The postpartum care period refers to the first six weeks after childbirth. This is a joyous time, but it’s also a period of adjustment and healing for mothers. During these weeks, you’ll bond with your baby and you’ll have a post-delivery checkup with your doctor.
Once you get home from the hospital you’ll be focused on caring for your new baby. Yet you can’t forget about another important person. You!
Your body will still have to recover from nine months of carrying around and nurturing a growing baby — not to mention the delivery. Make sure to look after yourself in the postpartum weeks, so you can recover more quickly and have enough energy to care for your baby.
How to take care of yourself?
You need to take good care of yourself to rebuild your strength. You will need plenty of rest, good nutrition, and help during the first few weeks.
Every new parent soon learns that babies have different time clocks than adults. A typical newborn wakes up about every 3 hours and needs to be fed, changed, and comforted. Especially if this is your first baby, you and your partner can become overwhelmed by exhaustion. You may not get a solid 8 hours of sleep for several months. Here are ideas to help you get more rest:
• In the first few weeks, you need to let someone else take care of all responsibilities other than feeding your baby and taking care of yourself.
• Sleep when the baby sleeps. This may be only a few minutes of rest several times a day, but these minutes can add up.
• Save steps and time. Have your baby’s bed near yours for feedings at night.
• It’s nice to have visits from friends and family, but don’t feel that you need to entertain guests. Feel free to excuse yourself for a nap or to feed your baby.
• Get outside for a few minutes each day. You can start walking and doing postpartum exercises, as advised by your healthcare provider.
Your body has undergone many changes during pregnancy and birth. You need time to recover. In addition to rest, you need to eat a healthy diet to help you do that.
The weight gained in pregnancy helps build stores for your recovery and for breastfeeding. After delivery, you need to eat a healthy and balanced diet so you can be active and able to care for your baby.
Most lactation experts recommend that you eat when you are hungry. But many mothers may be so tired or busy that food gets forgotten. So it is important to plan simple, healthy meals that include choices from all of the recommended groups.
5 food group categories:
• Grains. Foods that are made from wheat, rice, oats, cornmeal, barley, or another cereal grain are grain products. Examples include whole wheat, brown rice, and oatmeal.
• Vegetables. Vary your vegetables. Choose a variety of vegetables, including dark green, red, and orange vegetables, legumes (peas and beans), and starchy vegetables.
• Fruits. Any fruit or 100% fruit juice counts as part of the fruit group. Fruits may be fresh, canned, frozen, or dried, and may be whole, cut-up, or pureed.
• Dairy. Milk products and many foods made from milk are considered part of this food group. Focus on fat-free or low-fat products, as well as those that are high in calcium.
• Protein. Go lean on protein. Choose low-fat or lean meats and poultry. Vary your protein routine. Choose more fish, nuts, seeds, peas, and beans.
Oils are not a food group, but some oils such as nut oils have important nutrients. Include these in your diet. Others oils such as animal fats are solid. Don’t include these in your diet.
Most mothers want to lose their pregnancy weight, but extreme dieting and rapid weight loss can harm you and your baby if you are breastfeeding. It can take several months for you to lose the weight you gained during pregnancy. You can reach this goal by cutting out high-fat snacks. Focus on a diet with plenty of fresh vegetables and fruits, balanced with proteins and carbohydrates. Exercise also helps burn calories and tone muscles and limbs.
Along with balanced meals, you should drink more fluids if you are breastfeeding. You may find that you become very thirsty while the baby is nursing. Water and milk are good choices.
▪︎ Help for new partners
You and your partner probably will do fine on your own, but having someone else helping with the household responsibilities usually makes the adjustment to a new baby easier. You and your partner can focus on your needs and the needs of your baby, rather than on the laundry or dirty dishes.
Helpers can be family, friends, or a paid home care provider. A family member such as the new baby’s grandmother or aunt may be able to come for a few days or longer. Home care providers offer a variety of services. These include nursing care of the new mother and baby and housekeeping and care of other children.
Whoever you decide to have as helpers, make clear all the things you expect them to do. Communication is important in preventing hurt feelings or misunderstandings when emotions are fragile these first few weeks. Have your helpers take over chores such as cooking, cleaning, laundry, and grocery shopping. This will help you take care of yourself, and keep you from limiting time with your baby.
Some health issues that might be faced –
• Abdominal pain.
As your uterus shrinks back into its normal size and shape, you will feel pain in your abdomen (lower belly). These pains are called “afterpains.” Most of these pains will be dull, but some will be sharp. You may feel more of these pains as you breastfeed your baby during postpartum care. That is because breastfeeding stimulates a chemical in your body that causes the uterus to contract (tighten). For many women, applying heat to the area helps control the pain. Consider using a heating pad or hot water bottle. Your abdominal pain should ease up over time.
• Baby blues.
You are so excited and happy to bring baby home. The next minute, though, you are sad. It can be confusing, especially to new moms during postpartum care. Know that many women (70-80%) struggle with feeling sad the first few weeks after having a baby.
