So, you’ve been taking care of yourself and the baby in your womb for the last nine months. There have been a lot of changes that your body has gone through—increased size and weight, sore breasts, fluid retention, stretch marks, and skin discoloration are just some of them. Now that you’ve delivered your baby, your body is supposed to go back to the way it was, although not completely. It usually takes 12 weeks or even more, depending on your health circumstances. This period right after delivering your baby is called the postpartum period.
There are many questions you have to ask yourself and discuss with your partner:
- Will you co-sleep with your baby?
- Will you go the traditional practice of confinement after giving birth?
- Will you need an extra help from a breast-pump equipment?
- How to prepare for recovery?
If you are a first-time mom, chances are you may only have the slightest idea of what it feels like after delivering to your baby. You might want to know more about what to expect, what to do, and what not to do right after giving birth. Thus, here is your ultimate guide—everything you need to know about the postpartum period.
If pregnancy has caused many changes in you, physically and emotionally, you should expect more changes as you give birth to your baby. Remember that you just did a remarkable job, and your body needs time to recover from the physical trauma it went through regardless if you delivered via C-section or vaginal delivery. This recovery won’t happen in just a few days. It takes weeks and can even take months for some mothers. Here are the things you need to do after giving birth.
The most basic thing you need to do to rebuild your strength is rest. However, you might be wondering just how you are going to do this when your baby needs to be fed about every 3 hours. By the looks of it, you are not going to get a solid 8 hours of sleep for a very long time. So here are some tips that can help you get more rest.
- Sleep whenever your baby is sleeping. It might be just for a few minutes to a few hours but these little naps can really add up.
- It doesn’t hurt to ask someone else to work on the other things that need to be taken care of around the house. You can ask your partner, a relative, or a friend to help you out on the household chores so you can focus on taking care of your newborn and yourself.
- Save your energy and place everything you and your baby need near your bed. Diapers, feeding bottles, and even your baby’s bed should be near yours so it is easier to reach especially at night.
- Visits from family and friends are very much welcome, but keep in mind that there is no need to entertain them. They should understand that you need all the rest that you can get.
- Outside walk and some postpartum exercises for a few minutes every day do a lot of wonders. Just make sure that you are not doing anything that is beyond what your doctor has advised.
You’ve been through a lot of changes—physical, hormonal, and even emotional for some. Make sure to eat healthier meals as these can also help to speed up your recovery. You will need all the nutrients you can get especially if you are breastfeeding. Make sure that you have these foods on your plate:
- Vegetables. Postpartum or not, we all know how important vegetables are in our meals. Try to vary your vegetables from leafy greens, red and orange, to legumes and starchy vegetables. These can help you get the balanced nutrition you need.
- Fruits. We all know that fruits contain plenty of vitamins that our body needs. It doesn’t matter if you are getting canned, frozen, pureed, dried, or fresh fruits.
- Meat. Meat is a good source of protein and make sure you also load up with it. While it is best to choose more fish, you can also vary your meat routine by choosing lean meat and poultry.
- Dairy. Milk and eggs are great source of calcium. If you want a much healthier option, you can opt for low-fat and even fat-free products.
Breastfeeding is a natural thing, and there’s a massive benefit that your baby can get from your breastmilk. Colostrum, which can only be found in the mother’s breastmilk boosts your baby’s immune system and helps fight a variety of infections. It also helps in preventing a variety of respiratory and digestive diseases. Breastmilk is easily an abundant source of antioxidants, immune properties, enzymes, and live antibodies that are easily absorbed by the baby’s young and fragile body.
Although you are not required to do so, breastfeeding should start within an hour of your baby’s birth. Your milk might take some time to come in (plus other breastfeeding struggles), but there is no need to worry as this happens with most women who just gave birth. However, it is worth mentioning to your doctor just to make sure that your baby has enough to eat.
While breastmilk is extremely beneficial for babies, you can also benefit from breastfeeding as a mom. Breastfeeding helps moms become emotionally healthy as it produces oxytocin and prolactin—the hormones that reduce stress and elevates positive mood. It also helps in strengthening the physical and emotional bond of the mom and the child as it encourages skin-to-skin contact, holding and stroking. Ultimately, breastfeeding provides calmness and overall wellness for the entire family, because a breastfed baby is definitely a healthy baby. This means that there are much less crying and incidents of childhood illnesses.
