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Episode Transcript:

Welcome, everyone, to The Postpartum Wellness Show, where you will learn how to thrive in your postpartum journey. Selamat Datang, semua. I'm Dr. Kristal Lau, your host and Postpartum Wellness Consultant.

Now, today I'll be adding to my discussion about the term Postpartum Period: what it means, how long it is. And this is really an update to my one and only episode that I published on my podcast almost a year ago.

So I'm really excited to do a review of all these terms and also introduce two new terms and talk about why it's important to know about all these things in the postpartum journey.

So first up, let's talk about the term postpartum period. What we know about it today in the clinical world is that the term postpartum period is referred to as the six to eight weeks after you've given birth. Why six to eight weeks? Because what we know now is that it takes about six to eight weeks for the body to return to its pre-pregnancy state after you've given birth. But realistically, we know your actual physical health takes a lot longer than six to eight weeks.

Especially if you've experienced diastasis recti, where your abdominal muscles have split in the middle from pregnancy or from childbirth, and we know hormones, it's going to take a lot longer than six to eight weeks for things to just mellow out or get adjusted to, whether you're breastfeeding or not, and for things to settle down.

That brings us to the second term, fourth trimester, which I like better because it doesn't just limit your postpartum experience and postpartum recovery to basically two months. But is that enough? Because the fourth trimester refers to up to three months or 12 weeks after you've given birth. Now, how this term came about was Dr. Harvey Karp, a pediatrician. He coined the term fourth trimester to describe how babies need another three months outside of the womb after being born into the world, that babies need this time to adjust to our world. That's loud, that's noisy, that's hot and cold, and all sorts of chaos before they become real babies that you can play with.

So the good thing about that is they're taking the term fourth trimester for babies to use it for moms. And I like that because it makes sense. A lot of our recovery and the adjustment goes hand in hand with your baby because you're literally bonded like this after you've given birth.

Which then brings me to the term postpartum year. This is a word that I use in my book, Postpartum 30, and this is the duration of postpartum that I apply when I talk to my clients and when I talk to people about postpartum.

Realistically, it does take up to a year at the very least, just because of everything you've got to go through and to adjust and optimize your social and mental well-being as you adjust to having a new baby. And the good thing is, even within the OB-GYN community, there are talks about redefining the postpartum period as up to one year after giving birth.

But until they do that officially, the doctors are going to stick to six to eight weeks, and a lot of business providers are going to stick to the fourth trimester and postpartum year. I'll leave that up to you, but I'm going to take that into my own practice with my clients and for myself.

Now when it comes to the two new terms that I want to talk about, the first one is postpartum recovery month. This ties in nicely with my book, Postpartum 30, and I'm also using the same name as a framework for postpartum recovery because it is based on the Chinese postpartum confinement practice, which is in modern days usually about 30 to 40 days. And this practice, some of you may have heard the name, is called Zuo Yue Zi or sitting the month, and for a lot of Malaysians whose language is primarily English these days, we refer to this practice as confinement because moms are generally confined to the home with their newborn for up to 30 days.

Now why did I pick 30 days? Plainly because it just makes sense with the calendar month. It just makes sense with our lives and this modern world with the way our paternity and maternity leave are being given out to us. And 30 days, sometimes it's just what you can afford to have, especially for those of you in the states who scrounge up all the leave that you can to recover from giving birth.

So the good thing about the postpartum recovery month is it really defines that period as rest and recovery for mom. And what I like about that is it sits nicely in whatever term you want to use for the postpartum period, six to eight weeks, or fourth trimester or postpartum year, whatever it is, the first 30 days after your gift birth.

Focus on rest and recovery for mom. The second term that I want to talk about is Matrescence. Now, Matrescence as a word in itself is not new. It's been around for decades. And it has always been used to describe the process of becoming a mother because Matrescence, maternal, and it's akin to the word adolescence, which is the process of becoming an adult from a child to a teenager into an adult.

Now what's interesting about Matrescence is it's being used by the scientific community to describe a neurodevelopmental stage that women and females go through after giving birth to a child.

So just like adolescents and puberty, where it is a life-changing event for many of us, Matrescence is now being put forth as another life-changing event for someone who has gone through the process of childbirth. So mothers experience outer and inner physical changes and also behavior and brain changes as we transform and transition into becoming a mom.

So why is it important for us to know these terms and to keep developing these terms?

First, when it comes to the world of policy making, making changes to guidelines and updating the way a lot of professionals work, having a well-defined term is going to help a lot with advocating for better changes. So if we want better parental leave, we want better and more protected income for mothers and fathers during this tender time of recovery, then we'll absolutely want to continue the work of contributing more towards the knowledge of postpartum.

The second thing, using terms like postpartum recovery month, Matrescence, postpartum year, that's going to help with normalizing the need and importance of a rest and recovery period after giving birth. And also to remove this outdated view that maternity and paternity leave is a so-called vacation because now we know how much actually happens during this time is not a holiday at all.

And for those of us who've gone through this many times, and for those of you who've gone through this decades ago, you know, this is no holiday. So it's absolutely a viewpoint that we need to discard and one way to help do that is to start talking about them in all these terms and have the definitions in place.

Next, as we develop all these terms, it's really going to help my fellow clinicians and health providers to start adapting all these frameworks into their practice to fit their patients' needs. Because we all know that to wait for official guidelines to change is going to take ages. And a lot of guidelines change also because there's data.

So instead of just waiting for that to happen, well, why not? Let's start putting this into practice so we can provide them the data and tell them, "Hey, this is what works. This is the reality. Let's start changing the guidelines."

And finally, the best part about having more and better definitions about the postpartum period is that for you, my dear Mamas who are listening, it's for you to know that everything you've been feeling about your postpartum journey has always been valid despite what everyone else has been telling you, despite you've been made to feel like you're dramatic, crazy, paranoid, sensitive.

And for you to know that everything that you have been experiencing was actually Matrescence, and that all the chaos and joy that you felt was really part of the process of becoming a mother. That in itself is very comforting and for you, my dear Mamas who are just starting a postpartum journey or are still in it, know that you've got a lot more folks now like me and others in the postpartum field who are advocating for you. Who want the best for you, and most importantly, we believe you.

I hope you enjoyed this episode. Please leave a comment on YouTube or leave me a review on your favorite podcast platform. I really appreciate it. It's going to help me improve the next episodes.

So terima kasih banyak-banyak and thank you very much, and remember to download a free resource that I have for you, the three essential postpartum changes that no one really talks about and what to do about them.

Get it from the link in the description or in the show notes, and I will see you in the next episode.

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About the Author

Physician and Postpartum Wellness Consultant. Author of 'Postpartum 30'. International Speaker. Mother of 2 girls and U.S. military spouse.

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