The puerperium is the necessary period of recovery that a woman needs after childbirth. It takes a lot more than the famous quarantine. A year or more is the minimum necessary.
The famous quarantine represents 40 days, approximately, immediately after the birth of the baby. This delay is often confused with the puerperium, the period we need to recover after childbirth.
The puerperium extends beyond 6 weeks of quarantine. It is a process of physical and emotional recovery that the woman needs after 9 months of gestation and after giving birth. According to different studies and theories, this time can last from one year to two years, or even three.
One year to recover after childbirth
A 2015 study, developed by Dr. Julie Wray from the University of Salkford, UK, revealed this information. “Women need at least a year to recover after giving birth. The hormonal and physical changes that a woman’s body experiences during pregnancy do not end with childbirth. ”
Puerperality also involves physical and emotional changes to adapt to the new reality of being a mother. The researcher interviewed women in several countries who had given birth and spent two to three weeks, three months and six to seven months after the birth of their children.
Wray found that for most mothers, the ideal would be to have at least 12 months of postnatal recovery, which includes both the physical and the emotional. “Women estimate that they take more than six weeks to recover and should receive support beyond six to eight weeks after birth,” said the researcher.
The above research refers to the estimated time that new mothers felt needed to recover after giving birth. But for the Argentine psychologist Laura Gutman, author of the famous book “Maternity and meeting with her shadow”, the puerperality lasts until the 2 or 3 years of the baby’s life.
Mom and baby are the same emotional unit. The delivery “breaks” the physical unit that was mother and baby during the 9 months of gestation. Although they are no longer a unit, they remain emotionally united and separation takes time.
For the family therapist, puerperality is a time when there are situations that are not entirely physical. They are neither concrete, but no less real, which affect the stability of the woman. Childbirth is a strong “emotional destructuring” where we went from one to the other.
The shadow of herself
The puerperality confronts us with what is beyond our control. With what is in us, with our own shadows and conflicts. To emerge reconstituted and renewed from this confrontation, we must be aware of the process we are experiencing and recovering after childbirth.
As we move into this universe that moves between the mystic, the energetic and the emotional, we have a newborn in our arms that we must take care of. But, precisely, the baby cries because he expresses the pain. And the fears of the woman are triggered after birth.
Maybe our grandmothers did it more easily because their only occupation was home and children. But the woman of today, active, orderly, enterprising, hardworking, is different.
Mothers must move from the immensity of their emotional world to the concrete world that involves work. But also the money, the daily worries, then return to the rhythm of the baby. We are not ready, and neither is our environment, to make this transit safe, without falling into despair. Or without the possibility of asking for help.
When there is no time for recovery
Given the complex emotional situation described by Guttman, it is obvious that waiting for the woman to return to normal before pregnancy, her sexuality, her professional life, is a fantasy impossible to achieve in 6 weeks.
The truth is that not all mothers are fortunate to be able to fully devote themselves to the baby’s care as they recover physically and emotionally. Many, millions, have other children, do not have help from their father, and have to go to work. It seems that there is no time for their meeting with themselves.
The reality facing millions of women and working mothers is that in their country there is no maternity leave to recover after childbirth. The woman has to go to work, she has to find someone to take care of the baby, and she loses the opportunity to become aware of the emotional options that the puerperality offers her.
The reality of working mothers
Only 34 countries comply with the recommendation of the International Labor Organization (ILO) to grant at least 14 weeks of maternity leave, with at least two-thirds of previous earnings.
Most maternity leaves are not adapted to the needs of the mother and the baby. With few exceptions: Croatia grants 410 days of postnatal leave. Countries like Montenegro, Bosnia and Albania also offer 365 days of postnatal leave. The United Kingdom (315 days), Norway (315) and Sweden (240).
At the opposite extreme, the majority of holidays in Africa and Asia do not exceed 8 weeks. In addition to attachment to the baby, it is a physical and emotional health issue for the woman to recover after childbirth. The road we still have to travel to recognize the needs of the woman and her baby is still long.