Delivering your baby could be one of the most exciting milestones you’ve had, although it can also come with some risks that’s hard to avoid. As your body heals from childbirth, it needs to rebuild its strength and start to recover to its shape before your pregnancy. Here are some of the risks you may encounter after childbirth, and keep in mind that the more you know about to expect, the more you can prepare yourself for them.
Postpartum infections can be detected in different parts of the body. While you might be preoccupied with your baby, it is also important to watch out for the signs of infections in your body. Whenever you feel any type of severe pain and discomfort, inform your doctor right away.
Here are some of the infections you might acquire:
- Endometritis. An infection of the upper genital tract, endometritis affects 1-3% of women who had vaginal delivery, while it affects 5-30% of those who delivered via the C-section. It can be a severe postpartum infection that may require hospitalization.
- Puerperal mastitis. This is defined as the regional infection of the breasts caused by the bacteria that lives on the skin or in the mouth of breastfeeding babies. While this infection can usually be treated with oral antibiotics, moms who are unresponsive to this course of treatment might be admitted to the hospital for IV antibiotics.
- Urinary tract infection. While this infection can be common to other people, UTIs during postpartum more serious, as it can lead to a halt in breastfeeding and even prolonged hospitalization if left untreated.
- Perineal infection. This infection in the perineal area may range form mild to complicated especially for moms with health-related issues like diabetes and hypertension. If you experience any discomfort in the perineal area, it is best to consult your doctor for immediate diagnosis and treatment.
Postpartum hemorrhage shouldn’t be taken lightly, as it is the third most common cause of death of mothers in childbirth. Postpartum hemorrhages are caused by the uterus that failed to contract properly after the placenta has been delivered, or by tears in the cervix, the uterus or vagina. If the bleeding occurs within two weeks after giving birth, then it is most likely due to a piece of placenta that has remained in the uterus which needs to be removed surgically.
Any form of excessive bleeding should be reported to your doctor immediately for timely diagnosis and treatment.
After childbirth, it is normal to experience vaginal discharge—this is essentially the superficial mucous membrane that lined your uterus while your baby was in your womb. Your vaginal discharge is made up of this membrane mixed with blood, and it would be red and heavy for the first few days. Its color intensity will gradually fade from pinkish brown to yellowish-white, as it becomes more and more watery.
While vaginal discharge is normal, you still need to monitor if the bleeding is heavier than how it should be. If you are soaking one pad in less than an hour, you need to consult with your health care provider especially if it comes along with fever, tenderness, and pelvic pain.
Pregnancy and childbirth can cause a lot of different emotions all at once—happiness, excitement, feeling overwhelmed, and even fear and anxiety. Most new moms experience what experts call “baby blues” right after giving birth. They experience mood swings and crying spells, feel anxious and sometimes have trouble sleeping. It is normal to feel all these things during the first two weeks after childbirth. If you are like this, and the feelings just don’t go away, you might be suffering from postpartum depression.
You may not know that you are suffering from postpartum depression. After all, it is okay to be tired after giving birth. Being sad and hopeless is a different story.
Signs and Symptoms
Experiencing postpartum depression does not mean you are flawed, or even weak. It is simply a complication of childbirth which can be treated. Here are some of the signs that you might be suffering from postpartum depression.
- Your “baby blues” just don’t go away. Again, feeling sad and anxious about your baby is normal for most new moms. Although, if it’s been several weeks that you’re feeling sad and hopeless, then it’s more than just the baby blues.
- The unpleasant feelings consume your thoughts. It is normal for new parents to be worried and anxious—you have almost no idea how to navigate parenthood. However, if your crying spells happen more frequently than it should, and you are extremely unhappy about the fact that you are now a parent, then it could be a sign of postpartum depression.
