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What is Postpartum?



HIGHLIGHTS


  • Postpartum is the time when your body recovers from the birth of your baby. It lasts about 6 weeks or until your uterus returns to its normal size.


  • Exercise is one of the best ways to lose weight, get more energy, relieve stress, and build your strength. Typically, you can start exercising as soon as you feel up to it.


  • If you had a C-section, ask your provider how long you need to avoid heavy lifting and when you can start exercising.

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What does postpartum mean?


Postpartum is the time when your body recovers from the birth of your baby. It lasts about 6 weeks or until your uterus returns to its normal pre-pregnancy size.


What special care will I need after my baby is born?


-Rest: You will need extra rest. Because you must feed your baby day and night, you may need to change your sleeping schedule to get enough rest.


Morning and afternoon naps can be very helpful. Try to sleep when your baby sleeps, though it is tempting to try and get things done at nap time.


Rest is crucial for milk production, mood regulation, and your physical recovery, so get help from friends and family with household chores so you will have extra time to care for your baby and yourself.


-Pain relief: Your muscles may be sore from pushing to deliver your baby. If you delivered the baby vaginally, pain in the area between your rectum and vagina is common. Cuts or tears in your vaginal area should heal and stop being painful by about two weeks after delivery.


To relieve pain and prevent infection in your vaginal area, you can sit in a warm bath, put cloth-covered ice or cold packs on the area, or put warm water on the area with a squirt bottle or sponge.


Also, be sure to wipe yourself from front to back after bowel movements to prevent infection. If sitting is uncomfortable, you can buy a donut-shaped pillow at the drugstore to help ease the pressure of sitting.


Non-prescription pain medicine may also help relieve pain. If you are breastfeeding, check with your provider or a lactation consultant before you take any medicines.


-Bleeding and discharge: It’s normal to have lochia, or vaginal discharge for 2 to 6 weeks after delivery. Sometimes it may last longer. It may come out in gushes or flow more like a menstrual period.


The discharge will usually start out red and slowly change to pink and finally a yellow-white color.


Use pads instead of tampons for the first 6 weeks after delivery. Avoid tampons because they may bring bacteria into your body and cause infection while your body is healing.


If you had stitches to repair your vaginal skin at delivery, tampons may damage them.


-Constipation and hemorrhoids: It’s common to be constipated or have discomfort from hemorrhoids after delivery.


Applying witch hazel soaked cotton pads, or tucks pads can help relieve pain and itching. To prevent or lessen constipation, try eating more foods rich in fiber, like fresh fruits, oats or cereals, or legumes like beans.


Don’t use laxatives unless recommended by your provider.


-Urination: In the first days after delivery you may notice a change in your usual pattern of urination. Your kidneys work harder than usual during this time to get rid of extra fluid that may have built up in your body during pregnancy.


Your bladder may be swollen and bruised. This can lead to temporary problems with sensing bladder fullness and can make it harder to empty your bladder completely.


Toileting Tips: To help prevent bladder infections, practice good hygiene and wipe from front to back after you urinate or have bowel movements.


Avoid long waits between the times you empty your bladder. Empty your bladder every 2 to 4 hours during the day and before you go to bed for the night.


If you have burning, lower belly pain, back pain, or fever, or continued trouble controlling your bladder, please reach out to your provider.


-Breast soreness: Your breast milk will come in about 2 to 4 days after your child is born. This may make your breasts engorged and very large, firm, and sore.


○ Wear a well-fitting supportive bra

○ If you are breastfeeding, your breasts will become less engorged once you start breastfeeding. It helps to maintain a regular breastfeeding schedule.

○ If you are not breastfeeding, your breasts may be large and painful while you wait for your milk to dry up. To help with pain and discomfort while you wait, wear a bra that gives good support. Put an ice pack, gel pack, or package of frozen vegetables wrapped in a cloth on your breasts for 15 to 20 minutes every 1 to 2 hours while you are awake.

Do NOT pump your breast milk, massage your breasts, or rub your nipples as this will stimulate more milk production.


