Author: Ma. Theresa Hilario-Jimenez, M.D., FPPS
Photo by katemangostar from Freepik
Congratulations! You have successfully ended the first phase of your journey as a mother. The months of waiting have come to an end. But this is not the end, it is the beginning of a more challenging yet joyful phase of being a mom. You will discover a lot about yourself and your partner as you jointly embark on parenthood and see the day-to-day changes in your little bundle of joy.
Just like what you started when you first knew that you were pregnant, you must continue taking care of yourself and the baby you are now holding in your arms. As you go home with your precious child, you are faced with the realities of being a mother.
At the same time, you will start feeling the changes that accompany the postpartum period and must watch out for signals that will warn you of more serious conditions that need immediate attention. Remember, these signals are not to be ignored! Taking care of yourself is part of taking care of your new family.
Postpartum Changes You’ll Experience
Postpartum covers the first 6-8 weeks after you’ve given birth to your baby. This is a period where your body recovers to its pre-pregnancy state.1 Several normal changes occur during this period, these are
- uterine involution - where your uterus returns to its normal size.1 You will feel uterine contractions that start after childbirth.1 This can produce painful abdominal pain, which can last for 2-3 days after childbirth.2 Breastfeeding can likewise cause uterine contraction.2
- Postpartum vaginal discharge or lochia - which can last up to 4 weeks. In some women, this can last up to 6-8 weeks.1
- Weight loss- You lose about 6 kgs coming from your baby, amniotic fluid, and placenta, and another 2-7 kilograms for the lochia.1
As you adjust to the demands of motherhood, you must remember to continuously take care of yourself, to give the best care you can give to your child. Don’t push yourself too hard. You must give yourself time to heal and recover so you can meet the demands of caring for your child.
Here are some important things that you should remember to do and avoid to recover your strength.
Postpartum Care DOs
1. Rest and sleep. Resting/sleeping will help you relieve stress, recover and gain strength.4 Sleep when your child is asleep. This may be short naps consisting of only a few minutes of rest several times a day, but these minutes can add up.5
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2. Continue to take your prenatal vitamins every day.4 Iron and folic supplementation should be continued for 3 months. These supplements can help you maintain a balanced diet.3
Photo by Freepik from Freepik
3. Eat a healthy, well-balanced diet.2 Although most food types are allowed, it’s recommended to eat plenty of healthy foods after delivery. A great healthy diet can help you recover while providing enough nutrition for your kid. It is also recommended to avoid alcohol and caffeine during this time.4
4. Wash your hands.4 Handwashing remains to be the best way of removing germs and spreading infection. This will protect you and your child against potential infection.
5. Ask for help and support.4 Don’t be afraid or ashamed to ask for help. You will need all the support you can get while you adjust, heal, and recover.
6. Take a walk. Walking is a gentle way of exercising. Ask your obstetrician or healthcare provider when you can resume your exercise and how much exercise you should do.4
Postpartum Care DON’Ts
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Don’t miss your follow-up appointment with your obstetrician or healthcare provider, even if you don’t have any red flags or danger signs. They need to check on how you are recovering and address any concerns that you might have. Write down all your concerns and questions you have so that your healthcare provider can help you with your concerns and alleviate your anxieties.2-4
Wait until your first appointment with your obstetrician or healthcare provider before you have sexual intercourse. Your obstetrician can advise you as to the right time you can have sex after giving birth. Give yourself time to heal and recover.4
Avoid heavy lifting. You should avoid lifting anything heavier than your baby while you are recovering.4 This is true for those who had a C-section.
Limit visitors. Limiting the number of visitors will not only help you recover but can also prevent infections unintentionally brought by visitors. Don’t feel pressured to entertain guests.4-5
Do not douche or use tampons in the first few weeks after birth.4 Using pads is the safest way to catch blood and discharge.4
Limit climbing the stairs. During the first week after delivery, limit the number of times you go up and down the stairs to avoid stress or possible complications4
Postpartum Care Red flags to Watch Out For
There are life-threatening health problems that can happen during the postpartum period. It is important to be aware of these red flags so that you can seek help immediately.
Go to the hospital immediately if you experience any of these:
- Vaginal bleeding has increased2 or bleeding and soaking through more than one pad an hour or blood clots the size of an egg or bigger3 Seizures3
- Fast or difficulty in breathing2
- Fever and too weak to get out of bed2
- Severe headaches with blurred vision2
- Calf pain, redness or swelling; shortness of breath, or chest pain.2
Any of the above signs are life-threatening. When present, they can spell a life-or-death situation. They need to be attended to right away to avoid any serious morbidity or mortality.
Call your healthcare provider for any of these signs:
- Swollen, red, or tender breasts or nipples2
- Problems urinating, or leaking 2
- Increased pain or infection in the perineum2
- Infection on the area of the wound (redness, swelling, pain, or pus in the wound site)2 or incision that isn’t healing3 for those with cesarean section
- Smelly vaginal discharge2
- Severe depression or suicidal behavior (ideas, plan, or attempt)2
Although the signs are not immediate signs of a life-threatening situation, failure to have them checked by your obstetrician or healthcare provider can result in a life-and-death situation as well.
Remember to take note of the normal changes that will happen to you during the first few days after giving birth. Knowing them will lessen your anxiety as to what you might be feeling. The Dos and don’ts remind you of what you should do to heal and recover. Pay attention to what your body is telling you. Equally important to remember are the red flags that will tell you when you should seek immediate consult to avoid any serious or life-threatening conditions.
Being pregnant and giving birth is not easy. Having a child can be overwhelming. Because of this, it is important that you heal and recover from the demanding phase of labor and give birth, to an equally or more demanding phase of nurturing your child. You deserve more than a pat on the back for passing the initial phase of motherhood. But lots of love and support will make you go through the postpartum phase with less stress and more joy.
- Postpartum period, available at https://www.amboss.com/us/knowledge/Postpartum_period. Accessed on 15 October 2022.
- Relief of postpartum cramping after birth, available at https://www.cochrane.org/CD004908/PREG_relief-pain-caused-uterine-crampi.... Accessed on 15 October 2022
- Postnatal care of the mother and newborn, available at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK304191/. Accessed on 15 October 2022
- Postpartum complications: What you need to know, available at https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/labor-and-delivery/in-depth.... Accessed on 16 October 2022.
- Caring for your health after delivery, available on https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/9679-postpartum-care. Accessed on 16 September 2022
- The New Mother: Taking Care of Yourself After Birth, available on https://www.stanfordchildrens.org/en/topic/default?id=the-new-mother-tak.... Accessed on 16 September 2022