After childbirth, it is time for a mother to start a new journey with her baby. During the first weeks, things may seem overwhelming. It is the time to adjust to another phase of life and to recover from delivery. Both baby care and self-care are equally necessary because those who do not take care of themselves cannot take care of others.
Here are some postpartum self-care tips for mothers, whether they have natural childbirth or C-Section.
- Rest for a faster recovery.
While in the hospital, you may not be able to rest or sleep much. When at home, try to sleep when your baby sleeps. Rest can help your body to recover from natural and C-section delivery.
- Keep things simple
Keep things simple when it comes to having a newborn. As a new mother, you should learn and understand the newborn’s schedule and needs. You will not have the time to clean your house as perfectly as you used to. Do not fuss over messes. Reach out to friends and relatives if you need help with laundry, cooking, household chores, or babysitting siblings.
- Wash your hands often
Wash your hands often including after using the toilet, changing the diaper, and feeding the baby.
- Refrain from lifting heavy objects
Refrain from lifting heavy objects or things heavier than your baby, especially if you had Caesarean delivery.
- Avoid doing anything to put tension on the incision (C-section incision)
Avoid doing anything to put tension on the incision (C-section incision), such as climbing stairs.
- Limit visitors.
It’s okay to say no to visitors if you feel it is not the best time to meet friends or relatives.
- Attend every postpartum doctor appointment.
Attend every postpartum doctor appointment. A doctor can examine the perineum wound and provide consultation for postpartum symptoms you may develop.
- Continue the prenatal vitamins prescribed by your doctor.
- Avoid tampons or douching
Avoid tampons or douching during the first 4-6 weeks. Use sanitary pads instead.
- Eat healthy meals and drink eight glasses of fluids
Eat healthy meals and drink eight glasses of fluids such as water, milk, or juice every day. Avoid drinking alcoholic and caffeinated beverages during this time.
- Begin gentle exercises
Begin gentle exercises, such as walking, can help you regain strength and give you a mental break from your usual surroundings. Consult with your doctor before doing more strenuous ones.
- Refrain from having sexual intercourse
Refrain from having sexual intercourse until your body has completely recovered and the abdominal scar from the C-section or perineum wound has healed. Practice birth control to prevent getting pregnant too soon; pregnancy is possible even while breastfeeding and menstruation have not returned. Ask your doctor for a birth control option most suitable for you.
Coping with physical and emotional changes
After delivery, you must go through both physical and emotional changes. Before childbirth, you may discuss with your doctor what postpartum changes may occur; so you are well-prepared and know how to cope.
- Breast engorgement
Breast engorgement occurs when the breast is full of over-supplied breast milk, particularly during the first 3-5 days after childbirth. It can cause breast tightness and swelling. The discomfort can improve by applying a warm or cold compress to the breasts or hand-pumping the milk every 2-3 hours. Gradually, the milk production will adjust to suit the baby’s needs.
Constipationmay happen, especially in those with C-section delivery. Eating more high-fiber foods and drinking plenty of water can relieve the symptoms. If you develop hemorrhoids, your doctor may recommend creams or a sitz bath.
Incontinence from weak pelvic floor muscles or torn perineum can improve with Kegel exercises.
- Cramping and uterine pain
Cramping and uterine pain are due to shrinkage of the uterus after delivery. Check with your doctor which pain relievers are safe and suitable.
- Night sweats
Night sweats from hormonal changes can resolve on their own. To make the condition bearable, keep the bedroom cool and wear breathable pajamas.
- Vaginal discharge
Vaginal discharge is frequent during the first 2-4 weeks because the uterus is expelling residual tissue and blood. Use sanitary napkins instead of tampons and refrain from douching to prevent the risk of uterine infection. Spotting is typical. But if you have heavy vaginal bleeding requiring a sanitary pad every 2 hours, seek immediate medical care.
- Prenatal weight gain
Prenatal weight gain is one thing that many women worry about. However, in the postpartum period, this should not be your concern. Once it is okay for you to exercise, you can take a walk or exercise with moderate intensity. Eating a well-balanced diet can provide enough nutrients for both mother and baby and help with weight loss. Breastfeeding can also burn extra 500-700 calories per day.
- Postpartum depression
Postpartum depression, or baby blues, from hormonal shifts after childbirth, leads to sadness, anxiety, tiredness, and hopelessness. Express how you feel to relieve your emotions and reach out to your friends and family for help. Immediately seek medical attention if you experience the following symptoms.
- Having mood swings or depression most of the day for two consecutive weeks
- Thinking about hurting yourself or your baby.
- Having trouble doing daily activities or caring for your baby and yourself.
- Feeling anxious, worthless, and hopeless.
Dr Vorachai Chuenchompoonut
A specialized doctor in obstetrics and gynecology