Giving birth to a baby is the most important stage in your life. Your baby completes your family. You become more responsible and your priorities change overnight. It is a time of changes, both physical and emotional. But what you need to remember is that being a mother doesn’t make you less of an individual. You need to take care of your baby but before that you need to take care of yourself. If you are healthy, only then you can keep your baby healthy. You should know that your body has undergone a major transformation, (like change in hormones) in a span of nine months. As soon as the baby is out of your womb and the umbilical cord is cut you would be a lactating mother. You are an exclusive nutrient provider to the baby for the next 6 months and for that you need to be healthy and fit. You will be up during the night to feed your baby so rest whenever possible. Remember there are two people who need to be taken care of – your baby and you. Make a checklist for yourself and stick it in on the wall. Write down the following points on the check list:
Did you have at least 3 wholesome balanced meals?
Are you still hungry? If yes don’t kill your hunger have a healthy snack?
Do some physical activity, such as walking with baby in a stroller. Have your dinner on the table with your partner or family, Do some breathing exercise?
Take a short break? Do something you like listen to music or when your baby is asleep or your partner can take over, take a nap, read a book, take a bath, or sit in the garden.
Talk with friends or family about how you feel?
If you feel emotionally weak due to some reason, then take help of support groups or talk to the mothers who have gone through this phase they will understand you.
Share the responsibilities of taking care of the baby with your partner (and other members of family if any) Make a plan with your partner so you can share the care of your baby.
The Baby Blues
In the first few days after birth, up to 80% of mothers experience tearfulness and feelings of distress. This is commonly called the baby blues. You may feel restless, irritable, tearful, tired, discouraged, sad, helpless, or have mood swings. You may suddenly feel happy, full of energy or want to talk a lot. These mood changes can be due to the quick change of your hormone levels after birth or the pain and tiredness from your labour and birth or post-op complications, sore nipples, backache or because everything around you is about the baby. It could also be the result of looking after your baby for 24 hours a day and not getting enough sleep. Most of the time these baby blues do not last very long as you and your body slowly gets adapted to the new life patterns. They go away on their own in one or two weeks. But if proper care is not taken about your emotional and mental health it goes on to what is called postpartum depression.
You may have sex again when you feel ready, which is usually when vaginal bleeding has decreased and the tears if any or stitches have healed. But most of the women don’t feel like having sex for some months after delivery and it is normal for women to need time to “get in the mood.” Feeling well rested and lots of foreplay will help. Vaginal dryness can make intercourse uncomfortable, but using a sterile, water‑soluble lubricant in the vagina and/or on the penis can help. Before you start having sex again, ensure you have effective birth control.
Living with Abuse
Intimate partner violence is a pattern of physical, sexual, or emotional violence. It uses power and control. You are not the only one at risk if your partner abuses you. Your baby is also at risk. Seek help and safety.
After birth, your uterus continues to contract. Cramps are most common are felt most while you breastfeed. Breastfeeding helps your uterus contract and get smaller. They usually disappear after the first week. If they are severe consult your gynecologist about it.
Vaginal Discomfort and taking care of Stitches
The area between your legs may be sore, bruised, and swollen. If you have stitches, you may feel more pain.
To ease discomfort you can do the following:
- Cool the area with crushed ice or tap water for short‑term relief. Do not put ice directly on your skin. Place a towel or pad between the ice and the skin.
- Clean by pouring warm water over your vaginal area or sitting in a warm bath.
- Use pain relievers and soothing creams prescribed as needed.
- Sit on a soft cushion to relieve pressure on your bottom.
- Do some pelvic exercises (As guided by your doctor).
- If your stitches are itching (In case of C-Section) apply some ointment to soothe your skin around the stitches.
- Keep the stitches dry from sweat or getting wet while having bath.
After delivering the baby the body gets rid of the lining of your uterus. The blood may come out in force or flow more evenly. The bleeding will change colour and become lighter as your uterus heals and returns to its pre-pregnancy size. Keep a stock of maternity pads. Don’t use tampons for the first six weeks or so after you have your baby, as this can introduce bacteria into your still-healing uterus, causing an infection. You may need to change your pad every hour or two to start with, then every three or four hours in the coming days and weeks. Always wash your hands before and after changing your pad.
