Motherhood brings new challenges. Throughout this process, it is important for women to stay in touch with their femininity and keep their relationship a priority.
Medical advisor Carla M. Álvarez Gallego, psychologist
Liliana Franco N., OB-GYN
It is easy to disappear into a different world when a new being arrives: you are tired, you are experiencing physical changes, and it seems that this child a new part of the household demands all of your time.
As Carla María Álvarez Gallego explains, psychologist at the Prado Clinic, new mothers experience a series of changes in their ways of thinking and feeling, in their lifestyle, and in how they perceive themselves in the family and in a relationship. These transformations must all take place while the mother is creating an emotional bond with their child.
“Being a mother is a process that leads to a series of internal or mental conflicts that the woman must resolve little by little as she adapts to her situation and takes the reigns of her experience in motherhood”, explains Álvarez. In an ideal world, she adds, all women would have psychological support once they began their prenatal checkups in addition to medical and nutritional assessments.
During the first few weeks, mothers worry about their body image, as they are different now when they look at themselves in the mirror. The weight and loose stomach muscles that remain after the distension of the abdominal wall is one of the most visible changes. While this is a natural part of the process, it can have a psychological impact because “…many people continue asking her if she is still pregnant, or joke about ‘there being another one in there,’ which has an effect on her. The changes the body undergoes to support the size of the uterus are rather significant,” affirms Liliana Franco Nolivos, OB-GYN also at the Prado Clinic.
There are other more physical situations such as hair loss or the retention of fluids that affect the body. But as Franco says, “Everything has a solution. Just as we explain that the experiences during pregnancy are side effects and not illnesses such as vomiting or back pain the same goes for the postpartum period; at some point everything will return to normal. Everything gets better, so much so, that women even get excited about having another child”.
Making space for this new one involves preparation; but even if the planning has been done, each moment of motherhood brings new challenges. Mothers will encounter a series of emotions that are not always pleasant, such as changes in mood. Mothers may even feel guilty for feeling overwhelmed, despite her desires to have the baby as part of her life plans. These emotions are related to the hormonal changes that are an inherent part of the postpartum period.
Mothers should pay careful attention to the emotions they experience and to the thoughts that arise, as this will help them identify if they are suffering from postpartum depression, for example, (see Helpful Tips), giving them the opportunity to seek help if necessary. Being emotionally grounded is key to dealing with this new role.
Given this new context, how can mothers be a support to themselves to not lose their femininity? According to psychologist Carla María Álvarez, the primary recommendation is for her to have a space that she can call her own. While it is true that newborns require a lot of attention, she should still be able to enjoy her motherhood; not all of her energy and life should not revolve around the baby: “She should take time to rest and connect with herself. She is still the same woman she was before, just that her situation has changed”.
It is important to feel like a woman, feel empowered as a woman, and feel the strength of femininity in all of its aspects. This is part of daily life: if she liked to do exercise before she was pregnant, upon physician approval, she should return to her routine; if she liked meditating or dancing, she should spend some time doing these activities; she can also care for her own image and wear makeup or get dressed up to feel beautiful; and she can also return to having fun with her friends or go to a movie. In general, she can and should allow herself to do activities that comfort her.
It is also important to not lose sight of taking time to be a couple. In the first few months after a birth, it is very common for all the parents’ concentration to be placed on the newborn. “Not all their energy should be placed on the baby, even if it’s a novelty for the parents. As long as both partners have a solid relationship, the work of being a parent will go more smoothly”, adds Álvarez.
Support from the baby’s father and from family, as well as knowing that her child is in good hands, is important to her feeling at ease.
1of every 6 women that give birth experience postpartum depression where they may feel fatigue, sadness and stress for a brief period before recovering.
“Many women can experience this condition and not exactly know that they are facing a phenomenon that is a natural part of the changes that occur after a baby is born,” explains psychologist Carla María Álvarez. Some warning signs of this condition are:
- Changes in mood, irritability, insomnia and a lack of appetite.
- The mother begins to develop the feeling that she is not capable of taking care of her baby or of herself.
- Unease with various areas of the mother’s life (relationship and family life) and a loss of interest in activities that she once enjoyed.
Tip: It is important for women to allow themselves to recognize how this new role makes her feel: vulnerable, insecure or afraid, “It is therefore recommended she connect with her ‘self’ to take on this role and face her own shortcomings”.