How to cope with stress when you've just given birth
The days that follow childbirth can be immensely stressful, even if you're not a first-time mother. Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge, has done this a couple of times before, but she's still likely to be feeling like any other woman who has just given birth – overwhelmed, tired, awash with post-pregnancy hormones and just a bit anxious (although an army of nannies can help!).
Anna Williamson, author of Breaking Mum and Dad: The Insider's Guide to Parenting Anxiety, says that it's normal to feel emotional after giving birth. "If I hadn't laughed, I would certainly have cried. And I may never have stopped."
According to Anna, birth can be a real shock to the system and it's perfectly normal to have feelings that worry you or make you feel like a phoney: "It's okay and you are completely and utterly normal.
"In fact, The National Childbirth Trust (NCT) recently reported that around half of new mothers' post-natal mental health problems don't get picked up on."
For some mothers, birth can be a traumatic experience – especially when things haven't quite gone to plan. In Anna's case, she prepared a detailed birth plan in advance, which was colour coded and laminated. She even emailed it round to her immediate family, which prompted "a lot of teasing and sniggering".
Needless to say, her birth didn’t go anything like her plan, and creating such high expectations set her up for a huge disappointment when things didn't work out. "Things can't always be controlled … when it comes to Mother Nature," Anna says.
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It's only natural to compare your experience of giving birth to those around you, but it's important to manage your expectations in case you don't get the perfect birth you've envisioned.
How to take care of yourself after giving birth
Anna shares her tips for looking after yourself after labour…
- Just go with the flow – don't feel you have to feel, think or do anything. The moments and minutes after your little one has been delivered are among the most surreal you'll ever experience.
- Take your time – give yourself the time you need to recover from your birthing experience. Everyone is different so listen to your mind, emotions and body and go at your own pace.
- Drink (lots!) – hydrate yourself with tea/chai latte/hot chocolate and eat as much toast as you like – you've earned it! The tastiest and most deserved thing that'll ever pass your lips… and it really does help… even just a little bit.
Read more related articles about wellbeing:
- How to be a mindful parent
- Listen to our calming free meditation session
- How to meditate in the bath or shower
How meditation can help you during pregnancy and after birth
Re:Mind meditation studio founder Yulia Kovaleva (pictured above with her business partner Carla Von Anhalt) found that meditation really helped her to remain calm during her pregnancy. "It's a huge thing transitioning from not being a mother to being a mother and we need to prepare for it in all kinds of ways.
"Meditation really fully came into my life when I was pregnant. I learnt to meditate about eight or nine years ago, but it was really on and off. It was only when I became pregnant that it began to feel important and it benefitted me hugely."
Yulia says that her pregnancy was unplanned, so she experienced a lot of anxiety: "Meditation helped me through the pregnancy and helped me get through it."
She listened to guided meditations specifically for pregnancy, which can be found online, on apps, on iTunes or on CD. "You can also attend any meditation classes when you're pregnant – it doesn't have to be specifically for pregnancy," she says.
For Yulia, meditation continued to help her manage her emotions after she'd given birth. "Women often struggle with post-partum depression or anxiety after birth. Women are expected to clean, look after the child and now it's a big thing to be successful at work – you are expected to be a superwoman doing everything at the same time and that can be really exhausting.
"During pregnancy and right after birth, it's important to focus on having time just for you. For some women it could be massage or yoga, for others it could be meditation, but they're all very powerful methods of relaxation."
New parents are often very tired, but Yulia believes that meditation can help you to stay energised. "That's probably the most superficial benefit of meditation – to help you get through the day. My son is still not the best sleeper – we get up at 5am every day!"
When you have a newborn baby, Yulia recommends meditating as soon as the baby goes down for a nap – not rushing off to do some chores. "Just close your eyes and listen to a guided meditation. Do it and stick to it because it's going to have an enormous impact."
Once your child gets older (this becomes more difficult once you have a toddler), if you can't manage to fit in a meditation then just play a track and listen to it with your eyes open. Simply listening to it can have a calming effect.
"It's not necessarily meditating, but it's still something and better than nothing at all."
When she has the time, Yulia likes to go to her meditation corner at home which has a comfy chair. She suggests creating your own calming space for relaxation. "You need to make it very special so you enjoy the experience more, so maybe you put a book or a notebook next to the chair so it's a reading/meditation chair. Candles, pillows – all the little things that make it very nice."
Photos provided by Getty Images and Joanna Kosinska on Unsplash
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