An important part of being prepared for a successful surrogacy pregnancy is being prepared for recovery. After you have delivered the precious baby for your intended family, you will need to recover. OB-GYN and Medical Officer of Women's Health for the Philadelphia Department of Health, Dr. Aasta Mehta is a proponent of The Fourth Trimester, the period of about 12 weeks after a woman gives birth. While there is no magical number of weeks a woman takes to recover from delivery, Dr. Mehta emphatically says 12 weeks is not enough in our interview The Importance of Fourth Trimester Care with Dr. Aasta Mehta.
Three Key Points For Surrogates Planning For Their Fourth Trimester
Dr. Mehta answered our questions about the importance of the fourth trimester on All Things Conceivable: A Surrogacy Podcast with Nazca Fontes.
1. Set The Stage For A Strong Fourth Trimester Recovery
"You're never going to be able to predict the hormonal imbalance and how that will impact your mental and physical health, but you should be as prepared as possible. Having a support network in place and having a postpartum plan, such as who's going to care for the baby at night or during the day if you need a mental health break, is helpful. There are postpartum plans you can find on Google and work with your doctor to decide on a feasible plan for you and your family. A lactation expert, mental health professionals, and pelvic floor physical therapy are just a few who can offer great support. Postpartum doulas can also be a really great support after delivery."
2. How Does A Surrogate’s Recovery Differ From Her Other Pregnancies?
"Some of the stresses of that postpartum fourth trimester do have to do with caring for a child and the emotional impact of that. But certainly, the physiology also lends itself to the surrogate. The difference in emotions and depression is physiological, regardless of not being the care-taker of the child after birth. So that’s something to understand and not feel like, wait, but I don't even have the baby, why am I depressed? That is a message that I want people to hear, because your hormones are completely changed after birth.
I think it is important to recognize that even though you were going into this birth experience knowing this was not your baby, that feeling of emptiness might still be there. Regardless of how prepared you are, that potentially could have an impact and having those supports in place to deal with those types of feelings is important. These feelings are normal and a surrogate should not feel embarrassed if she feels that way.
For everyone, not just surrogates, complications can occur in that postpartum period that can lead to cardiovascular conditions like cardiomyopathy and embolism. These things can mimic normal changes in the postpartum period. Being really in tune with your body and what you are feeling and knowing what's normal and what's not can make the difference. It’s also helpful to have people around you looking out for you as well. I imagine in surrogacy, your family's not helping as much, because you don’t need help with a baby. But I think having those loved ones looking out for specific medical complications that could occur, can help."
3. What Do You Want Women To Know About The Fourth Trimester
"Don’t ignore your own health for the benefit of your baby, because you're only doing harm that way. There's no actual roadmap for what's the right way to recover after childbirth. It's whatever is the right way for you. There's no time frame on that. It's okay to feel like you are struggling and to know you can ask for help."
Steps you can take to educate yourself
Read other sources online
Educating yourself by Googling “how to become a surrogate” isn’t enough. If you really want to understand the surrogacy process, you need to surround yourself with a variety of resources available online. FamilyEquality is a resource for parenthood of all kinds. ASRM, or the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, provides facts and news on all things reproduction. The more you know about the decision you make, the less anxious and uncertain you’ll feel.
Consult your doctor
Make important medical decision by first consulting your doctor. Dr. Heather Carlson of Mankato Clinic in Minnesota broke down some surrogacy myths that may be on your mind in our All Things Conceivable: A Surrogacy Podcast Busting Surrogacy Myths with Dr. Heather Carlson. You can listen to her full podcast breaking down the facts of surrogacy here.
Now is also a great time to begin planning for prenatal care.
Talk to your friends and family
Even though surrogacy is your choice, having the support of your friends and family is extremely important. Understand that for many people, surrogacy is still an unfamiliar practice, so be patient. Your husband may have questions.
We have a great blog from a surrogate husband’s perspective My Wife Is A Surrogate and resources here about the men behind surrogacy that can help you start the conversation. For explaining surrogacy to your children, The Kangaroo Pouch written by Dianne Whitfield is a fantastic book.
Maintain a balanced and healthy diet
A surrogacy pregnancy is, in some sense, like any other traditional pregnancy: it requires you to look after your body and it's never too soon to start those habits. To start, Healthy Lifestyle Diet Suggestions For Surrogate Mothers is a good resource.
Remove sources of stress
Finally, as a surrogate mother, you have the responsibility to create a relaxed and stress-free environment for the child you are carrying. In fact, research shows that stress affects the child’s brain development, so this is a great opportunity to think creatively about about how to lessen stressors in your life. Surrogacy can be a beautiful journey, however, for many first-time surrogates, the uncertainty of the process is a usual source of concern. ConceiveAbilities is here to ensure you are fully informed and have a roadmap for success.
Learn more about how to become a surrogate and the All-In Surrogate Care and Compensation Program that includes a wide range of support, monthly care packages and fourth trimester care for full recovery after you deliver so that you are stronger than ever.