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Midwife shares post-birth recovery tips as one in 10 new mums say it takes six months to return to ‘good physical health’


New mothers tend to lack REM sleep – a deep sleep that begins around 90 minutes into the sleep cycle.

New mothers tend to lack REM sleep – a deep sleep that begins around 90 minutes into the sleep cycle.

New mothers tend to lack REM sleep – a deep sleep that begins around 90 minutes into the sleep cycle.

One in 10 mothers said it takes six months for them to get back to good physical health after childbirth. 

A total of 36pc of Irish mothers said it took six weeks to feel back to their physical selves, while 28pc said it took up to three months, according to a recent survey.

The survey, carried out by My Expert Midwife, showed that three-quarters of Irish women don’t consider a post birthing recovery plan - but My Expert Midwife founder, CEO and clinical director Lesley Gilchrist advises women to “prioritise” themselves and to stop feeling “mummy guilt”.

It also found it took 32pc of women six weeks to return to a good emotional state. For 20pc of women it took three months, and it took 5pc of women a year.

Experienced midwife Lesley recommends for women to establish a post birth plan while about 34 weeks pregnant.

This includes going to the pharmacy and stocking up on pain relief, freezing meals, arranging friends and family to help after the baby arrives, and communicating with their partner on schedules and ‘baby blues’.

She advises women should put aside two hours a day for post birth recovery.

"You really do need at least two hours – half an hour in the morning, half an hour in the early afternoon, after dinner and half an hour on their own before bedtime.

“It’s almost that mental switch off to be able to switch off from thinking about baby or worrying.”

She continued: “There is huge guilt about leaving their baby or prioritising themselves – but if you are not well then you will struggle to care for baby the way you want to.

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“I think it’s important to not just plan but understand what it’s like, that it is exhausting, and you will be in discomfort – and for some people quite a lot of pain and to prepare for that.”

The first six weeks after birth are considered the “recovery period”, after which Lesley says most women can expect the pain and discomfort to ease.

“Most women are walking about and doing the jobs they normally would have done. It’s the physical tiredness, that’s what takes its toll,” she said.

“For women, they’re not really getting as much rest, their bodies have to produce milk to feed the baby, so they are dehydrated if they are not keeping up with their liquids, lack of sleep, that all delays repair and recovery.”

The study shows new parents get four hours and 44 minutes of sleep on an average night during the first 12 months of a child’s life.

Breastfed newborns need to nurse every two-three hours, which is 8-12 times a day. This means that due to the short duration of their sleep, new mothers tend to lack REM sleep – a deep sleep that begins around 90 minutes into the sleep cycle. A lack of this can affect how mothers think and cope throughout the next day.

The age-old recommendation is to “sleep when your baby sleeps”, but Lesley admitted: “That’s the time you’re trying to get stuff done.”

“I used a baby sling – it just means that you can have baby on you when they are awake and if you do need to get on and get stuff done, they’re with you and settled and not sleeping.

“So that when you do get that chance to lie down, and baby is asleep you can actually rest.”

Practical helpers are friends and family who are asked to help out post birth, but 50pc of women surveyed by My Expert Midwife said having a plan for practical help was not possible for them.

Lesley said: “There’s a greater reluctance now to ask for help - nowadays it’s seen almost as a weakness to say, ‘I need some help with the cleaning, or I need some help with the cooking’.”

She advises mothers to “arrange for relatives or friends to drop off food – or people to come and actually run the vacuum around”.

She also advises to “keep the visitors at bay - I don’t mean the ones who will actually vacuum for you or drop food off – I’m talking about the visitors who just want to come and look at baby, they can wait”.

Another tip for new mothers that Lesley places emphasis on is the magic of a frozen meal.

“If you’re making meals in the 32-34 weeks when you’re pregnant, double them up and freeze them.”

The topic of ‘baby blues’, and post-natal depression is a subject which partners should also talk about before birth.

Lesley says women should be saying to their partners; “If you notice after two weeks that I am really low or tearful – phone my GP and get me an appointment.”

She added: “Not to phone mum or not to phone a sister, call the GP.”

“The quicker it’s treated, the quicker you are back to being yourself,” she added.

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