In a world where celebrities bounce back into their skinny jeans days after childbirth, The Post-Pregnancy Handbook deals with how normal people recover postpartum. Why is baby weight so hard to shift? What does post-natal depression feel like? How will having a baby affect your sex life? These and many of the other questions on the lips of new mums are answered here.

The book is co-written by Sylvia Brown, a mother of two who was struck by how little focus there is on the post-natal period in the Western world; and Mary Dowd Struck, Head Nurse at a Women and Infants Hospital in Rhode Island.

There are many excellent books on pregnancy on the market, but the mother’s part of the story in most of them stops at childbirth and the focus shifts to baby. This handbook is different because it keeps the focus on the mother, who often feels forgotten or subsumed into her child. The father’s role and feelings are not forgotten either, as the book explores why men react in different ways to fatherhood, and what this means for your relationship.

The handbook’s writers offer remedies from alternative medicines about the physical discomfort that women feel in the aftermath of childbirth. Bit most importantly, there is lots of common sense advice about what to expect when you have a baby.

Too often emotional difficulties women experience after childbirth are dismissed as ‘just hormones’, or they are only allowed to fall into two categories – you are either depressed or you’re not. But this handbook devotes a large section to the complex range of emotional responses women feel in the year or so following the birth.

It is refreshing too to see a pregnancy book that acknowledges that women who are mothers still enjoy sex, and that they might be a little nervous about how it will feel after giving birth. The subject is dealt with honestly and sensitively.

The questions about bodily functions new mothers might feel too embarrassed to ask their doctors or new mum friends are tackled head on including how long it takes for blood loss to settle after birth and how your bowel movements will be affected.

One small criticism of the handbook is that statistics are often bandied about to support various facts without referencing exactly where they came from. Given that the writers have carried out extensive questionnaires of hundreds of women whilst researching the book, and that there are acknowledgements of help from some impressively qualified professionals, it would have been interesting to see the science behind some of the claims.

Overall though, The Post-Pregnancy Handbook is an excellent present for a first time mum because it gives useful, realistic information without scaremongering. The book is empowering because it gives women knowledge about their own bodies, without putting pressure on them to behave in a certain way.

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