pregnancy

The 'care plan' that could reduce your risk of developing post natal depression.

We are encouraged to plan and prepare for our births, because birth is a big deal. But are we encouraged to write a postnatal care plan?

After your baby is born, your whole body and mind are in transition. This transition can be so tough, it’s even got a psychiatric label attached to it (Adjustment Disorder). Your body is physically transitioning, and you are mentally transforming too.

Being a mum is no mean feat. It takes time to adjust, and one of the main jobs is to get to know and love your baby, to feel confident in your ability to look after your baby, and to feel you’re doing okay. In many traditional cultures around the world, new mums are made to rest in bed, solely with the job of looking after, feeding and bonding with her baby… for six weeks! I kid you not.

This usually involves other people feeding the mother lovely nutritious foods, having regular massages and being banned from household chores. That’s a far cry from how our modern world treats new mums. Nowadays, women are expected to go home soon after the birth and carry on as usual – including getting back into their jeans and the school run within a few days.

"After your baby is born, your whole body and mind are in transition, and it can be tough." (Image: Getty)

The best advice we seem to be able to give is “leave the housework, it’ll wait”. Yes, but for whom? And who has to live in it while it gets dirtier and messier? The other gem is “sleep when baby sleeps” (fat chance of that). The pressure is on for a new mum, and all this pressure increases the chances of being exhausted, sleep deprived, feeling inadequate, overwhelmed and not feeling like a good enough mother. Those are all recipes for depression. Is it any wonder rates of postnatal depression are on the rise?

Take your postnatal recovery seriously. Don’t just think 'ah, it’ll be okay, we’ll manage somehow'. That’s taking a risk. You are worth more than that now you’re going to be a mum, because you need to take care of you, so that you can take care of your baby.

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My advice is to write yourself a postnatal recovery plan. Think hard and long about how you are going to give yourself lots and lots of rest and time to bond with your baby. Give yourself permission to stay in your pyjamas for days. Think about nutritious foods. Get your partner or family involved. If they know what you were planning, they are more likely really help. Make the first few weeks with your baby worth remembering for the right reasons – not the wrong ones.

Listen: Quintuplets mum says it took her 16 months to bond with her quins after struggling with post natal depression (post continues after audio...)

Here is an example of what your postnatal care plan might look like:

I have written a postnatal care plan because I very much want to enjoy my first few weeks getting to know my baby. I am aware I have a tendency to do too much, and to feel guilty when I’m not getting stuff done. I want to ensure this doesn’t happen following the birth of my baby, and so I am planning how to take care of myself in the first two precious weeks with my baby, with plenty of help from my partner to do so.

Generally, I wish to spend time skin-to-skin with my baby, I wish to establish breastfeeding, and I would like my partner to be an integral part of this with us.

Immediately upon coming home:

My husband would like to carry me and our baby over the threshold.

I would like a warm bath with rejuvenating bath salts, and then I would like to get into fresh (new) pyjamas and into our bed with new fresh sheets, and my baby.

I would like the lights kept low, my phone and my remote control next to me.

I would like to eat a huge, warm, filling meal of cottage pie and peas, washed down with camomile tea and a glass of fizz.

I would like my husband to join us as much as possible in bed.

"We are encouraged to plan and prepare for our births, because birth is a big deal. But are we encouraged to write a postnatal care plan?" (Image: Getty)
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For the first two weeks after coming home:

I would like visitors to stay away for at least 12 hours, apart from the midwife and my lactation consultant, who I have pre-arranged support with.

In the first three days, I would like very close members of my family only, to visit.

I do not want my baby to be held by anybody else in the first three days, other than her father.

We have arranged for a food delivery of fresh fruit, salads, sandwiches, chocolates and juices. There are plenty of ready cooked meals in the freezer too.

I have arranged for a cleaner/my mum/my brother to come in every other day to tidy and clean the house, as per my husband’s requests (she will not clean our bedroom).

I have specific herbal/homeopathic remedies that I will be taking each day.

After the first three days, I have arranged for a postnatal doula to come in and provide emotional and practical support every three days.

My husband will help to ensure that I get plenty of rest, by regularly encouraging me to go to bed, and ensuring that the household and visitors are taken care of.

Take a look at celebrities who've been honest about their struggle with post natal depression (post continues after gallery...)

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My husband will take a few hours out of the house each day, to do something to help him to feel refreshed also.

According to how I feel, I plan to spend most of the first two weeks in and out of bed. I might take a walk or potter around the house if I feel restless, but if not, I will stay in bed to recover and adjust, both physically and mentally, and to help me to fall in love with my baby and establish breastfeeding.”

For the first six weeks

I will plan to do minimal housework or shopping. I will keep my focus on getting to know my baby, and establishing my confidence as a mother. I will continue to ensure that I eat well and sleep as well as I can. If, at times, I feel that I should be doing do more, my partner will remind me that these weeks are for rest, and remind me to take it easy and focus on our baby.

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If you think that this is overindulgent, then think again. Recovery matters. You can never get those 6 weeks back again. I want you to remember them for the right reasons, not the wrong ones. Have a go, and see the difference it can make to those precious first few weeks.

Mia Scotland,C.Psych, BA(hons), MSc. Clin.Psych, is a Clinical Psychologist, Birth Doula, Hypnobirth practitioner and Author of “Why Perinatal Depression Matters”.

Do you have a post natal care plan? How are you planing to look after your mental health once your baby arrives?

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