifting of organs to make room for the baby.

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The uterus, which provided a home for the baby over the past few months, needs to gradually return to its normal size -- which can take about six weeks.

C-section Recovery

Mothers are also healing from the delivery process. In many cases, moms undergo C-sections, either elective ones or ones that were unplanned due to complications.  A C-section is a surgical procedure used to deliver the baby through an incision in the abdomen and uterus.

Women who had C-sections are encouraged to avoid lifting anything heavier than their baby, according to the Mayo Clinic. Also, avoid lifting from a squatting position. Even driving can be a problem because it can be uncomfortable for women to twist to check blind spots or even apply the brakes, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Episiotomy Recovery

For vaginal births, women may be dealing with discomfort from a procedure known as an episiotomy, a surgical cut made during delivery to allow more room for the baby. While it used to be a routine part of childbirth it's now only recommended in certain cases.

Your health care provider might recommend an episiotomy if your baby needs to be quickly delivered because:

  • Your baby's shoulder is stuck behind your pelvic bone (shoulder dystocia)
  • Your baby has an abnormal heart rate pattern during your delivery
  • You need an operative vaginal delivery (using forceps or vacuum)

From my experience, I can tell you recovery is uncomfortable. I completely underestimated the pain, especially following the birth of my first son. The second time around, recovery wasn't nearly as bad.

Give yourself (and other moms) a break

Remember that you spent the last few months growing a baby. It's hard work. It took months to get to that point, don't expect your body to return to normal overnight.

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Don't compare yourself to other moms

Remember every woman and every pregnancy is different. Some women may appear to bounce back quickly, for others recovery may take a lot longer.

It can even vary from pregnancy to pregnancy. I had a tough time in the weeks following my first son's delivery. I was in a lot of pain and simple things like walking or sitting for long periods of time were difficult.

The second time around, even though the deliveries were similar, my recovery was a lot quicker. Within five days after my second son's birth, we were able to take a trip to Estes Park. That would have been impossible after my first son's birth.

Don't try on pre-pregnancy clothes

Of course, in the first few days, I wore nothing but comfortable sweat pants. After a few weeks, I felt like my body was bouncing back and dared to put on my pre-pregnancy jeans. Don't do it. It won't do anything but destroy your confidence. They may eventually fit or maybe they'll never fit again, either way, don't rush it.

Don't rush things

There's a reason it's recommended that women avoid exercise for six weeks after childbirth. Take it easy, enjoy the time with your newborn. You may feel like you're recovered, but there's still a lot of healing going on. 

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Ask for help

Being a new parent is overwhelming. You've had months to think about the baby's arrival but once they've arrived everything is new. You may have never fed a baby before or even changed a diaper. Don't be afraid to ask for advice or help.

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 It's OK to let your baby cry and walk away

When you're tired and stressed and you just can't get your baby to stop crying, it's totally okay to walk away. Put them in their crib or somewhere else safe and take a breather. Step outside for a few minutes or to another part of the home and take a few minutes to relax.

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