Now your baby is safely here and it appears another round of upsets to your body has kicked off. It’s called the portpartum phase. These tips on how to deal with these common issues will help make the healing/recovery process more convenient, so you get back to your regular self in record time.
- Painful and infrequent bowel movement
Haemorrhoids, healing episiotomies and sore muscles don’t make bowel movements any easier, especially during the first week post-partum.
*Try using a low footstool that raises your knees and puts you in more of a squatting position than sitting.
*Use stool softeners offered by the hospital. Don’t use laxatives, suppositories, or enemas without your doctor’s approval.
*Eat lots of fiber rich fruits, vegetables and easily digested meals, not forgetting to drink lots of fluids.
* If your doctor approves, exercise can also be quite helpful.
- Breastfeeding hurts
When the milk comes in the first week, breasts may become engorged and quite sore. Engorged breasts will fell better as your breastfeeding pattern becomes established.
*Relieve clogged milk ducts with breast massage, frequent nursing, feeding after a warm shower, and warm moist compresses applied throughout the day.
*If you develop a fever or chills or your breast becomes tender or red, you may have an infection (mastitis) and need antibiotics. Consult your doctor if this happens.
*Continue nursing or pumping from both breasts and express milk when engorged.
*Drink plenty of fluids. Have a glass of water whenever your baby nurses to make sure of that.
*Take a breastfeeding class or see a lactation consultant for advice on dealing with your breastfeeding problems.
If your perineum was cut or tore during childbirth, the stitches may make it painful to sit or walk for a little while during the healing process. Coughing or sneezing may also be painful.
*Continue sitz baths (sitting in just a few inches of water and covering the buttocks up to the hips in the water). Use cool water for the first few days, then warm water afterwards. Squeeze the cheeks of your bottom together when you sit to avoid pulling painfully on the stitches.
*Use a squirt bottle with warm water to wash the area with water when you use the toilet and pat dry. Wipe from front to back to avoid infection.
*Reduce swelling with ice packs or chilled witch hazel pads.
*Talk to your doctor about taking an anti-inflammatory drug like ibuprofen to help with the pain and swelling.
Hemorrhoids are varicose veins of the anus. They may swell during pregnancy and ‘pop’ out during labour. They will eventually ‘pop’ back in, but in the meantime, using the toilet may be a tad stressful. There’s often a little blood stain during a bowel movement. Typically, this is not dangerous but may hurt.
*Alternating warm sitz baths and cold packs can help with haemorrhoids.
*Try sitting on an inflatable doughnut cushion.
*Talk to your doctor if you’re concerned. There are treatments for severe cases.
- Pregnancy weight
You added weight involuntarily to support your baby’s growth and now that he’s here, you appear stuck with it.
*Be physically active and breastfeed exclusively.
*Continue eating nutritious and healthy meals in moderate portions with lots of fluids, fruits and vegetables.
*Ask your doctor about safe exercises you can do, set weight loss goals and try to kick off an exercise routine. You could get an exercise buddy to make it fun and easier to do.
- Sexual relations
Since you are still trying to get back to your old self, you may crave nothing more than a good night’s sleep. Doctors usually recommend waiting between 4 – 6 weeks to have sex to reduce the risk of infection, increased bleeding, or re-opening healing tissue. You’ll probably notice reduced vaginal lubrication. This is due to hormones and is usually temporary.
*Begin slowly, with kissing, cuddling, and other intimate activities.
*Using a water-based lubricant may help with virginal lubrication. Try to find positions that put less pressure on sore areas and are most comfortable for you.
*Let your spouse know if you’re sore or scared of experiencing pain during intercourse. This may help both of you feel less anxious and more secure about resuming your sex life.
- Urinary/Fecal Incontinence
The stretching of your muscles during delivery can lead to accidentally passing urine when you cough, laugh, or strain and make it difficult to control your bowel movements, especially if a lengthy labour preceded a vaginal delivery. It resolves gradually as your body gets back to its pre-pregnancy state.
*Talk to your doctor about any form of incontinence you may experience.
*Kegel exercises which help strengthen the pelvic floor muscles may help. To find the correct muscles, pretend you’re trying to stop urinating. Squeeze those muscles for a few seconds, and then relax.
*Wear a sanitary pad for protection.
- Baby blues
Irritability, anxiety, crying or unhappiness beginning within days or weeks of delivery is common with new mums and may be due to hormonal and physical changes, unexpected birth experiences, exhaustion and the demands of caring for a baby. You’ll likely get over it within a week. In the meantime;
*Devise ways to relax, be happy, have fun and bond with your baby and spouse.
*Hire a nanny or solicit help from friends and family to take some pressure off you.
*Talk with other new and experienced mums and create an informal support group.
*Join mummy forums to relate with other new mums with similar experience.
*Listen to good music and get lots of fresh air.
- Post-partum depression (PPD)
PPD is a grave condition present in 10 – 25% of new mums which causes mood swings, persistent sadness, anxiety and guilt lasting several months after childbirth.
Post-partum depression is more common in women with a history of depression, multiple life stressors and a family history of depression. Consult your doctor if you experience any emotional meltdowns for longer than one week post-partum.
In addition, talk to your doctor if you have hot-to-the-touch, reddened, sore breasts or any crack or bleeding from the nipple or areola (the dark-colored area of the breast), experience increasing pain in the vaginal area, swelling or tenderness in your legs, soak more than a sanitary pad per hour, pass large cloths, your bleeding increases, vaginal discharge becomes foul-smelling, episiotomy or C-section incisions become very red, swollen or drains pus.
Remember, total recovery from the strains of pregnancy and labour will not happen overnight, especially if you had a C-section. Putting this in mind and making conscious efforts to be healthy will foster your speedy recovery goals.