- You no longer enjoy the things you love. Granted, giving birth is stressful and tiring, along with taking care of your baby. But it is not enough reason to lose interest in things you used to enjoy. Are you still laughing when you watch your favorite romantic comedy film? Are you still being affectionate with your partner? Are you still enjoying the foods you love eating? If your answer is no, then it is best to discuss with your doctor about these changes.
- There’s a huge change in your sleeping pattern. Of course, it’s hard to catch up on sleep if you need to feed your baby every three hours, that’s understandable. However, if you still cannot sleep in between (e.g. you baby is taking a nap), like, you cannot sleep at all or you are sleeping all the time, it is another sign of postpartum depression.
- You think of harming yourself. Just like other people with severe depression, can have suicidal thoughts, or thinking about harming yourself and the baby. This is considered a severe case and an advanced sign of postpartum depression. Thoughts about suicide and self-harm means you’re in crisis and you need to contact your doctor immediately.
Treatment and recovery time depends on the severity of the depression and the personal needs of the patient. If you are experiencing this and you have other pre-existing conditions (e.g. underactive thyroid), your doctor might refer you to the appropriate specialist or mental health professional. Although normally, postpartum depression can be treated through psychotherapy and antidepressants.
Psychotherapy or discussing your concerns with a psychologist, psychiatrist, or other mental health professional is extremely helpful. Through therapy, you’d be able to find better ways how to handle your feelings and cope with them and respond to situations in a positive way. In many cases, family or relationship therapy can also help.
In other cases, your doctor might prescribe an antidepressant. Any medication you take will affect your breastmilk. While most anti-depressant, when affecting the breastmilk do not necessarily affect your baby, you still need to discuss with your doctor about the potential risks and advantages of medications especially since you still need to breastfeed your baby.
You may have a long road to recovery after giving birth. While taking care of your baby might be your priority, you also need to take care of yourself. The first six weeks after giving birth is crucial—it is basically your postpartum period. Here is a quick guide on what you should do and feel for up to six months after giving birth.
If you had a vaginal delivery in the hospital, you’ll most likely stay in there for a few days. Your vagina could hurt a lot depending on whether or not you tore and how much if you did. Perineal soreness and bleeding are normal—the blood should be bright red but the color will eventually fade just like what happens during your period.
If you had a delivery via C-section, it can be difficult to move, and your incision can be painful. You might also have a hard time to move in and out of your bed, but keep in mind that it is important that you keep on moving around, even a little bit, to avoid blood clots.
Bleeding should be tapering off by this time, and everything that’s hurting and painful during the first week would now be itchy. Your vagina, sutures, stitches from C-section are going to be itchy which should be taken as a good sign of healing. If you delivered via C-section, you’d still feel a little bit sore but it is easier to move around during this time. It is best to do a little bit of movement, maybe a quick outside walk in the morning for a few minutes.
Baby blues are still normal during this time, but if you’re having suicidal thoughts, it’s a different story and you need to call your doctor right away.
You should be able to do some exercising by this time, and sexual activity. The bleeding should have stopped by now. If the bleeding has stopped for days and it started again, it might be because the placenta scab is getting pushed off due to physical activities. Although, if the bleeding lasts for a long time, you need to ask your doctor about it.
Your mental health status should be going well, too. However, if you still have worries about it, it is best to bring them up with your doctor.
The hair fall that started after your delivery should stop by now. You should also be able to control your bladder now if it used to be a problem after giving birth. Your breastmilk might also be drying up depending on your work schedule, and your period may come back anytime (although it could still take a year).
At six months, your baby might be sleeping more and you must have gotten used to being a mom so your mental outlook should be positive. Otherwise, you need to speak with your doctor regarding any lingering worry about your mental health.
The postpartum period is just one of the many challenges brought by parenthood. It is exciting and at the same time worrying, especially if you just had your firstborn because you have no first-hand experience to navigate it. While you might feel more alone than ever on most days, remember that it’s okay to ask for help from anyone—your partner, your family and relatives, your friends, and even from the social workers. Being a parent is not an easy feat, and you will need all the help you can get to do it right.
Keep in mind as well, that while you take care of your baby, it is also important to take care of yourself. Listen to your body and if something is wrong, do not hesitate to call your doctor.