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The post-partum period, an essential phase in a new mother’s life, starts right after the delivery and ends when the mother is close to returning to the pre-pregnant stage. Typically lasting about six to eight weeks, this is a period when you need to take extreme care of your body and supplement it with adequate rest, nutrition and sleep. The body goes through a number of changes during this phase. During this period the mother undergoes emotional and physical changes while learning to balance the responsibilities which come with motherhood. In most customs and religions, the first 40 days after delivery termed as the confinement period, are strictly meant for the mother to rest, recuperate and bond with the baby. Practices and rituals followed during this period are different across various parts of the country.
What Changes You Can Expect After Childbirth?
The post-delivery period comes with its own set of challenges, and here is what you can expect. After delivery, your body undergoes a sea of changes, both physically and emotionally.
Physically You Might Expect
Here are some of the physical challenges you may expect
- Constipation: Whether you have had a normal delivery or a C-section, there is a chance of you being constipated. This may be because of the effects of iron supplements, or because you are apprehensive about a bowel movement when your perineum is sore.
- Sore Breasts: With the delivery comes breastfeeding. Your breasts will be full of milk, and you may need to nurse your baby every few hours. This could lead to sore breasts sometimes.
- Hot and Cold Flashes: Dripping with sweat, burning or feeling cold? You are not alone. Most mothers feel hot and cold flashes for weeks after pregnancy.
- Urinary Incontinence: Childbirth weakens the pelvic muscles thereby causing incontinence. This is common in cases of vaginal delivery, especially the ones which involve forceps or other interventions.
- Weight Loss: After the baby is delivered, you may feel a little lighter, but you are likely to lose a few pounds after childbirth. If you are breastfeeding, then there is a definite chance of weight loss as breastfeeding is known to help in getting back to your pre-pregnancy weight.
Emotionally You Might Expect
Every mother who gives birth responds in a manner typical of her. While some may feel happy, joyous and alert, there are others who feel bruised, exhausted, depressed and disappointed. There are few common symptoms of emotional changes seen in all mothers.
- Baby Blues: Most mothers feel weepy and irritated during the first week after giving birth. Often called “baby blues” and experienced by almost all mothers, it is linked to the fluctuations in chemical and hormone levels two to four days after birth.
- Postpartum Depression: Baby blues are often considered normal; however, if you find yourself feeling persistently frightened, sad, dejected, tired for weeks or months after delivery, then you may be suffering from post-natal depression. It affects 1 out of every 10 women, and many women tend to be withdrawn after childbirth. Seek medical intervention as depression could affect your bond with the baby.
- Irritability: With the arrival of the baby, your sleep patterns have gone into a tizzy. Lack of sleep could make you feel irritated, and the best way to deal with it is to sleep when you find the time and when your baby is asleep.
- Anxiety: As a new mother, there may be several reasons for you to be anxious. It could be related to breastfeeding, the sleep pattern of the baby or even apprehension about how you will deal with childcare a few months later. Try not to think too much, and allow things to settle by themselves.
- Mood Swings: A new mother is sure to experience mood swings given the exhaustion and the stress related to dealing with the baby and her own health.
- Guilt: The baby brings the parents closer after its arrival. However, the mother, who is usually the primary caregiver, finds herself left with no time to spend with her better half. This could cause a feeling of guilt. Try and set aside some time of the day to spend with your loved one. It could do wonders in driving those blues away.
- Prolonged Periods of Sadness: The body is going through a lot of hormonal changes post-delivery, and many mothers find themselves feeling sad, frustrated, miserable and unhappy for a long time weeks after delivery. It is imperative that you seek medical intervention in such cases.
What Precautions Should You Take After Delivery?
Want to know what are the necessary post delivery precautions? Read on for an exhaustive list.
1. Use Pads and Not Tampons
Lochia is a process where the uterine lining is shed after delivery, and you bleed as you would during menstruation. This lasts for about six weeks, making you prone to infection. It is better to use pads in this period as they reduce the chance of any infections.
2. Use Ice Packs for Pain Around the Vaginal Area
Icepacks help reduce the pain around the vagina after childbirth. To avoid direct contact with the vagina, wrap the pack in a soft towel. This is among the most after normal delivery precautions.
3. Use Warm Water to Cleanse Yourself
The area between your vagina and rectum can be sore and difficult to clean. Wash it gently with warm water to prevent infection.
4. Sitz Bath
A sitz bath is when you sit in a few inches of warm water every day, especially after bowel movements. This will help reduce soreness around the vagina.
Ample rest and good sleep are primary needs for a mother. A newborn needs to be fed every three hours, cleaned and comforted. It is practically impossible for you to sleep for 7-8 hours at a stretch. Change your sleep pattern. The thumb rule is “When the baby is asleep, you sleep too”. Ensure that your baby’s bed is close to yours. It saves energy and time. Do not take on any extra responsibilities apart from attending to your baby in the first few weeks. These duties could leave you exhausted. Do not try to entertain visitors who want to visit you and the baby if it becomes too tiring. Try to pump milk and introduce the bottle after the first few weeks, especially at night, so that your spouse can share the responsibility of feeding and you can have some uninterrupted sleep.
It is common for mothers to forget to eat or skip meals for want of time, but breastfeeding mothers must eat well and ensure that they eat when they are hungry. Eat foods rich in nutrients for optimum post-pregnancy care and benefits for the feeding baby. A healthy diet is key to a good breastfeeding pattern to nurse your newborn. Supplement your diet with grains, vegetables, dairy, fruits, protein legumes and cereals. You food palate must be rich in protein, iron and calcium. Healthy nutrition is one of the most important precautions after delivery of the baby.
7. Stay Hydrated
Drink a lot of fluids to beat exhaustion. It is also important to drink lots of water to avoid constipation. Consume food rich in fibre and balance it by drinking lots of water.
Find some time to exercise and establish a regime. Get outside the house at least once and try to walk to strengthen your muscles.
Your husband cannot be by your side all day. Hire help to do your household chores or even look after the baby for some time when you can get some sleep to beat the exertion. Reach out to family and friends to see if they can pitch in to take care of the baby. Any additional help is invaluable.
With the excitement, the hustle and bustle of the new arrival, you may have well forgotten the other most important person – You! Taking ample rest, getting enough sleep, eating a nutritional diet after birth is as vital as looking after your baby. Only if you are fit can you get your little one to be fit too!