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After Pregnancy: Postpartum Care

Katlyn Joy |18, August 2011


So much focus during pregnancy is on the big day. It's sort of like planning the wedding and forgetting about the marriage that follows. Taking care of a new baby is a huge responsibility and an overwhelming change to anyone's life, even if it's not the first child. However, if the new mother doesn't take proper care of herself it can be a near impossible task to take care of someone else, no matter how tiny.

10 Symptoms You May Experience After Childbirth

1. Lochia. This is the discharge women get following birth. It will begin as a heavy bright red bleeding, possibly containing clots, and gradually change to a lighter whitish or yellowish discharge before it's all over around the 2 month mark.

2. Cramping. After pains are caused by your uterus returning to normal size. It will be more noticeable with nursing or if given medication to help your uterus shrink.

3. Constipation. This is a very common problem and your physician may give you something to soften your stools in the first couple weeks. Drinking plenty of water and eating fresh fruits and veggies will help as well. Moving around will help too.

4. Swollen legs and feet. Don't overdo it and keep feet elevated.

5. Swollen, painful or leaking breasts. Whether or not you breastfeed, your breasts are going though changes. To ease the pain, wear a good supportive bra, even overnight initially, and try cold compresses. If nursing, feed baby often. The engorgement, also known as "Whose breasts are these?!" should subside in a week or so after birth.

6. Sweating. Yes, lots of perspiring regardless of the temperature of the room you are in, or your activity level. The reason is all that fluid you built up for baby, now must be released

7. Frequent Urination. Along the same lines as perspiring, you'll be hitting the bathroom frequently as you did in earlier weeks in pregnancy. Make sure you don't hold it in, because you are at risk for urinary tract infections.

8. Perineal pain. If you had an episiotomy, the stitches and incision site will be quite tender. If you didn't you'll still be pretty sensitive down there. Ice packs the first day are advised as are warm baths. Keep the area clean and dry. You may be given some antiseptic spray to use, and you'll want to change your pads often.

9. Hot/cold flashes. Your hormones are changing rapidly and this will cause these temperature swings and probably some sweating too. It will improve usually in a few days.

10. Urinary, or possible fecal incontinence. All the stress and stretching can do a number on those lower muscles. Let your doctor know if it's problematic or lasts. Kegel exercises to strengthen your pelvic muscles are good and speed healing of the area as well.


Of course, every labor and new mom is unique and so it's vital you follow doctor's orders always. In general, new moms are advised to drink plenty of water, around 6 or more glasses a day, avoid heavy lifting the first several weeks. Avoid stairs and sex until the postpartum check up. When you have the green light to drive may depend on whether you had a C-section or a difficult delivery or other complications. Often you can drive once you feel up to it.

Don't go on a binge diet the week after giving birth, especially if you're a nursing mother. You need those calories. Aim for a balanced healthy diet. Breastfeeding burns calories too.

Exercise except for some gentle, simple stretches will be off limits usually until the first check up. Then you'll want to start slow and build up your strength. Walking is a good choice because you can bring along baby. Swimming is also a good exercise that will help you avoid strains or sprains.

Sleeping may become a foreign concept but go with the age old advice whenever possible to sleep when baby does. The housework will wait. Thank you's and birth announcements will wait too. Your health is priority. Get help from loved ones and don't expect to do it all alone especially those first grinding weeks.

Emotional Side of Postpartum Recovery

Imagine your most unstable moments emotionally during a bout of PMS and crank that up a few notches, or more. That is the baby blues. You'll likely just want to, and may actually, burst into tears for reasons you cannot even fathom. Don't think you're losing your mind. It's those crazy hormones making you feel like this. It won't last, and rest and time are great remedies. So is a supportive friend or loved one, especially one who has experienced it before. Up to 80 percent of new moms go through this emotional roller coaster. If you are still having depressive feelings or feel unable to cope, get help. Talk to a doctor without fear or guilt. Postpartum depression is a serious but treatable condition. If at your 6 week check up you are struggling, share your symptoms with your doctor.

Related Articles

Postpartum Care: What to Expect and When to Call the Doctor

New Study Shows Pregnancy Hormone May Predict Postpartum Depression

After Your Cesarean: Taking Care of Yourself

After Birth: Taking Care of Mom

Postpartum Do's and Don'ts


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