10 useful things to know about the postpartum period or ,,What to do after having a baby?’’
By Dr. Megha Gupta, Specialist in Obstetrics & Gynecology
The postpartum period, also known as the puerperium or the “fourth trimester,” refers to the time after birth when the the body adjust to physiologic changes and returns back to the non pregnant state. It typically is considered from birth up to 6-8 weeks, but since some changes take a bit longer to return to prepregnancy level, up to 12 weeks after giving birth is considered postpartum phase.
Immediately after giving birth, most of the focus of the care givers is on the baby, but the mother needs equal care and support as her body has gone through a transformation which is not only exhausting physically, but also mentally and emotionally.
Things to know about the postpartum period:
1. You are going to be tired and sore after giving birth and need to rest as much as you can, this means keeping the relatives visits to the minimum, even though they are excited to meet the new baby.
2. Abdominal cramps happen after child birth as well, especially during breastfeeding. These are called after pains and ease out over 4-5 days.
3. Bleeding continues after delivery for up to 2 weeks, being reddish in colour initially, and slowly changing to yellow and clear discharge. Excessive or prolonged bleeding may result from infection/retained products and may warrant a checking up.
4. Breast milk takes some time to come. Important thing is to keep trying and putting the baby to breast. The more the baby suckles, the better it is for the baby and you in terms of long term health and returning to prepregnancy state.
5. Breast engorgement can happen, esp. when the milk comes in first time, after 4-5 days of delivery. Just express sufficient to relieve the discomfort and avoid formation of lumps. Slowly, the body regulates the supply as per the demand.
6. Urinary incontinence is a common symptom after birth, esp. vaginal birth. It slowly gets better with pelvic muscle exercises called Kegel’s exercises and only a few percentages of women have long lasting incontinence needing further treatment
7. You tend to sweat a lot after birth. It is due to hormonal changes happening and also to lose the water that was retained in your body during pregnancy. Coupled with breast feeding, you may easily get dehydrated and it is important to keep your fluid intake up.
8. Whatever you are feeling is normal. The birth of a baby can start a variety of powerful emotions, from excitement and joy to fear and anxiety. But it can also result in something you might not expect, and can range from baby blues to full blown depression. It is important to acknowledge what you are feeling, seek support from family members and specialists.
9. Return of periods may vary from woman to woman and depends on your level of breast feeding. If exclusively breast feeding, periods return at a later time, around 4-6 months than compared to women who are partially or not breast feeding.
10. You may get pregnant even before the first periods as return of ovulation can be erratic. Breastfeeding exclusively is a form of contraception, but only if certain prerequisites are met. Therefore, in order to keep the births spaced, it is important to talk to your obstetrician regarding contraceptives.
Lastly, there’s no getting around the fact that you will be exhausted, uncomfortable, and emotional during your postpartum recovery. Every day will be filled with new challenges and new joys. Go easy on yourself, remember that life’s a journey, and you learn along the way.
And whenever you feel stuck or have any questions, you can always count on our specialists to provide the necessary support.