How to care for yourself after delivery

How to care for yourself after delivery

Motherhood is God’s best gift to women. While your love for the baby increases leaps and bounds as you deliver, your body will undergo a lot of changes both emotionally and physically over the next few months. Many of these changes happen in the first 6 weeks, called postpartum. Postpartum isn’t a time of illness, but a time of healthy change. Some changes restore your body to its non-pregnant state. Other changes allow you to give food, care, and love for your newborn. It is important for you to spend time everyday caring for yourself both physically and emotionally. Sometimes new moms can become so focused on their new role as a parent that they forget about their own needs when they should also utilize the first few days after delivering a baby to recuperate and gain strength.

Rest may not be easy to come by with a newborn. Your little one will probably want to be fed every two hours through the day and night, and will probably pass urine as often. But this is why staying at home for a month after the delivery is such a popular postnatal practice. It allows you to rest in the day while your mum, mum-in-law or maid look after the household chores.

Postpartum care might involve managing vaginal tears or a Caesarean section (C-section) wound, sore breasts or leaking milk, urination problems, hair loss, as well as mental well-being, such as managing mood swings, irritability, sadness and anxiety.

Physical changes after childbirth

  • Contractions called ‘after pains’shrink the uterus for several days after childbirth and prevent excessive bleeding. Shrinking of the uterus to its pre-pregnancy size may take 6 to 8 weeks.
  • Sore muscles(especially in the arms, neck, or jaw) are common after childbirth. This is because of the hard work of labor. The soreness usually goes away in a few days.
  • Bleeding and vaginal discharge (lochia).Expect a bright red, heavy flow of blood for the first few days. The discharge will gradually taper off, becoming watery and changing from pink or brown to yellow or white.
  • Vaginal soreness,including pain, discomfort, and numbness, is common after vaginal birth. Soreness may be worse if you have had a perineal tear or episiotomy.
  • If you had a cesarean section (C-section), you may have pain in your lower belly and may need pain medicine for 1 to 2 weeks.
  • Breast engorgementis common between the third and fourth days after delivery, when the breasts begin to fill with milk. This can cause discomfort and swelling.
  • Difficulty in urinatingmay be due to swelling or bruising of the tissues surrounding the bladder and urethra. Fearing the sting of urine on the tender perineal area can have the same effect.
  • After delivery, your body sheds the excess hair all at once.Hair loss typically stops within six months.
  • Stretch markswon’t disappear immediately after delivery, but eventually they’ll fade from reddish purple to silver or white. Skin pigmentation that happened during the pregnancy will also slowly fade away.

Emotional changes after delivery

The first few weeks after your baby is born can be a time of excitement and can also be a time when you feel very exhausted. You may look at your wondrous little baby and feel happy. But at the same time, you may feel exhausted from a lack of sleep and your new responsibilities. Share your feelings with your partner, loved ones or friends. Seek their help if necessary. If your emotional state changes or you feel hopeless and sad most of the time, contact your health care provider. Prompt treatment is important.

For mental well being:

  • Try to sleep when your baby does.
  • Ask another adult to be with you for a few days after delivery.
  • Let family and friends bring you meals or do chores.
  • Plan for child care if you have other children.
  • Plan small trips to get out of the house. A change in environment can make you feel less tired.

Care after vaginal birth

  • Use pads instead of tampons for the bleeding or vaginal discharge.
  • Your doctor might recommend an over-the-counter pain reliever for the cramps or after-pains.
  • If you have swelling or pain around the opening of your vagina, try using ice. You can put ice or a cold pack on the area for 10 to 20 minutes at a time. Put a thin cloth between the ice and your skin.
  • Cleanse yourself with a gentle squeeze of warm water from a bottle instead of wiping with toilet paper.
  • Try sitting in a few inches of warm water (sitz bath) 3 times a day and after bowel movements.
  • Difficulty in urinating usually resolves on its own. In the meantime, it might help to pour water across your vulva while you’re sitting on the toilet.
  • Ease the soreness of hemorrhoids and the area between your vagina and rectum with ice compresses or witch hazel pads.
  • Ease constipation by drinking lots of fluid and eating high-fiber foods. Ask your doctor about over-the-counter stool softeners.
  • Another potential problem for new moms after a vaginal delivery is the inability to control bowel movements (fecal incontinence). Frequent Kegel exercises can help with mild fecal leakage.
  • Placing ice packs on your breasts, taking a hot shower, or using warm compresses may relieve the discomfort caused by breast engorgement.
  • If your breasts leak between feedings, wear nursing pads inside your bra to help keep your shirt dry. Change pads after each feeding and whenever they get wet.
  • Wait until you are healed (about 4 to 6 weeks) before you have sexual intercourse. Your doctor will tell you when it is okay to have sex.
  • Try not to travel with your baby for 5 or 6 weeks. If you take a long car trip, make frequent stops to walk around and stretch.
  • Do not rinse inside your vagina with fluids (douche).
  • Good nutrition is just as important in the months after you deliver as it was while you were pregnant. If you are breastfeeding, you are still your baby’s primary source of nutrition. Eating a variety of nutritious foods will keep your baby healthy and help you get stronger.


Care after a C-section

  • Get plenty of rest. A C-section is major surgery and like with any other surgery, your body needs time to heal afterwards.
  • Avoid strenuous activities, such as bicycle riding, jogging, weight lifting, and aerobic exercise, for 6 weeks or until your doctor says it is okay.
  • Until yourdoctor says it is okay, don’t lift anything heavier than your baby.
  • Avoid going up and down the stairs as much as you can. Keep everything you need, like diaper, changing supplies and food as close to you as possible so that you don’t have to get up too often.
  • Avoid strenuous exercise, but do take gentle walks as often as you can. The movement will help your body heal and prevent constipation and blood clots.  
  • You may have some vaginal bleeding. Wear sanitary pads. Do not use tampons.
  • Hold a pillow over your incision when you cough or take deep breaths. This will support your belly and decrease pain.
  • Ask your doctor what pain medications you can take, especially if you’re breastfeeding.
  • Also wait to have sex until your doctor gives you the green light.

As with pregnancy changes, postpartum changes are different for every woman but just keep in mind that the better you feel, the better you will be able to look after your little one.

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