The postpartum period is the first six weeks after giving birth to a child. It is an extremely pleasant time, but it is also a healing time for mothers. While your baby may be your priority, postpartum care is equally important. Pregnancy changes your body, and it continues even after giving birth.
Here are some changes you can expect and how to manage them.
Some Common Health Problems and Their Solution
You will notice vaginal discharge after delivery, which is due to the detaching of the superficial mucus membrane that covered the uterus during pregnancy. So, it is normal to get mucus discharge with blood.
Initially, this discharge is red and heavy, which later becomes watery. The color changes from red to pinkish to yellow-white.
- Use sanitary pads till the discharge stops completely.
- Visit your doctor in case of fever and pelvic pain.
The perineum is the area between the rectum and vagina. It stretches during labor and vaginal delivery. It may even tear.
This area is sore after vaginal delivery, especially in case of an episiotomy (a cut made at the initial part of the vagina to deliver the baby)
- Kegel exercises: It helps to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles. Here you need to tighten the pelvic floor muscles. To identify these muscles, hold urination. You have to squeeze these muscles for 10 seconds and then release. You can try it in a set of 10, three times a day.
- A warm bath: Soak yourself in a warm water bath.
- Do-nut shaped cushion: You can use a soft pillow or a donut-shaped cushion.
- Cold pack: You can also use a cold pack on your perineum. You can use ice in a towel instead of a cold pack.
- Pain medication: Your doctor may prescribe pain medication if required.
Of note, you should wipe from front to back after using the washroom. This will prevent infection while the episiotomy heals.
Vaginal delivery, pregnancy, and labor can injure or stretch your pelvic floor muscles. These muscles support your bladder, uterus, and rectum. The weakness of these muscles might cause a few drops of urine to leak while laughing, sneezing, or coughing.
- Use sanitary pads
- Kegel exercise to strengthen your pelvic floor muscle (described above)
The condition is characterized by swollen veins in the lower rectum or anus. These veins may cause swelling near anus and pain during a bowel movement.
- Apply a suppository with hydrocortisone or over-the-counter hemorrhoid cream.
- Soak your anal region in warm water for 10-15 minutes, 2-3 times in a day.
- Use pads with a numbing agent or witch hazel.
If you avoid bowel movements due to fear of the pain of episiotomy wound or hemorrhoids, you can take a stool softener to keep bowels regular and prevent pain.
You can also include a fiber-rich diet, including vegetables, fruits, and whole grains. Also, drink enough water and keep yourself hydrated.
You may notice occasional contractions, which are known as after pains. They are usually experienced during the first few days of delivery.
After pains resemble menstrual cramps and aid in preventing excess bleeding by constricting blood vessels of the uterus.
They are also caused a shrinking of the uterus to the original size. Immediately, after delivery, the uterus weighs two and a half pounds, while it weighs only two ounces, six weeks after delivery.
Besides, you may notice after pain during breastfeeding, which is because of the release of the hormone oxytocin.
Your doctor might suggest an over-the-counter pain reliever.
Skin and Hair Changes
You may have noticed faster growth of hair during pregnancy. The hormonal surge during pregnancy causes the hair to grow faster than it falls. This results in an extra-lush of hair on your head.
But after delivery, you will lose more hair for up to five months.
You may even notice stretch marks, which are red initially and later fade to silver. You might also notice some skin changes, such as dark patches on your skin. But the good news is that it also fades gradually.
No management is needed as it will return to its previous state gradually.
After delivery, your breasts fill with milk, resulting in swelling and tenderness. They feel sore and tender to touch. However, this discomfort goes away once you start breastfeeding. Proper Postpartum care is also necessary during the period of breastfeeding baby.
If you are not breastfeeding, the pain may persist until the breasts stop making milk, which is usually within a few days.
- Frequent breastfeeding on both breasts will help to avoid to minimize the breast tenderness.
- Wear a sports bra if you are not breastfeeding.
- Do not pump milk if you are not planning to breastfeed as it triggers your breast to produce more milk.
- In case your baby is having difficulty in latching, you may use a pump or hand to express a small amount of milk before feeding your baby.
- Try a warm shower or using warm wash clothes over the breast before feeding.
- In between feeding, you can use a cold cloth over your breasts.
- You can also use over-the-counter pain relievers.
If you are breastfeeding, you may experience nipple pain, especially if they are cracked. Postpartum care is needed to mothers in these case.
- You can massage some milk on your nipples after breastfeeding.
- Consult your doctor or a lactation consultant to understand whether your baby is latching properly.
- You can also ask your doctor for some cream to apply to your nipples.
Changes after a C-section and how to Manage Them
In C-section, the baby is born through an incision made on your belly and the uterus. As it is major surgery, it might take a long time for you to recover.
