Postpartum Self Care Tips For New Mums

This article was written by Mrs Alochukwu faith a certified Nurse and Midwife practicing in Lagos, Nigeria. The article was later modified for the readers by the author.

After birth, the attention of the new parent and people around them will shift to the baby, the most unlikely person to receive care or attention is the new mum. This could lead to feeling overwhelmed or depressed about the new phase of life. If you are a first time parent (mum) or new parent, this article is a must read for you as it would better prepare you for what you should expect after delivery.

1. Vaginal soreness:

If you are given an episiotomy or had a vaginal tear during a vaginal delivery, the wound might hurt for a few weeks. An extensive tears might take longer to heal.
The following will help to ease discomfort while you are recovering:

1)Sit on a pillow or padded ring when the wound is sore.

2)Cool the wound with an ice pack.

3)Use a squeeze bottle to pour warm water on your perineum as you’re passing urine to reduce the pain that comes when urine touches the wound.

4)Sit in a warm sitz bath with salt just deep enough to cover your buttocks and hips for five to ten minutes.
Use cold water if you find it more soothing.

5)Take the prescribed pain reliever.

6)Use a stool softener or laxative to prevent constipation after delivery.

Contact your doctor if you are experiencing severe, persistent or increasing pain, which could be a sign of infection.

2. Vaginal discharge

After delivery, you will begin to shed the superficial mucous membrane that lined your uterus during pregnancy.
You will have vaginal discharge that consist of membrane and blood (lochia) for weeks.
This discharge will be red and heavy for the first few days. Then it will taper, become increasingly watery and change from pinkish brown to yellowish white.

Contact your doctor if you have heavy vaginal bleeding for example, soaking a pad in less than an hour especially if it is accompanied by pelvic pain, fever or uterine tenderness or if you have sudden heavy bleeding when the lochia is supposed to be stopping.

3. Contractions

You might feel occasional contractions, sometimes called after-pains, during the first few days after delivery.
These contractions which often resemble menstrual cramps help prevent excessive bleeding by compressing the blood vessels in the uterus.
After-pains are common during breast-feeding, due to the release of hormone oxytocin. You will be given a mild pain reliever for this.

4. Incontinence

Pregnancy, labor and a vaginal delivery can stretch or injure your pelvic floor muscles, which support the uterus, bladder, small intestine and rectum.
This might cause you to leak a few drops of urine while sneezing, laughing or coughing (stress incontinence). These problems usually improve within weeks but might persist long term.

Wear sanitary pads and do Kegel exercises to help tone your pelvic floor muscles.

5. Hemorrhoids and bowel movements

After vaginal delivery, you might notice pain during bowel movements and feel swelling near your anus caused by hemorrhoid.
Hemorrhoids are swollen veins in the anus or lower rectum. To help ease discomfort while the hemorrhoids heal:

. Apply hemorrhoid cream or suppository containing hydrocortisone.
. Soak your anal area in plain warm water for 10 to 15 minutes two to three times a day.

. If you find yourself avoiding bowel movements out of fear of hurting your perineum or aggravating the pain of hemorrhoids or your episiotomy wound, take steps to keep your stools soft and regular.
Eat foods high in fiber including fruits, vegetables and whole grains and drink plenty of water.
Use a stool softener or laxative in alternative.

6. Tender breasts

A few days after giving birth, your breasts might become full, firm and tender (engorgement). Frequent breast-feeding is recommended to avoid or minimize engorgement.
If your breasts including the dark circles of skin (areolae) around the nipples are engorged, your baby might have difficulty latching. To help your baby latch, you might manually express or use a breast pump to express a small amount of breast milk before feeding your baby.
To ease breast discomfort, apply warm washcloths or take a warm shower before breast-feeding or expressing, which might make milk removal easier.
Between feedings, place cold washcloths on your breasts.

You can also use mild pain relievers like paracetamol

If for any reason you’re not breast-feeding, wear a firm supportive bra, such as a sports bra. Don’t pump your breasts or express the milk, which will cause your breasts to produce more milk.

7. Hair loss and skin changes

During pregnancy, elevated hormone levels increase the ratio of growing hair to resting or shedding hair. The result is often an extra-lush head of hair but after delivery, it’s payback time. You may experience hair loss for up to five months.

Stretch marks won’t disappear after delivery, but eventually they’ll fade from red to silver. Expect any skin that darkened during pregnancy such as dark patches on your face (chloasma) to slowly fade as well.

8. Weight loss

After you give birth, it is normal that you might look like you’re still pregnant. Most women lose about 6 kg after birth,which includes the weight of the baby, placenta and amniotic fluid. Some days after delivery, you’ll lose additional weight from leftover fluids. After that, a healthy diet and regular exercise can help you gradually return to your pre-pregnancy weight.

9. Mood changes

Childbirth triggers a lot of powerful emotions. Many new moms experience a period of feeling down or anxious, sometimes called the baby blues. Symptoms includes mood swings, crying spells, anxiety and difficulty sleeping. The baby blues typically subside within two weeks. Make sure you take good care of yourself after delivery,share your feelings, and ask your partner, loved ones or friends for help.