It is commonly called the “baby blues” and is caused by hormone changes. It is nothing to be ashamed of. In fact, confiding in a friend of family member can often make you feel better. If these feelings last more than a few weeks or you are not able to function because of them, you could have postpartum depression. Postpartum depression is more serious than baby blues.
It is very common to be constipated in the days following childbirth. There are several things that could cause this.
▪︎ If you received any pain-relieving drugs in the hospital, they could slow down your bowels. If you had anesthesia (a pain blocker) for any reason, that also can cause it.
▪︎ Sometimes, postpartum constipation is brought on simply by fear. This is true especially if you have stitches because you had an episiotomy (a surgical cut between the vagina and anus to widen the vaginal opening for childbirth) or tore this area during delivery. You may be afraid of damaging the stitches or be afraid that a bowel movement will cause even more pain in that area.
To help ease constipation, drink plenty of water and try to eat foods that offer a lot of fiber during postpartum care.
You may have developed hemorrhoids (painful swelling of a vein in the rectum) during your pregnancy. If not, you may have gotten them from the strain and pushing during delivery. They can cause pain and bleed after a bowel movement. They also itch. You can get some relief from the pain and itching by applying witch hazel to your hemorrhoids. This is especially effective if you keep the witch hazel in the refrigerator. Your hemorrhoids should shrink over time during postpartum care.
• Hormonal shifts.
Besides fueling your mood swings (see “Baby blues,” above), hormones are also responsible for other postpartum symptoms. You may be sweating more, especially at night when you sleep. Just make sure that your sweating is not accompanied by a fever. That could be a sign of infection. Hormonal changes also cause hair loss for many new moms. This is only temporary. When your estrogen levels increase, your hair will return to its normal thickness.
• Perineum soreness.
The perineum is the area between your vagina and anus. Many times, this area will tear during childbirth. Other times, your doctor may have to make a small cut in this area to widen your vagina for childbirth. Even if neither of these things happened during your vaginal birth, your perineum will be sore and possibly swollen postpartum. You may feel discomfort in this area for several weeks. While you recover, sitting on an icepack several times a day for 10 minutes will help relieve the pain. This is especially good to do after going to the bathroom. During the first week postpartum, also use a squirt bottle to rinse the perineum with warm water after using the toilet.
• Sore nipples and breasts.
The first few days of breastfeeding, it is normal for women to have sore nipples and breasts.
If the soreness continues beyond a few days, it could be that the baby isn’t latching correctly. Try changing positions or consult a lactation expert (breastfeeding expert) for help. Do this before your nipples develop painful cracks, which could sideline your breastfeeding.
If you have stitches due to a torn or cut perineum (see “Perineum soreness,” above), it will take 7-10 days to heal. The stitches will absorb over time. It is important that you keep the stitches from getting infected by gently cleaning them with warm water after each time you use the toilet. Do this by using a squirt bottle to rinse the area and pat it dry. Do not wipe the area with toilet paper or you could irritate the stitched area.
If you have stitches from a cesarean birth (C-section), these heal in varying degrees. The stitches in the skin should heal in 5-10 days. The underlying stitches in your muscle layer will take longer to heal. These won’t completely heal for 12 weeks. For the stitches that you can see, make sure to watch for any signs of infection. These signs include if the incision area is red, swollen, or weeping pus; or if you have a fever.
• Vaginal bleeding and discharge.
After giving birth, it is common that you will have vaginal bleeding and discharge (this is called lochia), even if you had a C-section. This is your body’s way of eliminating the extra blood and tissue that was used to grow and nourish your baby. Expect for this to be heavier at first (up to 10 days), but then taper off. Light bleeding and spotting can last up to six weeks after delivery in postpartum care. It is important that you use only sanitary pads during this time.
• Water retention.
You may be eager for that swelling you noticed during your pregnancy to go away. It won’t, though, for a while longer during postpartum care. Also known as postpartum edema (swelling), your body will continue to hold on to water because of an increase in a hormone called progesterone.
You may notice the swelling in your hands, legs, and feet. It shouldn’t last much longer than a week after delivery.
When to see a doctor?
When you are in postpartum care (recovering from delivery), it is best to err on the side of caution if you feel that something is not right with you or with the baby. You should expect to have some discomfort as you heal. You should not begin to feel worse.
In general, if you have any of these postpartum symptoms, call your doctor.
• Heavy vaginal bleeding that soaks more than one pad per hour or vaginal bleeding that increases each day instead of decreasing.
• Passing large clots (bigger than a quarter).
• Chills and/or a fever of more than 100.4°F.
• Fainting or dizziness.
• Changes to your vision or a severe headache (persistent).
• Painful urination or difficulty urinating.
• Vaginal discharge with a strong odor.
• Heart palpitations, chest pain or difficulty breathing.
• Incision from C-section or episiotomy is red, weepy (with pus), or swollen.
• Abdominal (lower belly) pain that is getting worse or new abdominal pain.
• Sore breasts that are red or feel hot to the touch.
• Pain in your legs with redness or swelling.
• Increase in swelling.
For more informative articles on pregnancy related issues and other health related problems, please visit our website www.santripty.com and also feel free to consult.