If you are not breastfeeding, your first period will occur about two months after childbirth. But there is no way to be sure when you begin to ovulate again – 90 percent of women will not ovulate before their first period. So contraception is essential if you have sex soon after childbirth. If you are breastfeeding, your period may resume at any time from about two months after childbirth. Some women only get their period back once they stop breastfeeding. But it is important to know that breastfeeding is not a form of contraception. It is the sensation of the baby sucking that send a message to the brain to suppress the hormone that stimulates ovulation. The effectiveness of this suppression depends on the strength and frequency of the sucking. For breastfeeding to work as a means of contraception, the baby would have to nurse full-time, around the clock.
After pregnancy, it may be difficult to pass urine or tell when your bladder is full. It is helpful to pee at regular intervals to prevent the bladder from becoming too full. You may also find it hard to start peeing, or it may sting. To help, you can pour warm water over your perineum or pee in the shower or bath. You may have some leakage of urine for up to three months and sometimes longer after your baby is born. This is called urinary incontinence. A cough, sneeze, laugh, or physical activity can make this happen. Doing some pelvic exercise can help to control urine leakage. For most women, this gradually goes away.
After birth, your bowels are often sluggish. This is due to stretched muscles, a sore perineum, and some pain medications. Most mothers have a bowel movement within two to three days after birth. To make bowel movements easier drink plenty of fluids, eat food as whole grains, vegetables and juices. Still if it doesn’t work try using some stool softener as prescribed by your gynecologist.
Call your doctor if:
- Your flow gets heavier rather than lighter.
- Your flow has a foul smell.
- You have flu‑like symptoms or an unexplained fever over 38°C.
- The stitches on your perineum open up, drain, or become infected.
- You have pain, swelling, and redness near your caesarean incision.
- The stitches on your caesarean incision open up, drain, or become infected.
- You have redness or pain in the calf of your leg.
- You have a tender, reddened area on your breast that is not relieved by more frequent breastfeeding.
- You have to pee often and it hurts when you pee.
- You have constipation that is not relieved with diet, lots of fluids, physical activity, and stool softeners
Strengthening Your Pelvis
Kegel exercises help to strengthen the vaginal and perineal area – the area between the vagina and anus. These muscles support the weight of your growing baby, and they also help you control passing urine and stool. Doing Kegel exercises during pregnancy and after the birth will help you strengthen these muscles. This will prevent you from leaking urine when coughing or laughing.
Kegel exercises can be done anywhere. Here’s how:
Tighten the muscles around your vagina and anus, as if you were stopping the flow of urine. Do not do Kegel exercises by actually stopping your flow of urine when on the toilet. This can cause some urine to stay in your bladder.
- Hold the muscles tight for a count of 5 and work up to a count of 10. Repeat 5 to 10 times.
- Do this exercise often throughout the day.
- Do not hold your breath while tightening your muscles.
Eating well can help you with healthy eating habits. These habits will help during breastfeeding and the throughout the rest of your life. Remember to:
- Enjoy a variety of foods from the four food groups every day.
- Eat three meals and two to three small snacks every day.
- Eat foods rich in nutrients.
- Limit foods and beverages high in calories, fat and sugar or salt (sodium) such as cakes, pastries, doughnuts, potato chips and fruit flavoured drinks, soft drinks, sports drinks and energy drinks.
- Limit foods high in trans-fat.
- Drink lots of water to satisfy your thirst.
- Have a glass of water, milk, soup, or 100% juice within reach whenever you are breastfeeding.
- When you are breastfeeding you need energy and nutrients to compensate the nutrients used to provide milk to the baby
- Suggestions for Healthy Snacks
- fresh fruit
- raisins and nuts
- raw vegetables and dip
- crackers and cheese
- yogurt with fruit
- cereal, with or without milk
- fruit shake
- broken wheat and milk porridge
- Roasted Foxnuts (tastes like popcorns)