If you experience severe mood swings, loss of appetite, overwhelming fatigue and lack of joy in life shortly after childbirth, you might have postpartum depression.
Contact your doctor immediately if you think you might be depressed, especially if your symptoms don’t fade on their own, you have trouble caring for your baby or completing daily tasks, or you have thoughts of harming yourself or your baby.

10. Nutrition

A mother’s body undergoes many changes during pregnancy, as well as during delivery. She will need to heal and recover from pregnancy and childbirth. She will need to maintain a healthy diet to promote healing and recovery.

The weight gained in pregnancy helps build stores for your recovery and for breastfeeding. After delivery, all mothers need to eat well so that they can be healthy and active and able to care for their baby.

Whether you breastfeed or formula feed your baby, you will need to eat a healthy and balanced diet. Most lactation experts recommend that breastfeeding mothers should eat when they are hungry. But many mothers may be so tired or busy that food gets forgotten. So, it is essential to plan simple and healthy meals that includes the following:

1)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.

2)Vegetables. Vary your vegetables. Choose a variety of vegetables, including dark green vegetables, legumes (peas and beans), and starchy vegetables.

3)Fruits. Any fruit or 100 percent 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.

4)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.

5)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.

11. Rest

Every new parent soon learns that babies have different time clocks than adults. A typical newborn awakens about every three hours and needs to be fed, changed, and comforted. Especially if this is your first baby, you can become overwhelmed by exhaustion.
Although a solid eight hours of sleep for you may not happen again for several months, the following suggestions may be helpful in finding ways to get more rest now.

1)In the first few weeks, a mother needs to be relieved of all responsibilities other than feeding the baby and taking care of herself. So please get someone to assist you during this period.

2)Sleep when the baby sleeps. This may be only a few minutes of rest several times a day, but these minutes can add up.

3)Save steps and time. Have your baby’s bed near yours for feedings at night.This will reduce the time it takes you to get to your baby when he needs your attention.

4)Many new parents enjoy visits from friends and family, but new mothers should not feel obligated to entertain. Feel free to excuse yourself for a nap or to feed your baby.

5)Get outside for a few minutes each day. You can begin walking and doing postpartum exercises, as advised by your doctor.

6)After the first two to three weeks, introduce a bottle to breastfed babies for an occasional nighttime feeding.Express the breastmilk and store in the fridge for night feeding. This way, someone else can feed the baby, and you can have a longer period of uninterrupted sleep.

12. Sex

After delivery, you will be advised to avoid sexual intercourse in the 4–6 weeks following vaginal or cesarean delivery. However, speak to your doctor before resuming sexual activity.

If you had a cesarean delivery, a perineal tear, or episiotomy during vaginal birth, your doctor will likely recommend that you should waits until the 6-week postpartum visit before resuming sexual activity.

Following childbirth, a woman’s body enters a healing phase when bleeding stops, tears heal, and the cervix closes. Having intercourse too early, especially within the first 2 weeks, increases the risk of postpartum hemorrhage or uterine infection.

Several factors determine whether someone is ready to resume sexual intercourse following the childbirth.These includes:

1)Pain levels
2)Fatigues/stress
3)Sex drive
4)Fear of sex or pregnancy
5)Vaginal dryness
6)Postpartum depression

What will sex feel like after giving birth?:

A recent pregnancy can change the physical experience of sex.

While some couples might be eager to have sex as soon as possible, intercourse can feel markedly different for the first few months after pregnancy.

Due to low levels of circulating estrogen during the postpartum period, many women experience vaginal dryness. This might continue past the typical 4-to-6-week timeframe for women who are breastfeeding.

Breastfeeding can also reduce a person’s sex drive. As well as reduced levels of circulating hormones, a perineal tear or episiotomy may make sex painful for several months following a childbirth.

Steps that can reduce painful sex, or dyspareunia, after pregnancy include:

1)Controlling the depth of penetration with varied sexual positions

2)Increasing vaginal lubrication by using a water based lubricant like ky jelly

3)Taking your pain medication before sex.

4)Emptying the bladder before sex.

5)Taking a warm bath before sex

Vaginal lubrication, creams or gels, may be useful in relieving the symptoms of vaginal dryness but when using barrier-method birth control like condom, choose a water-based lubricant to avoid weakening the latex.

Alternatively, oral or manual stimulation might be an option during the healing process.

Sex following childbirth may feel different due to reduced vaginal muscle tone and limited capacity for stretching. This is often temporary, however. different factors, such as genetics, the size of the baby, the number of previous births, and the use of Kegel exercises, can alter how the vagina feels postpartum.

Hormones can cause a variety of unusual and, at times, inconvenient symptoms. For example, during sexual intercourse, a woman’s breasts may leak milk following a hormonal response to orgasm. Try pumping before sex to reduce the occurrence of leaking breast milk.

13. Birth control after pregnancy

A reliable method of birth control following delivery is essential to prevent unintended pregnancy.

If you are interested in immediate contraception,you should consider barrier options, such as condoms, or progestin-only contraceptives, such as Depo-Provera or the mini-pill.

If you would prefer to use a copper T or intrauterine hormonal device or a fitted barrier method of contraception, such as a diaphragm or cervical cap (not commonly used now), you should discuss this options with the gynecologist.

If you want to use combination birth control methods containing both estrogen and progesterone, such as pills or a vaginal ring, you should also speak with the gynecologist to see if these options are right for you.

 

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