The postpartum 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.
Although it’s important to care for your baby, you also have to take care of yourself. Many times, as new mother, we get so engrossed in looking after our newborn, we neglect our own selves. Case in point was my daughter who bounced back from her casearean section 2 days after surgery, running around and caring for her baby so obsessively that she ended up with a post spinal headache that rendered her bedridden and in excruciating pain for the next 10 days. So ladies….listen when your doctor tells you to take it nice and slow, even if you feel fully recovered.
What should you do?
- Take plenty of rest– Pregnancy and delivery, whether through a caesarean or normal vaginal birth, is an extremely stressful event for the body. Your body needs time to recover. Try to get as much sleep as you can to cope with the fatigue and the erratic breast feeding schedules of your little one.
- Seek help– Asking your husband or other family members to pitch in with this new role is a good idea. You need the rest and all the help you can get to look after not just this baby, but also other children you may have.
- Eat healthy– A well balanced diet rich in dry fruits, milk, ghee, paneer, chicken and fresh fruits and vegetables is essential in your recovery process and also provides extra nutrition if you are breast feeding. Increased intake of fluids such as water, lime juice and fresh fruit juices is essential especially if you are nursing.
- Exercise– Start slow but start. Ask your gynaecologist how early after the birth of your baby you can start moving around. Start with routine chores around the house, or exercises that you can perform while lying in bed. Gradually increase the intensity of execise over the next 6 months until you can achieve pre-pregnancy levels.
A new baby brings forth many adjustments within the family as a unit. While most of your time and attention will be devoted to this little bundle of joy, try to take a few minutes a day for yourself and your spouse.
Your body undergoes changes in the post partum period. Knowing what these changes are and learning how to cope will enable you to effectively adjust to them. These include:
- Breast engorgement– Occurs immediately after delivery. Generally eases once the baby nurses but if it becomes intolerable, application of warm or cold compresses may help. Nursing the baby alternately on both breasts ensures adequate milk production on both sides and maintains similar breast size.
- Mood swings– Also called Post Partum Blues, these emotional changes include irritation, insomnia, sadness, inconsolable crying. While not all women experience these symptoms, around 60% do and they present anywhere between day 1 and 4 post delivery and last upto 2 weeks. Family support during this time is essential for the woman. If symptoms persist beyond 2 weeks, it is called Post partum depression and the patient may need to consult a doctor.
- Vaginal discharge– Copious amunts of blood stained vaginal discharge called lochia is common after delivery. This discharge lasts for a couple of weeks and then becomes white in colour.
- Constipation– Fluid retention in the post partum period may lead to constipation. Eating plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables and drinking fluids should remedy the situation.
- Weak pelvic floor muscles– If you have had a normal vaginal delivery, you may experience some symptoms like urinary incontinence, pain in the vaginal area and pain during intercourse due to the stretching of the vaginal and pelvic floor muscles during delivery. This is a temporary condition and is self limiting. No medication is needed for it.
Enjoy this new phase in your life, share your happiness with your family and indulge your baby. You are truly blessed to have this opportunity and you must make every effort to ensure that its a fulfilling experience for everyone- yourself included. Don’t feel guilty if you need a little time away from your baby everyday- to do your own stuff, to feel human.