Although many companies—from Facebook to Nike—have recently announced that they're expanding their paid family leave policies, the fact of the matter is that there's no such thing as guaranteed paid time off for women who've just given birth. Thanks to a federal parental leave law (called the Family and Medical Leave Act, or FMLA), women who work for companies that employ 50 or more people within a 75-mile radius of the workplace and have been employed for at least one year, and work at least 25 hours a week, can take up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave in any 12-month period for the birth of their baby. But that obviously doesn't cover it for every mom, especially those whose families depend on their paycheck.
The negative effect of this problem was highlighted by a 2015 study that found nearly one-quarter of employed mothers returned to work within two weeks of giving birth. Here's the thing: Doctors recommend at least six weeks of recovery time for new moms. And a viral photo, shared originally on March 15, explains why.
Laura Fry is a mom and birth advocate who runs the Facebook page Labor of Love. She's also the mastermind behind this image, which simply uses a paper plate and a tape measure to show the size of the wound that’s left by your placenta after giving birth.
"22cm or 8.6 inches," Fry wrote alongside the image. "That is the exact diameter of a paper plate, AKA the fine china in our house. It is also the average diameter of a placenta. After a baby is born, mothers are told to take it easy for at least 4-6 weeks. There are good reasons for that! One of those reasons is that after the baby is born, mothers are left with a wound on the inside of their uterus where the placenta was attached. That wound will take at least 4-6 weeks to completely heal."
She elaborated that moms run the risk of triggering complications if they don't take the time they need to recoup. "During that time, they are still susceptible to infection and hemorrhaging," Fry shares. "Even if they have a complication-free vaginal delivery and feel okay, they will still need to take care of themselves and not overdo it for those first several weeks postpartum. To those mothers, rest! To their husbands, partners, parents, in-laws, friends - let them rest! Help out as much as you can and don’t let them overdo it! As the saying goes "one week in bed, one week around the bed, and 2 weeks around the house."
She later added the following disclaimer: "I am not a medical professional. This is only meant to be common sense advice to take it easy. I do not mean for women to lay around for 4 weeks not moving at all. Listen to your body and take care of yourself! Talk to your doctor or midwife if you have any questions."
The message is one that resonated with moms far and wide, as the post wracked up nearly 15K shares.
Some moms chimed in stating that it is important to move around after childbirth, especially if you've had a C-section, as blood clots could be of concern. In response, Fry noted, "My point was to say that women should use common sense about what resting means. I did not mean that women should be completely immobile for 1, 2, or 4 weeks. You can rest and spend the majority of your time in bed (or a couch or whatever) without being completely still and causing a blood clot. You can still get up to use the bathroom, get up to eat, go for a short walk, etc. while still spending the majority of the time resting and not doing housework, etc. A strong support system and lots of help from your partner, family, and friends is key."
Fry's statement only serves to reiterate how important it is to work closely with your doctor, partner, loved ones, and employer to come up with and enact the best postpartum recovery game plan for you. Though striking the balance between active recovery and rest is no doubt challenging, it's sure to serve new moms best in the long-run.