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The delivery of your baby marks the beginning of the postpartum period which typically lasts 6-8 weeks. This period is characterised by many emotional and physical changes, as well as radical lifestyle changes, particularly if this is your first baby. You and your partner are learning to care for your new baby and you are recovering from your delivery.
It is vital that you take good care of yourself during this time. Rest, nutrition, and seeking and accepting any help that you need will all contribute to your recovery and your ongoing wellness. The information below covers ways new mothers should be taking care of themselves following delivery, as well as what should be expected in the first few weeks postpartum.
Soreness: If you had a vaginal delivery, it is common to experience soreness in the days following your delivery.
If you had a vaginal tear or an episiotomy during delivery, you may have wound pain for a few weeks. Some suggestions to help with this soreness include:
- Support the area while sitting by using a pillow or padded ring.
- Soothe the area with an ice pack or a chilled witch hazel pad.
- When passing urine, use a squeeze bottle to apply warm water over the perineum. - Sitting in shallow baths can soothe pain – warm or cold water can be used depending on what works best for you.
- Ask your healthcare provider about the best pain relief for your situation. - Prevent constipation – talk to your doctor about stool softeners or laxatives.
If your pain is severe, increases, or persists beyond a reasonable time-period, please contact your healthcare provider as this can indicate infection.
If you had a delivery by caesarean-section, you will be provided with information regarding wound care at the hospital. Please don’t hesitate to ask any questions you may have and contact your doctor if you have any concerns.
Contractions: You might experience contractions in the first few days following your delivery, particularly if you are breastfeeding. These may feel similar to menstrual cramps. Talk to your healthcare provider if you require pain relief.
Breast engorgement and tenderness: You may experience engorgement a few days after your delivery. This is when your breasts become full, firm and tender and may make it difficult for your baby to latch. Frequent feeding on both breasts can help minimise engorgement.
If breast engorgement is making it hard for your baby to latch, you can express a small amount of milk prior to feeding your baby (you can hand-express or use a breast pump for this). If you require relief, applying a warm washcloth before breastfeeding or expressing can ease the process. You can also apply cold washcloths on your breasts in between feedings to soothe any discomfort.
Vaginal Discharge: Once you deliver your baby, you will have vaginal discharge for a few weeks. This discharge is your body shedding the mucous membrane that lined your uterus while you were pregnant. For the first couple of days following delivery your discharge will be red and heavy. It will gradually become more watery and pinkish-brown in colour, then will become a yellowish-white.
If you have heavy vaginal bleeding (soaking a pad in less than an hour), please contact your healthcare provider, especially if you also experience fever or pain.
Incontinence: Your pelvic floor muscles support your uterus, bladder and rectum, and can be stretched or damaged during pregnancy and birth. If this happens, you might sometimes leak a little urine when you cough or sneeze. If you experience this problem, you can do pelvic floor muscle exercises to help repair and re-train your muscles.
Bowel Movements: Following your delivery you may experience tenderness or pain when using the toilet. This could be caused by haemorrhoids - swollen veins in the anus. Discomfort can be eased using over-the-counter haemorrhoid creams or suppositories, or by soaking the area in warm water a few times a day. It is important to keep your stools soft and regular. You can manage this by staying well hydrated and eating a diet with lots of fibre, fruits and vegetables. You can also talk to your doctor if you feel that stool softeners would be helpful.
Hair Loss: The changes in your hormones throughout pregnancy and following delivery can lead to hair loss for up to five months after your delivery.
Skin changes: Stretch marks from pregnancy will gradually fade, and any skin changes that you may have experienced during your pregnancy should slowly return to normal. Please contact your doctor if you have any concerns.
Weight Loss: On average, women lose around 6 kilograms during birth (this includes the weight of the baby, placenta and amniotic fluid). Following delivery, you will continue to lose weight over a few days, however you may still ‘look pregnant’ for a period of time after you’ve had your baby.
Mood Changes: It is normal for a new mother to experience intense emotions and mood changes, particularly in the first couple of weeks following delivery, however it is important to monitor your moods and to seek help if you need it.
If you experience loss of appetite, inability to feel joy, extreme fatigue or mood swings, or have trouble taking care of yourself or your baby, please contact your healthcare provider so that you can receive the help you need.
Your new baby will not follow the same sleep schedule as you and this can be difficult to adjust to. Newborns should be waking up every 3 hours or so and will need to be fed, changed and cared for. As you are recovering from labour and birth, it is important to get as much rest as possible. Try to sleep when your baby sleeps, and make sure to accept help when you need it. In these early days, your responsibilities should only be feeding and caring for your baby, and taking care of yourself as you recover.
It is important that you are eating a healthy diet as you recover from your delivery and adjust to life as a new parent. Make sure you are staying well-hydrated, and try to keep your meals simple and quick to make things easier. Your diet should include a good variety of grains (rice, oats, wheat, etc), fruits, vegetables (try to eat different types and colours), dairy or dairy alternatives, and protein.
We will see you for your postnatal appointment around 4-6 weeks after your delivery. During this appointment, we will review your mental health and how you have been coping as a new parent; discuss contraception and family planning; do a physical exam to assess your healing following your delivery. Please use this appointment to ask questions and raise any concerns you may have.
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