After about 40 or so weeks of carrying a pregnancy to term, you now have your baby. You are happy as you can be, but your body will not be yet ready to let you join in the celebration. This is the “postpartum period“. The period immediately after delivering the baby when your body resets to its default settings. Generally, the postpartum period spans between 6 to 8 weeks with three distinct phases. During this time, your body will undergo several changes, both physically and emotionally. You will also start to adapt to the concept of motherhood if it is your first child.
Postpartum will also see you undergo mental development as you and your partner learn how to take care of a young child properly.
As you adjust to your new-found station in life, you will be required to be careful, patient, and accommodating. You will also question your rationale and capabilities as a new mother. You might even forget to take care of yourself as you struggle to make life as comfortable as possible for your newborn baby. But worry not; it does not have to be all gloom and doom. This guide will bestow you with useful tips and things to consider so that your postpartum period is as smooth as your baby’s bum.
Some Sad Facts
The World Health Organization (WHO) has identified the days and weeks after childbirth as the most critical in both the mother and child’s health. A fact detail on maternal mortality collected by the WHO suggests that the majority of maternal and infant deaths occur within the first month of delivery. Of these, more than half happen during the first week. Even more concerning is that, in 2013, the year that the research was conducted, nearly 3 million infants died within the first four weeks of childbirth.
Another sad fact is that the same year 1 million lost their lives on the first day of childbirth. It is sad, indeed. The sole purpose of pulling out these statistics is to underscore how crucial the postpartum period is. To show further what the consequences of a reckless postpartum period would be. That being said, how then can new mothers take care of themselves and their new-born children?
How Long Does It Take to Recover After Giving Birth?
Pregnancy will take a toll on your body. It does not matter that you had an easy time during your pregnancy or that you delivered perfectly without complication. The female body is considerably altered during gestation due to the secretion of different hormones and of course housing a life inside for around nine months.
Delivery and pregnancy, in general, cause the body to stretch and be stressed out. Inevitably, the first six weeks after pregnancy will be a recovery period. Different women recover at different rates. While some have an accelerated recovery of three weeks others can straight-up run the whole marathon of up to nine weeks. Even so, some symptoms will recur even after the stipulated for 6 weeks. Moreover, these symptoms too will vary from one mother to the next.
The most common of these include backaches, nausea, pain in the perineum, and sore nipple. These will fade in a week’s time. Other postpartum symptoms like leaking breasts will take a little longer to go away. The newborn mothers should also be on the lookout for vaginal bleeding after they give birth. Normally, it is no cause for alarm. Vaginal bleeding or lochia manifests as a heavy period with residual tissue, mucus, and blood from the uterus.
Women will experience a heavy flow in the first 3 to 10 days, which will slowly decrease and finally cease. However, chunks of collated blood i.e., clot and unusually prolonged flows, should be given immediate attention by the doctor. Mothers are advised to abstain from the use of tampons but instead use sanitary pads during this period.
Vaginal births inflict great pain in the female genitalia as well as the perineum (that tiny piece of flesh between your vagina and anus). It is so painful that it is common for most women to pass stool during delivery. This pain leaves a residual soreness in the vagina while the stress of delivery may cause the perineum to tear (episiotomy). Recovery in this instance will take about three weeks if there is no tear or otherwise six weeks or more.
Patients who underwent Caesarean section or C-section births need even more time to recover. Apart from the first four or so days spent in the hospital, recovery may take around four to six weeks. Some of these patients might also experience perineal pains and backaches. In light of the above, it is wise for a newborn mother to dedicate at least six weeks postpartum to recovery. Otherwise, postpartum symptoms could end up being severe or in some events, fatal.
Postpartum Care Pro Tips for a Newborn Mother
It will be about six weeks before your body can feel like your own once again. Sometimes, the recovery process can be longer and that’s when the postpartum care is the most important. It might help to speed things up just a little bit. Here are some tips to help along with the healing process.
Take Care of Your Perineum
Pain in the perineum is quite uncomfortable, especially when it is torn. Sweat and urine will cause irritation to the open wound. It is, therefore, necessary to facilitate quick healing of the perineum.
One of the ways to do this is by icing the perineum every hour or so in the first 24 hours after childbirth. You can also douse some warm water over the skin before and after urinating. Better yet, taking a warm sitz bath for 20 minutes, three or four times a day will hasten the process of postpartum care and recovery.
Standing or sitting for too long can percolate sweat in the perineal region, which will lead to irritation. It is best to avoid extended periods of standing or sitting. It will also help to lie on your side rather than on your stomach or back.
Reduce General Soreness and Aches
A hot shower or heating pad easily remedy soreness and aches. However, aches that are a result of labor can be curbed using Acetaminophen. You can also go the extra mile and get a massage. New mothers often experience aches in their breasts. Wearing a comfortable nursing bra will or none at all, and applying lanolin cream are some of the best remedies to this problem.
