Happy New Mum: Postpartum Care
Right after a woman gives birth, her body goes through a postpartum period which lasts up to eight weeks. Postpartum care is crucial during this period to ensure that the new mum’s vulnerable body does not run into any health complications and also so that she is able to slowly regain her strength and vigor. If you’re about to become a new mum, we hope this piece will be useful for you. Read on…
Immediately after giving birth, you will be checked over frequently. This is necessary so that doctors can be on the look out for any abnormality in the changes your body is going through, and that your body is recovering well, without complications. Postpartum care at home is just as important, whereby your postpartum experiences depend on whether you had a vaginal delivery or Cesarean section. Any symptoms of infections or complications should be reported to your doctor. Your first postpartum doctor’s appointment would be scheduled between six to eight weeks after giving birth.
If you’ve had an uncomplicated vaginal birth, you might spend just one night at the hospital. It will be perfectly normal to feel exhausted, especially after long hours of labour. In the coming hours right after you have given birth, you will be checked upon frequently to assess your blood pressure, heart rate, how much you are still bleeding and if everything else is in order. Any complications from your delivery will be addressed and taken care of.
If you’ve had a vaginal birth, you might have also underwent a procedure called an episiotomy, which is an incision to widen the vagina opening for childbirth. If so, you may feel a burning sensation as the wound begins to heal. The perineum, which is the area between the vagina and the rectum, would have stretched a lot during a vaginal birth and it will be swollen and painful. Some hospitals and birth centres may offer ice packs which can be placed against the area for relief.
A nurse may come in to press on your abdomen quite often. This procedure, though a bit uncomfortable and painful for many new mums, is necessary to check if your uterus is becoming firmer and shrinking back the way it should. Breastfeeding as soon as possible will help this process. You may still have mild contractions as your uterus changes.
Vaginal bleeding is normal and as the uterus gets firmer and smaller, the amount of bleeding decreases. However, if you have very large blood clots, bleeding that soaks a maxi pad within an hour or less, have a high fever, or if there’s a strange odor to your bleeding, you may have complications and may require further treatment.
The pressure placed on your bladder during pregnancy, labor and delivery can make it difficult to urinate after delivery. It will take some time for things to go back to normal, but in the meantime, you can help speed up the urinating reflex by pouring water over the vulva while urinating. It’s possible to contract urinary tract infections after giving birth, and if it hurts to urinate or you want to urinate very frequently or feel urination is incomplete, do let your doctor know.
A retained placenta occurs when all or part of the placenta remains inside the uterus after child birth. Normally the placenta is delivered within minutes to an hour after child birth, but in some cases, the placenta or part of it has to be physically removed. If the placenta has separated from the uterine wall but still remains inside, a Controlled Cord Traction (CCT) might be performed by the doctor, where the umbilical cord is lightly pulled on to help the body expel the placenta. If the placenta of part of it still adheres to the uterine wall, a manual removal might be needed, where the doctor manually removes the placenta from the uterine wall and out of the vagina, by hand.
In incidences where the placenta cannot be removed whole, it is removed in pieces, sometimes by use of surgical tools to scrape at the uterus wall. In cases where the placenta has deeply grown into the uterus, removal is only possible by hysterectomy, which is the surgical removal of the uterus. Future childbearing will not be possible after a hysterectomy.
If you’ve had a Cesarean-section, you will have to stay in the hospital for two to three days while recovering. As common as it is, a C-section is still considered a major surgical procedure, and you will have to be cared for accordingly. Other than feeling groggy and nauseated after the operation, you’re bound to feel pain from the surgical site. Itchiness due to certain medications are also common. It may be uncomfortable and painful to sit up and nurse your baby, but it is important to try and do so. Do not hesitate to ask for help from the medical staff, for it’s their job to assist you.
Your blood pressure and heart rate will be assessed and you will be checked for heavy vaginal bleeding and possible infections. Your uterus size and firmness will also be checked to ensure that the changes taking place are normal.
For up to eight hours after a C-section, sitting up may be quite a challenge. Do try however to sit up, with help, several times a day, as a bit of movement helps to speed the healing process.
The catheter placed during surgery to allow you to urinate will be removed within one day. Medication for pain will be given to you to help cope while recovering.
Postpartum Care at Home
Your postpartum body will experience continual changes for some time after giving birth, and these may cause you to feel tired and worn out. Sleep while your baby sleeps so that you can get the rest you need. Eat as much nutritious food as you can and get plenty of fluids too, for these are important to aid in the recovery process and in letting your milk come in.
Perineum care can be continued at home. Soothe your vagina with a spray bottle of warm water every time you take a pee. After 24 hours, you are also able to take a shallow warm bath. Pain medications given by your doctor should help ease the pain whenever needed. Speaking of pain, bowel movements may be painful for a few days after childbirth. A diet with plenty of fiber helps keep stools regular. You may even be given stool softeners to take at home. Some women may experience fecal incontinence, which is a problem controlling the bowels. Kegel exercises may help with this complication. Due to damage to the bladder and urethra, you may occasionally leak urine when you cough, sneeze or laugh over the next few months too. Kegel exercises will also help you regain control over these muscles and reduce this problem.
After birth, there will be vaginal bleeding called lochia that will last up to eight weeks. There may be some small clots which are normal. If you see abnormally large clots however, or if you detect a bad odor, or your bleeding increases significantly, call your doctor.
A few days after giving birth, you may feel very emotional and sad but these are normal hormonal reactions most new moms will go through. If this continues for a long time, or you feel unable to care for your baby, ask for help and contact your doctor. You may have postpartum depression, which is, fortunately, treatable.
Exercise can help you heal and get back your energy, but easy does it! To be safe, talk to your doctor about appropriate activity levels.