Resuming work after childbirth: How soon is too soon?
“As a working mother, finding the time to pause can be challenging in itself, but just sitting back to enjoy the moment is also incredibly important to me. Hollywood actress Keira Knightley’s sentiments about “overconnectivity” in today’s social media times, as shared in an HT Brunch interview, made me pause and think. It made me think about three things: working mothers, a woman’s
constant strife to create a balance, and the freedom (or not) of choice. Closer home, take comedian Bharti Singh’s example. Had she chosen to give up working after childbirth, she would have been judged for better or for worse. But that she chose to resume work just after 12 days of her delivery, attracted brickbats. For a woman, resuming work after childbirth is seen with a deep focus lens!
The brickbats came as no wonder given the social conditioning that a woman must take at least 40 days’ rest after childbirth. It’s what is also called ‘postpartum confinement’. Even medical experts recommend women to give themselves time to heal and recover after pregnancy. But if a woman chooses to go back to work – from home or from ground zero – let it be her choice.
“Bahut saari working woman hoti hai joh apne ek hafte ke baby ko chhod kar kaam par jaati hai (A lot of working women go to work leaving their children behind),” laughter queen Bharti said in her response to trolls, and also clarifying that she is ensuring that the baby is being fed breast milk.
Even TV actress Debina Bonnerjee, who gave birth to a daughter in early April, is pretty active on her social media page with videos and brand collaborations. Actress Neha Dhupia too had resumed work just days after both her pregnancies. In fact, when Kareena Kapoor Khan had her second child and resumed work a month after her delivery, netizens were left asking, “Why doesn’t she enjoy maternity leave?”
To them, I ask, “Why is it your business, anyway?” It doesn’t make them a less of a mother!
Resuming work after childbirth: Is there a right time?
Delving a little deeper into why women are asked to take at least 40-days’ rest after a child’s delivery, we reached out to Dr Neha Khandelwal, a Gynaecologist at Rosewalk Hospital, New Delhi.
“After delivery, you may think that you are ready to jump back into a normal
life, but you need to understand that this is a transition phase in your life
which will require a lot of adjustments,” Dr Khandelwal told Health Shots.
“You now will accommodate a new member in your family, will have to adjust your sleep pattern, will need to get plenty of rest to recover. You need to eat healthy and stay hydrated, you need to stay calm and learn the first prerequisite of good parenting – that is being patient,” she adds.
Most obstetricians would recommend a woman to wait for 6-12 weeks before resuming work after childbirth as this is the time required to recover physically and mentally from the pregnancy journey. But not every woman needs that time.
“A lot of women also feel comfortable after 6 weeks as by then the postpartum bleeding almost stops and the stitches heal too. This holds good irrespective of the mode of delivery – vaginal or cesarean,” says the doctor.
What are the side effects of resuming work after childbirth early?
According to Dr Khandelwal, these are the likely after-effects of resuming work after childbirth too early, if you do not give yourself the right care:
* Extreme fatigue and exhaustion
Exhaustion happens due to sleep deprivation and of course because of the entire labour and birthing process. Early return to work could make this worse. It could, therefore,also increase the risk of postpartum depression.
It can cause problems in bonding with the baby. It could also lead to difficulty
in establishing exclusive breastfeeding and it’s often seen that working women very soon end up starting artificial or formula feeds.
Postpartum recovery can vary from woman to woman
A woman’s postpartum recovery depends on her physical and emotional health
“If she has had a balanced diet and exercised well during pregnancy, had a low risk pregnancy with no or minimal complications, her recovery would be faster,” concedes the expert.
Precautions to resume work after childbirth early
If a woman chooses to resume work after childbirth soon, certain precautions must be taken.
1. In case you have to get back to work early, talk to your doctor and let her assess your readiness for the same.
2. In case your employer allows a part-time return to work or a part-time work from home, go for this option as this will give you more time to settle down with your little one. And it will also help you settle down as a working mom.
3. As a new mother, don’t hesitate to ask for help from your family in case you decide to get back to work early.
Having noted these points by Dr Khandelwal, it’s safe to say that at the end of the day, to work or not to work, to take a break or jump into work right after childbirth – the choice is all yours. Just choose with care and caution!