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Postpartum Care: Taking Care of Yourself After Giving Birth

By Dr. Alka Gujral in Obstetrics And Gynaecology

Jul 31 , 2023 | 3 min read

Bringing a new life into the world is an incredible experience, but it also demands significant physical and emotional adjustments for new mothers. The postpartum period refers to the first six weeks after childbirth and involves your moving through many changes, both emotionally and physically. Postpartum care plays a crucial role in supporting a woman's recovery after childbirth.

This blog will delve into the essential aspects of postpartum care to help new mothers prioritise their well-being during this transformative period.

Physical Recovery

Vaginal bleeding and discharge

After giving birth it is common that you will have vaginal bleeding and discharge (this is called lochia), even if you had a C-section. This is your body’s way of eliminating the extra blood and tissue that was used to grow and nourish your baby. Expect for this to be heavier at first (up to 10 days), but then taper off. Light bleeding and spotting can last up to six weeks after delivery. It is important that you use only sanitary pads during this time. Using tampons can introduce bacteria and lead to infection. Changing sanitary pads frequently helps reduce the risk of infection.

Care of Perineum

The perineum is the area between your vagina and anus. This area  will be sore and possibly swollen and have stitches called episiotomy after vaginal birth for several weeks. use a squirt bottle to rinse the perineum with warm water after using the toilet and sitting on an icepack several times a day for 10 minutes. will help relieve the pain. If you have stitches from a cesarean birth (C-section), skin stitches heal in 5-10 days The deeper stitches in will take longer to heal. 

Rest and Sleep

Allow your body to heal by getting plenty of rest. In the first few weeks, you need to let someone else take care of all responsibilities other than feeding your baby and taking care of yourself. Adjusting to a newborn's sleep patterns can be challenging, but getting adequate rest is crucial for postpartum recovery. Taking short naps when the baby sleeps and accepting help from family or friends for household chores can provide new mothers with the necessary rest they need to heal.

Nutritional Needs

Proper nutrition is essential during the postpartum period to support healing and breastfeeding. A balanced diet that includes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats can aid in replenishing nutrient stores. Drinking plenty of water and limiting caffeine and alcohol intake are also recommended.

Exercises

Light walking and gentle stretching exercises can promote blood circulation and healing. Pelvic floor exercises, commonly known as Kegels, can help strengthen the pelvic floor muscles weakened during pregnancy and childbirth. These exercises can aid in bladder control, prevent urinary incontinence, and promote faster recovery. Consult with a healthcare provider on the appropriate technique and timing for performing these exercises. 

Breast Care

Engorgement and soreness are common during the early days of breastfeeding. Proper positioning and latching techniques can help prevent nipple soreness. Applying warm compresses or cold packs can provide relief. Expressing breast milk if engorgement occurs can also help relieve discomfort.

Emotional Well-being

Postpartum Blues

Many women experience mood swings, tearfulness, and anxiety, commonly known as the "baby blues," in the first few days after childbirth. These symptoms usually subside within a couple of weeks. Seeking emotional support from partners, family, or support groups can help alleviate these feelings.

Postpartum Depression (PPD)

It is a more severe and long-lasting form of emotional distress. It affects approximately 10-20% of women after childbirth. If feelings of sadness, hopelessness, or thoughts of self-harm persist beyond the first two weeks or worsen, it is essential to seek professional help from a healthcare provider.

Postpartum care is vital for new mothers to ensure a healthy recovery after giving birth. By focusing on physical recovery, emotional well-being, rest, nutrition, and pelvic floor exercises, women can support their bodies and minds during this transformative period. Remember to seek guidance from healthcare professionals if you have any concerns or experience persistent symptoms. Taking care of yourself is not selfish but essential for the well-being of both you and your baby.