Kegel exercises involve working with your vaginal muscles. These exercises can resolve postpartum incontinence, rejuvenate your vagina, and make coitus more enjoyable for both you and your partner. However, you should only attempt kegel exercises when you feel comfortable doing them. Do not strain. Three sets of 20 reps should help you along your journey to reclaim your body.
Attend to C-section scars
For those who went under the knife, you must clean the incision once a day using soap and water. After cleaning, douse down the area using a clean towel until it is dry and then apply an antibiotic ointment. Avoid any strenuous activities that may cause stress on the incision. Avoid lifting heavy boxes, climbing stairs, and heavy physical exercise to allow your abdominal section to relax.
After birth, your family and friends and their friends would want to see you and the baby. However, the first few weeks of postpartum are best used for mother-child bonding. Research suggests that skin to skin contact fosters the mother-child bond. Of course, this cannot be possible in the presence of guests. Furthermore, you require time to rest and recover. Hosting guests will only serve to interrupt the process.
Ask for Help
Single mothers should especially ask for help with meals, cleaning, and other household chores. You can also seek assistance when you feel like you need some time off baby duty.
First-time moms may feel like they are getting things wrong. While it is not bad to inquire, mothers can also try to be patient. For instance, breastfeeding might be difficult because of sore nipples and latching. This could lead to the mother’s frustration. Only patience can get you through these difficult times.
Have a Well-Rounded Nutritional Regiment
Ensure that your diet has the necessary nutritional needs for your body. It might also be wise to eat five small meals as opposed to three large ones to increase metabolic activity. Drink at least eight glasses of water and avoid alcohol and caffeine. If necessary, supplement your natural diet with vitamin supplements. Eating well will help in reducing stress, fatigue, and will also combat constipation. From routine wellness exams and pregnancy care, here are some important women health care services that you should be updated with from time to time.
Do not Forget Your Doctor’s Appointments
Checking in with the doctor on the appointed dates is key to recovery. For C-section patients, those stitches have to be removed. For other mothers, tell the doctor of all the tragedies that you have faced and asked whether you have a chance of surviving it.
Sync Your Sleeping Schedule With the Baby’s
There isn’t much to add here. When your baby sleeps, take a nap too. When it wakes up, you will be awoken too.
The Postpartum Recovery Checklist
What do you need during the postpartum care period? Here’s your handy checklist to make sure you are well equipped anytime you face some issues.
- Medicine/Ointments: Your drug cabinet should have Acetaminophen for perineal pain, lanolin cream for cracked nipples, lidocaine spray for postpartum hemorrhoids, and some pregnancy-safe stool softener.
- Wardrobe: Forget all your sexy underwear and get yourself some nice cotton “granny panties” and at least two nursing bras. At this point, comfort trumps vanity. You can also get a postpartum recovery belt to help your belly fall back into place.
- Bathroom/Bedroom: You can get yourself a sitz bathtub where you will sit and soak while the pain goes away. You can also get a squirt bottle for rinsing your perineum before and after going number one. For your bedroom, you can get a heating pad to ease your aches and sore body.
- Accessories: Your accessories should include all kinds of pads, maxi pads for vaginal bleeding, witch hazel pads to soften the blow of vaginal pain. Nursing pads for your incessantly leaking breasts, and finally, ice packs to take away all the pain everywhere.
Nutritional Tips After Postpartum
The greatest thing about being pregnant, apart from the baby, is that your body has a plan for you after birth. The extra weight gained during pregnancy is partly because of the food reserves made in contemplation of recovery and nursing. These reserves cannot sustain you let alone your new-born child. You will need to eat healthily and adequately to fortify and reinforce theses reserves.
Eating might be a problem because one postpartum symptom is the lack of appetite. It does not help that you are tired all the time too. Remember that you cannot live without food, and without food, you can also not breastfeed your child. To go around these problems, come up with a simple meal plan.
My Plate is a simple meal guideline prepared by the US Department of Health and Human Services to ensure that new mothers have proper nutrition. It is divided into five food groups;
- Grains essentially incorporate wheat, cornmeal, oats, rice, barley, and other cereals
- Dairy with a keen insistence on low-fat dairy products; and
- Lean Protein
Mothers are also advised to drink a lot of fluids because of breastfeeding. The top choices are water and milk. The cautionary statement is that extreme diet and rapid weight loss will do more harm than good. However, light exercise is recommended.
After an excruciating six weeks of soreness and backaches, your body begins to feel like it is yours once again. You begin to wonder whether you are well enough to take on your usual day-to-day. Maybe so. If you can check all the boxes in this guide, then you are truly on your way to a full recovery during postpartum care. You should be back on your feet soon. Motherhood is a new phase for every woman especially if it is her first time. However, it is important that before you begin this journey with your baby, take care of yourself first.