Do you have a postnatal plan?

As pregnant women, most, if not all of us, are aware of what a birth plan is and why we have one. Our midwives, antenatal classes and pregnancy books all encourage us to write one. They can help us feel empowered and grounded during a time of uncertainty.

However, we rarely hear about postnatal plans – and in my opinion, we should all be told to write one!

What is a postnatal plan?

Much like a birth plan, a postnatal plan is a plan for you and your birth partner. It can take many forms, but the idea is that it becomes a plan of support for you during the fourth trimester. It can include whatever you want, and could focus on both physical and mental support you might need.

Why do I need a postnatal plan?

Much like birth, the postnatal period can be unpredictable, especially if it is your first pregnancy. A Postnatal plan can help you to consider how you might feel and act after your birth and what support you might need.

After the birth of your baby you may feel different, vulnerable and uncertain. You may not feel yourself and you might struggle to communicate your needs to those closest to you. A postnatal plan will help you in the same way a birth plan does. It can become a tool to communicate your hopes and wishes to your birth partner and possibly your midwife and health visitor.

A postnatal plan is especially important if, like me, you have experienced any postnatal mental health problems or perinatal mental health problems during your pregnancy. You can never be sure how you will feel in the postnatal period, but having a plan in place that focuses on the mental health support you might need can act as a safety net and make you feel more secure. It has already made me feel a lot calmer and less worried about the possibility of developing postnatal depression.

For those who wish to focus more on the physical support they might need after pregnancy, a postnatal plan might include plans for cooking meals, plans for getting out of the house, childcare for other children etc.

How do I write my plan?

A postnatal plan is very personal to each mama, you can add whatever you want, in whatever format. It really is about you and what you want and how you want to feel after your birth. I have put together a loose framework below to help get you started with points that I consider important. But remember – this is your plan all about you, so add in whatever you want.

I use the term birth partner to refer to the person who will be your main support during and after your pregnancy.

My Postnatal Plan

1. Visitors

It’s helpful to have an idea of who you would like to visit you after you have had the baby. And it’s important that you discuss this with your birth partner so that they can act as ‘Gatekeeper’ to your home. Try breaking this down by thinking of who you would like to visit you in the first 3 days, the first week, two weeks, month.

It’s also worth thinking about the type of visitors that you might like to see. There are usually two types of visitors; 1. The type that will help and support (they may come armed with a home cooked meal, spare nappies, and offer to make cups of tea or hold the baby whilst you shower) and 2. Those that come to just admire the baby, shower you with gifts and have a chat. Both types of visitors are lovely to receive but one type may be more welcome than the other at certain times.

Also bear in mind that you won’t know how you feel after you have given birth, so it’s perfectly okay to wait to schedule visitors until you know how you feel.

2. Nutrition

Maintaining healthy nutrition is going to really help you after you have had your baby. It will help your body to heal, it will help your mood, and provide you with energy when you are feeling drained. It might be difficult for you to make meals during the feeding, changing, rocking cycle of the early weeks. So ask yourself how you will be able to make sure you’re getting regular meals and snacks.

If possible, call upon your birth partner, friends and family to help make meals that can be stored in the freezer, or do some bulk cooking a few weeks before your due date and freeze. Even consider asking visitors to bring a dish with them when they visit you and the baby.

Healthy snacks will help to maintain your blood sugar levels. If this is your first baby you might not have experienced what it’s like to be trapped under a sleeping newborn. But when hunger strikes and you can’t move, a handy snack will be your saviour. Flap jacks, banana loaf, nuts, biscuits, fruit, cheese sticks. Again, prepping your fridge with healthy snacks or having a list of your faves to share with your birth partner is a good idea.

Water – hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. Get a large water bottle and try to keep it topped up and within arms reach. Especially if you are breastfeeding – it’s thirsty work!

3. Emotional support

The baby blues is extremely common, almost all women experience hormonal ups and downs after birth. Especially around day 3 when your milk comes in. If your birth partner is aware of this possibility and what you might need from them in terms of emotional support, it could help this time to pass as smoothly as possible.

Think about things that give you enjoyment and pleasure, write them down. Now think of a way that you might be able to incorporate these things during the postnatal period. You won’t be able to do everything, but small things like relaxing in a hot bath, chatting to a friend, painting your nails, those kinds of things will make you feel a little more human and bring you joy. The act of doing something completely enjoyable just for yourself will also make you feel more emotionally positive.

You may experience being more sensitive for a few days or weeks after your delivery. Again, this is normal, it’s your hormones. Communicating this to your birth partner is essential, you will need to be given some TLC, and handled with a bit more care and consideration.

If you are concerned about the possibility of developing a postnatal mental health issue, plan for this. Make a list of the people you would feel comfortable to reach out to, family, friends, GP, Midwife, Health Visitor.  Set a time limit for how long you are prepared to wait and see if the low mood or anxiety passes. As I mentioned above, the baby blues are common but it’s important to not mistake this feeling with the beginnings of a postnatal mental health problem. A two week limit is a good, safe ideal.

4. Physical support

No matter what type of delivery you have, you can almost guarantee that you will find it a bit painful to move around for a good few days or even weeks after. Consider what physical help you might need for the two – six weeks post baby.

If you have another child you might want to discuss with your birth partner who will be taking them to and from childcare. You might find you need additional help getting in or out of the bath, on and off the sofa, down the stairs, out of bed. Help lifting car seats and pushing buggies may also be worth considering.

All of these physical movements may seem easy but depending on your delivery may be difficult for a few days after birth.

Naps – one thing I can promise is that you will be awake in the middle of the night….a lot! Therefore cat naps during the day, if possible, are a great way to rejuvenate. Discuss with your birth partner how you might achieve this, maybe ask family to pop in for an hour or two regularly so that they can look after the baby whilst you catch up on some much needed rest.

If you have a cesarean the recovery period is longer and you need to be extra careful when it comes to physical movement. Even if you aren’t planning a cesarean, the unexpected can sometimes happen, so please have a look at the links below for recovery guidelines post cesarean.

NHS – Caesarean recovery

Tommys – recovering at home after a c-section

I hope this guide helps you to write your own postnatal plan, and that in doing so you feel calmer and more relaxed about how you will cope after the birth of your baby.

For more information on the postnatal period please check out the links below.

Helpful links and resources

Pregnancy and post birth wellbeing plan

NICE – first 24 hours after birth

NHS – you and your baby, postnatal period

Bristol Baby #filterfreemothering

Image credit: Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

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