Besides, you lose blood during surgery, making you feel tired. The incision may also be sore.
- Consult your doctor for pain-relieving medication.
- Take the help of friends and family to take care of the baby.
- You need to rest. So, sleep when your baby sleeps.
- Do not lift anything heavy.
- Do not lift in a squatting position.
- Take enough water and keep yourself hydrated.
- Support your abdomen with cushions while feeding your baby.
Delivery may cause various powerful emotions. It is common for new moms to experience a feeling of being anxious or feeling down, known as postpartum or baby blues.
- Crying spells
- Difficulty in sleeping
- Mood swings
The symptoms usually subside by two weeks. Meanwhile, take care of yourself. You can take the help of loved ones or partner for help.
You may be having postpartum depression in case you experience:
- Loss of appetite
- Severe mood swings
- Lack of joy
- Overwhelming fatigue
If the symptoms do not subside gradually, you should consult your doctor. This is even more important if you feel like harming yourself or your baby.
You may have noticed swelling due to water retention during pregnancy. This may also persist after delivery and is known as postpartum edema.
Your body continues to retain water due to the hormone progesterone, resulting in legs, hands, and feet.
It will gradually get back to normal after a week. In case it gets worse or does not resolve, you should consult your doctor.
How to Lose Your Baby Weight – Postpartum Care?
The weight you gain during pregnancy helps to recover after delivery and breastfeeding. You need a balanced diet and physical activity to lose your baby weight while taking care of your baby.
Your lactation expert may have told you to eat while you feed your baby. However, if you are too busy or tired, you may forget to do it.
So it is important to take food from five categories:
- Vegetables: Include a variety of vegetables in your meal, including red, green, and orange vegetables. You should also include starchy vegetables and legumes, such as beans and peas.
- Fruits: You can include any fruit or 100% fruit juice. The fruits can be fresh, frozen, canned, cut-up, whole, or pureed.
- Grains: Food items made up of oats, wheat, rice, barley, or cornmeal can be included in this food type. Some examples include brown rice, whole wheat, and oatmeal.
- Protein: Include lean protein. Include lean or low-fat poultry or meats. Also, add nuts, peas, seed, beans, and fish in your diet.
- Dairy: Milk and milk-items are included in this category. Try and include low-fat or fat-free products. Further, also include food items rich in calcium.
You should avoid the following:
- Avoid crash diets.
- Do not include refined carbs, such as bread, pasta, pastries, white rice, sodas, or breakfast cereals in your diet.
- Prevent the intake of sugary foods, such as sweet spreads and sodas.
- Do not consume processed food items such as cookies, candies, chips, and baked goods.
- Avoid the intake of alcohol.
Having adequate water is crucial to losing weight.
It is seen that overweight women, who drank even one more liter of water in a day, lost an additional 4.4 pounds in a year.
Besides, having half a liter of water aids in burning 24%-30% more calories in the coming hour. Drinking water can also lower your calorie intake and appetite.
Drinking water is even more important for a lactating woman. It aids in replacing fluids lost from her body through milk production.
So, aim to have at least 1 – 2 liters of water on a day to keep you hydrated and also to lose weight.
You can do mainly two types of exercises:
Aerobic exercises, such as walking, running, jogging, cycling, and interval training, aids in burning calories, and have multiple health benefits.
Exercise alone may not help lose weight. It should be combined with diet and adequate
It is seen that the amount of aerobic exercise, and not the intensity, is important for heart health and fat loss.
So, even a walk for a few minutes can help you to improve your health and weight.
However, after delivery, your stomach and pelvic areas need time to heal. This is even more important if you have undergone a C-section.
While you will be able to do some gentle pelvic exercises, you may need time to start intense exercises until it is safe, and the body heals completely.
In this type of exercise, you move your limbs against the resistance caused by your body weight or dumbbells and bands.
Resistance training exercises aids in retaining muscle mass while losing weight. They also improve your heart health.
It is seen that women who did resistance training had less muscle loss and bone mineral density loss compared to women who did not exercise.
Some tips to lose weight with postpartum care:
- The first thing is to be realistic about weight loss goals while doing postpartum care. It is seen that women generally lose 4.5 – 5 over one or two years. If you gained more weight, expect more time to lose it.
- Breastfeed, if possible.
- Track your calorie intake.
- Consume fiber-rich food items, such as fruits, vegetables, legumes, and pulses.
- Include healthy snacks such as yogurt, fruits, and nuts.
- Get adequate sleep.
The first six months after delivering your bundle of joy could be exciting as well as tiring. Multiple changes are happening in your body, but with adequate management and postpartum care, it will be easier to manage those problems. In case you have doubts, or the problems do not subside on their own after postpartum care, do not hesitate to consult your doctor.
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