Welcoming a new life into the world is an awe-inspiring experience that marks the beginning of a transformative journey. However, the postpartum period, often overlooked, is a critical phase where both physical and emotional changes unfold.
- Contractions after labor: The postpartum period includes uterine contractions as the body readjusts to its pre-pregnancy state. Called afterpains, these contractions, akin to menstrual cramps, are a natural part of the recovery process.
- Perineal care: Vaginal delivery requires careful perineal care. Sitz baths, gentle cleansing and the use of ice packs can help with postpartum swelling and discomfort.
- Lochia and hygiene: Postpartum bleeding, known as lochia, is a common occurrence as you shed the membrane that lined your uterus during pregnancy. Proper hygiene is critical to prevent infections.
Mothers who get a Cesarean section, or C-section, should follow specific recovery guidelines, including incision care, pain management and a gradual return to regular activities. If you choose to breastfeed, you also may need to adjust positions to avoid irritating your incision.
- The “baby blues”: Mood swings, irritability or weepiness within the initial two weeks, known as the “baby blues,” are common and are caused hormonal fluctuations after childbirth.
- Mood changes: Beyond the baby blues, feelings of sadness, crying and difficulty sleeping can continue as a result of hormonal changes or lack of sleep.
- Postpartum depression (PPD): Some women may experience prolonged and severe symptoms of depression once the baby blues are gone. It’s important to be open with your midwife or OB-GYN about how you’re feeling so they can provide you with the right resources to help you.
- Bonding and attachment: Building a strong emotional connection with the newborn is a gradual process. Patience and support from partners, family and friends help you to have a healthy bonding experience with your baby.
Breastfeeding and caring for your baby
While it’s a natural process, breastfeeding can pose challenges. Seeking guidance from lactation consultants and health care professionals can help you better understand the most comfortable way for you and your baby to breastfeed and is vital for addressing latching problems, engorgement and nipple pain.
Lactation consultants can also help with pumping and can provide guidance on developing a schedule, determining the best sizing for breast pump parts and answer any questions you may have.
If you choose or are unable to breastfeed, work with your child’s pediatrician to find the right formula. There are a lot of formulas on the market, many of which are developed to address intolerances and allergies your baby might have.
Some baby care basics, such as diapering, bathing and recognizing signs of illness, is new information for parents – sometimes even if you’ve had a baby before. Accessing reliable resources and attending parenting classes can help you find valuable knowledge and boost confidence.
Rest and self-care
While it might seem far-fetched to recommend to new parents that they get enough sleep after having a baby, it’s especially important for mom as she recovers from giving birth. Establishing a sleep routine and trying to get enough sleep when you are able to can have a major effect on your recovery.
Maintaining a well-balanced diet that includes plenty of fruits, vegetables and protein will help your body as it recovers. Staying hydrated also supports your body’s healing, and if you nurse or pump, plenty of water is vital to maintain milk supply and boost energy.
While the postpartum period is demanding, accepting help from loved ones can make a significant difference. Tasks such as babysitting, meal preparation, and household chores provide opportunities for self-care. We understand that not everyone may have this help available to them, but if you have friends or family who are willing to help out, take advantage of this, as it can make a big difference in your overall well-being during a period where rest is essential.
Don’t hesitate to reach out to your doctor
The postpartum period demands attention and understanding, encompassing both physical and emotional dimensions. With the right information, new mothers can confidently navigate this transformative journey. Open communication with your OB-GYN and primary care providers will help you heal from childbirth and allow you to care for your mental health as you embrace of challenges and joys of a fulfilling postpartum experience.