You have barely done with dealing with pregnancy issues and now you have a horde of postpartum issues to deal with. If the issues mentioned below are the ones you are facing too, I have offered some tips used by me during my postpartum period. However, do consult your doctor, if your issues persist, regardless.
Involution is the name given to the contractions that a new mother experiences soon after childbirth. It means that the uterus is continuing with its contractions to shrink back to its original size. The contractions first begin when the uterus pushes your baby out, then the placenta and continues for a few days after childbirth. But don’t worry. The contractions are not usually felt after birth of your first baby, but you may feel it during subsequent births. I did not feel any pain after my first child although I did experience stomach cramps for a couple of days soon after my second child. The contractions will be felt more when you are nursing the baby because breastfeeding releases oxytocin hormone that helps the uterus to contract further. So, you must breastfeed your baby for providing better nourishment to your baby as well as getting back to your pre-pregnancy shape.
It is normal to pass blood clots a.k.a. lochia soon after birth, as it a part of your uterus’s way of ridding itself of placental tissue, excess mucus and bad blood. Lochia is different from menstrual bleeding although they look the same. Lochia will continue for 5 to 6 weeks unlike menstrual bleeding. Two days after my first child, while I was still in hospital, I woke up to a sticky wet feeling under my butt. I looked in shock at large blood clots that had soaked the bed and thought I was going to die. My mother rushed to get the doctor who reassured me that it was normal. However, if it happens to you, I would recommend you to ask the doctor right away instead of assuming that it is normal, especially if you are feeling dizzy or lightheaded, if the blood clot has a foul odor or if you have a fever above 100.2 F (38 C). By the way, you must not use tampons at this time. The bleeding is heavy and clotty at first and tapers after a couple of weeks or more.
During the birth of my first child, my doctor had made a small slit in my vagina to help me push the baby out easily and to prevent an uneven vaginal tear. He had stitched it up and it had healed after a week or so. But it had been painful and had stung badly every time I used the toilet. I had used an ice pack to soothe the wound.. If you don’t have an ice pack, you can wrap some ice cubes in an old handkerchief and use it. Alternatively, you can pour warm water over the vulva while urinating. Clean the area, using a water-filled squirt bottle and soak your butt into a tub filled with warm tub (add a capful of Dettol to the water)
After you have pushed your baby out, you will probably be nervous about pushing anymore. I was hesitant to even urinate. I had got constipated for a day and that was painful because of my vaginal stitches and contractions. I used to take Isabgol (a natural, highly soluble, vegetable fiber and pysillium-based laxative) for relief from constipation, for a few days. But after a couple of days, you get back into the groove. If it hurts to go to the toilet, use a low footstool to place your feet so that the stitches are not stretched while you push. Alternatively, press a small clean wad of cloth or pad against your wound and press firmly upwards while you push down, in order to ease the pressure. While using the toilet, keep your knees together as opposed to keeping it across over the toilet seat, to relieve pressure on the wound. Drink lots of water, fresh juices, barley water, fiber rich foods and exercise.
You may feel reluctant to urinate in order to avoid feeling the sting of the wound or some swelling around the bladder may make it hard for you to urinate easily. In order to combat this problem, practice the kegels exercise while sitting down on the toilet seat. For example, pull your vaginal muscles in and out rhythmically. This will induce your bladder to release the urine and flow out smoothly. You can also try pouring warm water on your vaginal opening to induce urination.
Swollen varicose veins near your anus are hemorrhoids. Hemorrhoids are common to all but a new mother is vulnerable to it during her pregnancy up to her postpartum period. Chronic constipation is the major cause for hemorrhoids. There may be a little passing of blood during your bowels but it is nothing to get stressed about. To soothe the pain, you can soak in a warm tub or use ice packs on the area. Ask your doctor for some topical application cream to get relief. Also, eat a fiber rich diet to avoid constipation.
It is common for a new mother’s breasts to become swollen, tender and heavy with milk, especially during the first couple of weeks after childbirth. If you skip a feed during this time, your breasts will get engorged and extremely painful to the touch. You must either nurse your baby or express the milk out using a breast pump. Engorged breasts may run you up with fever. During my first baby, my nipples had become extremely tender and painful whenever I had nursed her, due to which I had decided to skip a feed. My breasts had engorged unbearably and I ran up a fever over 102 F. I had to manually express the milk out using warm packs because it had been too painful to use the breast pump. Leaking milk is also common although there is nothing much you can do about this other than nurse your baby often. Wear nursing pads inside your bra for better absorption.
