While women are pregnant, we spend a lot of time and energy focusing on how to help them be the healthiest they can be. We talk about their nutrition, we talk about their exercise, and we talk about rest. However, once the baby comes home, the focus tends to turn towards the baby and away from mom, and that is not good for either the mom or the baby. After your baby is born, you will enter a period of intense change - the postpartum period. During this time, manage your physical recovery to care better for your baby. Often women don't sleep, they skip meals, and they don't take any time for themselves or do any enjoyable activities after having a baby. That increases your risk of having a lot of poor outcomes with your health, both physically and with your mental wellbeing. It's important even after you bring the baby home from the hospital that you still take care of yourself, both physically and emotionally. Let’s see how:
- Many new mothers find they have haemorrhoids. Haemorrhoids are swollen blood vessels usually caused by the strain of the contractions and pushing during labour and delivery. You can use witch hazel pads to lessen the pain of haemorrhoids or an episiotomy. They are cooling haemorrhoid relief pads, but that is not their only purpose. They reduce inflammation, they help with pain relief and they ward oﬀ infection. Make sure you get them ahead of time so that you are not panicking and you are not being frugal.
- Your first bowel movement after having a baby is going to hurt. It's just the way it is. Your hormones are making you a little bit more constipated. They are starting to regulate, and also even if it didn't tear or get any stitches down there, you want to help your body out a little bit. To reduce the discomfort, avoid constipation by drinking plenty of liquids and eating leafy vegetables, fruits, and grains. If this doesn't help, ask your doctor about using a stool softener or mild laxative.
- Your doctor may recommend pelvic floor exercises called Kegels to help you tighten the muscles stretched during labour. You should not practice Kegels each time you urinate because you would not empty your bladder. Instead make a habit of practising a set of Kegels sitting, standing, or lying down.
- Two to four days after birth, your breasts may become engorged with milk. Engorgement causes breasts to feel full and hard and can make it diﬃcult for your baby to latch on. Engorgement may last 48 hours or longer. To relieve the pain of engorgement, breastfeed your baby. Before feeding you can stimulate milk flow by warming your breast with warm compresses or by taking a short warm shower. After feedings, an ice pack will help reduce the swelling. Your doctor may recommend you take an anti-inflammatory pain reliever like Ibuprofen to relieve the discomfort of engorgement. Engorgement is likely to occur if your baby has not been nursing frequently, has not been latching on properly, or if you have been limiting your baby's time at your breast. So make sure to breastfeed often.
- Get as much sleep as possible for yourself, and the best time to catch up on your sleep is when your baby is taking a nap. There is an old adage about sleeping when the baby sleeps, but many mothers realise that's not always possible. It is important though to prioritise your sleep and sometimes that means letting other things go. This might not be the time when your house is the cleanest it can be, and all the meals are home-cooked by you. But if you can get good sleep, rest, and spend some time alone, and with your friends and family, you will be the best you can be for your baby, and that's going to help in your baby's development.
- If you've had a cesarean section, your recovery will typically be longer than vaginal birth. Have plenty of help available for the first few weeks you are at home while you physically recover. That's not easy, but it's important so that you get breaks. When help is oﬀered, definitely accept it.
- Avoid lifting heavy objects or doing any exercises and daily chores that would strain abdominal muscles.
During the first days or weeks after birth, promptly consult your doctor if you experience any of the following:
- Vaginal bleeding that doesn't seem to decrease or suddenly increases
- Bleeding that is still bright red after the first four days
- Fever above 104 degrees Celsius or flu-like symptoms
- Burning bloody frequent urination
- Painful breasts with red spots or streaks
After the delivery of your baby, your first instincts are about how to do whatever you can, to take care of your newborn. But as you recover from labour, also take out time to care for your own body. Remember, the better you feel, the easier it will be to care for your baby.