Any woman who has gone through pregnancy, childbirth, and the first year of motherhood will tell you it's challenging and daunting, to say the least. The country's current 60- or 75-day maternity leave (that's about two months) is barely enough time for women to heal, recuperate, and make the necessary lifestyle changes when a baby comes into one's life.
Philippine lawmakers have finally recognized the needs of new mothers, and laws have been proposed both at the Senate and the House of Representatives to extend the maternity leave to just a little over three months (100 days). But even if it's enacted as law, a study shows that it's still not enough for a new mom to recover physically, emotionally, and mentally.
A study at the Salford University in England showed that a new mom needs at least one year to recover from childbirth and to give her time to adapt to having a new baby at home. Many moms interviewed by the researchers said England's current six-week maternity leave (that's one and a half months) was not enough, mostly due to the lack of help from the government. Many of them also said they feel the pressure to quickly go back to work because celebrity moms make postpartum recovery look easy.
"The research shows that more realistic and woman-friendly postnatal services are needed. Women feel that it takes much longer than six weeks to recover and they should be supported beyond the current six to eight weeks after birth," Julie Wray, Ph.D., the study's lead author, told The Daily Mail. Researchers said that recovery starts in the hospital. Women ideally should be able to stay longer in the hospital to learn how to take care of their newborns, and practice breastfeeding with health professionals by their side. Now, more and more women are being discharged from the hospital earlier because they are already expected to know what they have to do, as if learning about it in a class is the same as having an actual baby to take care of.
A study conducted by Janis M. Miller, Ph.D., and her team of researchers at the School of Nursing at the University of Michigan in the U.S. also arrived at the same conclusion. They used MRI scans show the kind of trauma pregnancy and childbirth inflicts in a woman's pelvic area. Results showed that six weeks barely covered the physical healing a woman needs after delivering a baby.
"Our data shows a wide range of time for women to complete their healing after a very strenuous birth. Women are not given permission to have more time to recover after childbirth," Dr. Miller told The Guardian.
When it comes to emotional and mental recovery, an Australian study found that new mothers still have high levels of exhaustion, back pain, urinary incontinence, sexual problems, and perineal pain (the perineum is the area between the vagina and the anus), even six to seven months after giving birth. The mental stress and physical recovery can take a toll, and research has shown it increases her risk for postpartum depression.
Crucial to a child's development is the state of his mother's emotional and mental well-being. A new mom needs all the support she can get, and we can only hope that means giving her more than enough time to do so.