If you have not taken steps to care for your nipples during pregnancy, you are likely to experience pain while nursing your baby, although it is only for a week or so. If your baby succeeds in latching on correctly, you will only feel a momentary pain before it subsides. However, if your baby is unable to latch on properly and fails persistently, you are likely to feel pain throughout the nursing time. It had been very painful while nursing both my babies, as my nipples had become sore and cracked and bleeding. Breastfeeding had become a torture and a nightmare. I had to perforce stop nursing for a week to allow my nipples to heal. If you have a similar problem, you can either use a good breast cream or turmeric mixed with a little milk cream, which is a good antiseptic too, to heal your nipples. Make sure your baby latches on to the areola (dark area around your nipple) and not the nipple alone. Sometimes, an engorged breast may make it hard for the baby to get a grip of your areola. So, express out a little milk to loosen the area around the areola for your baby.
During pregnancy, your hair becomes thicker on account of enhanced levels of hormones coupled with special hot oil massages given to your hair. However, your joy is short –lived when your body decides to take back all the excess hair it gave you during pregnancy. Don’t worry, after a couple of months, your hair will be look the same as it did before your pregnancy. Sometimes, the hair fall continues even after a year, which could be due to poor nutrition and lack of adequate hair care. Take protein rich foods and plenty of dairy products like yogurt for lustrous hair. Occasional oil massage to your hair will also prevent hair loss. (read my post on hair care)
Apply creams liberally on your lower abdomen during pregnancy in order to control stretch marks after childbirth. There is an old wives tale that scratching your belly during pregnancy can cause stretch marks. It is probably a myth although I was reluctant to take any chances. I had refrained myself from scratching and had used a cloth instead. It is normal to feel itchy around your belly and lower abdomen as your skin stretches so much. Liberal application of cream can soothe the itch a lot. After childbirth, continue to apply creams for at least 2 to 3 months (read my post on stretch marks)
It is normal to sweat more than usual during the first few days after childbirth. Women who take medications during childbirth may sweat even more, especially at night after going to bed. Sweating occurs on account of excess water build up in your body during pregnancy and your body is flushing them out. Once your hormones have settled down and your body is done with flushing excess fluids out, you will stop sweating so much. Make sure you make up for excess sweating by increasing your fluid intake in order to prevent dehydration. You can tell if you are well hydrated, from the pale color of your urine. If your urine is dark, you will need to drink plenty of water.
Of course, you will feel hungry more because you are nursing your baby. Milk production uses up a lot of energy from your body. However, don’t go overboard because you may gain so much weight that may be hard to shed later. Make smart food choices by sticking to whole grains, fruits, veggies, legumes, lean meats, fiber and plenty of water. Say no to high calorie food. Eat sandwiches using whole grain bread to snack between meals. Dry nuts and salads are also good between-meals snack. Eat smaller portions of food 5 to 6 times a day and last but not the least, exercise regularly.
Just as the first trimester of your pregnancy had you in the grip of mood swings due to hormonal imbalances, childbirth can make you ecstatic or dismally unhappy. In fact, you are liable to experience a wider range of emotions like irritability, anger, anxious, weepy, weepy, shocked lonely, sad, confident, proud and so on. It is normal to feel like that, especially if it is your first baby, as your life has changed and you are unsure about how to deal with it. Baby blues, as they are called is typical and nothing to worry about. It will subside after a while and you can get back to your old routine soon enough. Confide your feelings with your partner for his love and support. However, if the feelings persist, consult your doctor right away.
It is perfectly normal to continue to look flabby, because your belly will take some time to get back to its old shape. You may look like you are still pregnant but that is to be expected after all, you have given birth to a 7 to 8 pounds baby with the added weight of the amniotic fluid and placenta. Don’t despair, as you will get your old shape back by following a right diet and regular exercise. But, a mother with a baby is the most beautiful sight in the world, as I am sure your husband will agree.
The issues mentioned above are faced by all new mothers and are nothing to be stressed about. Share your concerns with your doctor, if any and have a wonderful life taking care of your baby and your husband, of course