-Headaches: Many women have headaches during the first few weeks after delivering their baby due to lack of sleep, dehydration, or stress.


- Get plenty of rest when you can.

- Eat meals on a regular schedule.

- Avoid drinks with caffeine.


You may get some relief by lying down with a cool damp cloth on your forehead, using relaxation techniques such as meditation, or taking over the counter pain medicines.


If you are breastfeeding, check with your provider or lactation consultant before taking any medicines.


If your headache is severe or you have changes in your eyesight such as trouble focusing or blurred vision, nausea, vomiting, or weakness in any part of your body, contact your provider right away, as it could be a sign of complications like postpartum pre-eclampsia.


When can I go back to my normal activities?


If you had a normal delivery without any problems, you can get back to doing most of your usual activities right away. Try to avoid heavy lifting, vacuuming, and too much stair climbing for the first couple of weeks.


Exercise is one of the best ways to lose weight, increase your energy, relieve stress, and build your strength.


If you had a difficult birth or other pregnancy problem, you can usually start light exercise as soon as you feel recovered and up to it. Start slow and do not attempt to do activities that you did pre-pregnancy at the same intensity, right away.


If you had a C-section, ask your provider how long you need to avoid heavy lifting and when you can start an appropriate exercise routine.


When will my period start again?


If you are not breastfeeding your baby, you may start having menstrual periods again 3 to 10 weeks after delivery.


If you are breastfeeding, you may not have a period until after 6 months or more of breastfeeding, but it could happen earlier. Some women don’t have a period until they stop breastfeeding.


Please be aware that you may not know when you begin ovulating again after delivery, so it is important to be mindful if you are not desiring to get pregnant again right away.


When will I get back to my normal weight?


During birth, you lose about 12 to 14 pounds. However, this may still leave some weight to lose, depending on how much weight you gained during pregnancy.


Losing this weight takes time. It takes most women 8 to 12 months to get back to the weight they had before pregnancy. Losing the weight slowly is healthy and natural.

The key is to eat a healthy diet and get regular exercise.


If you are breastfeeding, you should make sure you are eating at least 1800 calories a day.


Because breastfeeding uses many calories, it typically helps women lose some of their pregnancy weight. However, breastfeeding-related weight loss will not help tone muscles that were weakened from less use during pregnancy.


You can look into light cardiovascular and strength training exercises to help you tone up.


When can I have sex again?


Ask your provider how long you should wait before having sex again. Many providers will recommend waiting 6 weeks because it takes this long for your uterus to recover from pregnancy and delivery.


The body is very good at getting pregnant again. If you want to avoid pregnancy, you will need to consider the best method for you and your family.


The method that is best for you depends on the type of delivery you had, how you are recovering, and if you are breastfeeding.


Remember that you can get pregnant before you start having periods again.


What are the postpartum blues?


Many physical and emotional changes happen when you are pregnant and after you give birth. These changes can leave you feeling sad, anxious, afraid, or confused.


These feelings are sometimes called "baby blues" and usually start right after your baby is born. Often the feelings start to go away within two weeks.


However, sometimes these feelings may not go away and may get worse. When this happens, it’s called postpartum depression. Postpartum depression can start right after your baby is born or weeks later.


It can be a serious problem and needs professional evaluation and treatment. If you feel depressed, unable to care for your baby, or like you want to hurt your baby, talk to your provider.


When do I need to see my healthcare provider for a checkup


Your provider will tell you when you need to have a postpartum checkup.

Typically, those with an uncomplicated vaginal delivery will be seen the next day in the hospital, or within 72 hours at home in the case of a home or birth center birth.


Then, you will likely be seen at 6 weeks to evaluate the recovery of your uterus, mood and vaginal discharge.


For a cesarean delivery, you will be seen typically about 2 weeks after delivery to evaluate the healing of your surgical incision. Then seen again, at 6 weeks to evaluate the recovery of your incision, uterus, mood and vaginal discharge.


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