I get asked time and time again by women I meet outside of the U.S., “So what DO American women do to recover from pregnancy?” And my response is, “For the most part, nothing. American women hardly do anything more than rely on their bodies to naturally revert to its non-pregnant state.” The normal response I get is a baffled stare because of the incomprehensible thought that women in America don’t do anything to help their body recover internally (hormonally) or physically after they’ve given birth. A follow up comment is something like, “But America has EVERYTHING! Surely American women follow some sort of recovery program, take special precautions regarding their diet and hygiene or use some kind of postpartum recovery products? They must do something! The BEST products come from America!”
In this case, sadly, the best products do not necessarily come from America nor are they even found in America. Our cultural beliefs about pregnancy, childbirth and postpartum recovery are focused around the baby. The mother becomes secondary; well that is even a stretch, probably not even secondary. In American culture, the postpartum recovery of the mother has never been given much attention and thus largely not seen as important. For someone like me, that has spent most of the past 15 years in Asia seeing first-hand the wonderful, caring traditions surrounding a new mother from when she discovers she is pregnant through to her postpartum recovery period; and how well a woman recovers in 6-8 weeks, not having any extended postpartum emotional feelings and physically being strong and back to their normal state, it was an eye-opener when I returned to the U.S. to have my son in 2007.
Like the typical American, pregnant mom-to-be I didn’t give any thought to my own postpartum recovery as no one had mentioned it to me, my doctor, nurses, dietician, family, friends or anyone else. Then when I was eight months pregnant I went to purchase a typical postpartum recovery set that I knew of and found out such products didn’t exist in America! I lost count how many and different types of stores I went into asking the sales person if they carried postpartum recovery products only to tell me they had stretch-marks creams, pregnancy teas and pre-natal vitamins and that they never even heard of such products. Belly wraps weren’t really popular then either.
I even contacted various emb ies and organizations and they all told me that they had their families send over such products. I was dumbfounded and found myself angry that women in America don’t have access to such products. Postpartum recovery products play a vital role in many, many countries to ensure a woman has a “balanced recovery” from child birth. Balanced, both hormonally and physically, which enables a mother to recover in a shorter time period, to function properly and resume their lives.
After doing much research regarding exactly why postpartum recovery is overlooked in America vs. being an auspicious part of the pregnancy experience in other countries I found it has come down to the fact that American doctors don’t emphasize the importance of recovery. Most births take place in hospitals and babies are delivered by OBGYN surgeons. Therefore expecting moms listen to the advice their doctor gives them throughout their pregnancy, but the advice stops after the baby is born. Now, I’m not blaming the medical community. Their job is to monitor our pregnancy and to do everything in their power to deliver a healthy child. However that is where their job ends. In other cultures this is where traditional beliefs take over and it is up to the mother and extended family to do everything in their power to ensure the mother has a healthy and balanced recovery. It is a family affair.
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