Mom, Take Care of Yourself

Taking care of yourself means you’re more likely to have all the energy and enthusiasm it takes to care for your baby. Here are a few things to keep in mind:

Your postpartum checkup

Mother getting a check upMake an appointment to see your doctor for your postpartum visit. This appointment should be between two to six weeks after your baby is born. If you have questions or problems before then, call your doctor. 

Things to talk to your doctor about:

  • Ask if you are protected against rubella. If not, get a shot to protect yourself before you leave the doctor’s office.
  • Ask about family planning. Your body is not ready for another pregnancy right now. You can get pregnant again even if you are breastfeeding.  

Breastfeeding. It’s best for your baby, and it’s good for you, too. It will help get your uterus (womb) back in shape. For help or advice about breastfeeding, call:

  • The hospital where you gave birth. They may have a lactation consultant.
  • The Arkansas Department of Health at 1-800-445-6175 
  • La Leche League at 1-877-452-5324 or visit the 
  • La Leche League at www.llli.org.

Avoid alcohol, cigarettes and drugs. They are not healthy for you and can harm your baby if passed through your breast milk.

Your diet. Eat a variety of healthy foods and drink six to eight glasses of water and other liquids each day.

Postpartum care

Postpartum discomfort may include:

Sore breasts or engorgement. Several days after delivery, your breasts may become heavy, swollen and tender. This means your breasts are overfull or engorged. You also may have a low-grade fever.

To ease engorgement:

If you are breastfeeding, nurse your baby or use a breast pump to express milk. You also may want to apply cold washcloths or ice packs to your breasts, or take a warm bath or shower. Over-the-counter pain relievers may help, too.

If you’re not breastfeeding, wear a firm, supportive bra. Compressing your breasts will help stop milk production. In the meantime, don’t pump your breasts or express milk because this will signal your breast to produce more milk.

Leaky breasts. Unfortunately, you can’t stop the leaking, but wearing absorbent nursing pads inside your bra can help keep your clothes dry. Avoid pads that are lined or backed with plastic, which can irritate your nipples. Change pads after each feeding or whenever they get wet.

Constipation. Your first bowel movement after birth may take a couple of days. Hemorrhoids you developed during pregnancy, healing episiotomies and sore muscles may make it a painful event. 

To prevent constipation and straining:

  • Eat foods high in fiber – including fruits, vegetables and whole grains. 
  • Drink plenty of water. 
  • Remain as physically active as possible.
  • Try using a stool softener or fiber laxative. 
  • Contact your doctor if you do not have a bowel movement after several days.

Hemorrhoids. Your doctor may recommend a topical hemorrhoid medication, a soak in a warm tub or chilled witch hazel pads applied to the affected area.

Episiotomy. If the area of skin between your vagina and anus was cut by your doctor or torn during birth, the stitches may make it painful to sit or walk for a little while. While it is healing, it also may be painful when you cough, sneeze or laugh. 

For relief:

  • Apply cold packs to that area for the first 24 hours after delivery, and then use warm packs.
  • Avoid infection and promote healing by rinsing the area with warm water after you urinate or have a bowel movement. Use anesthetic sprays and creams, or clean the area with witch hazel pads (Tucks).
  • Sit in a sitz bath (a small basin that fits on top of the toilet) or bathtub three or four times a day. 

Urinary or fecal incontinence. If you had an unusually long labor or a vaginal delivery, you may experience urinary or fecal incontinence because of the stretching and weakening of the muscles of your pelvic floor. This means you may accidentally pass urine when you cough, laugh or strain, or may find it difficult to control your bowel movements. Get those muscles back in shape by doing your Kegel exercises. 

If you continue having trouble controlling bowel movements, call your doctor.

Pains. After giving birth, your uterus will continue having contractions for a few days. These are most noticeable when your baby nurses or when you are given medication to reduce bleeding. Your doctor may recommend an over-the-counter pain reliever.

If you have a fever or if your abdomen is tender to the touch, call your doctor. You may have a uterine infection.

Vaginal discharge. At first you may have a bloody discharge that could be heavier than your period and may contain clots. It’s normal, so don’t be alarmed. This bloody vaginal discharge will gradually fade to white or yellow and then stop completely within two months. To reduce the risk of infection, use sanitary napkins rather than tampons. 

Contact your doctor if:

  • You soak a sanitary pad within an hour while lying down.
  • The discharge has a foul odor.
  • You pass clots larger than a golf ball.
  • You have a fever of 100.4°F or higher.

Weight. It’s not unusual to feel flabby and out of shape after pregnancy. You may even look like you’re still pregnant. This is perfectly normal. Your abdominal muscles probably separated during pregnancy and will take at least six weeks to heal. 

  • Eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly will help you gradually regain your pre-pregnancy figure. 
  • The recommended amount of calories varies from woman to woman. Check with your doctor about what’s right for you.
  • Do your Kegels, but wait until you have completely stopped bleeding before swimming or taking extended walks. 

Recovery from cesarean section

If you had a C-section, it may take longer for you to recover. 

The worst pain will probably be in the first day or two after surgery, but it will subside gradually. Your doctor will tell you about postsurgical precautions and give you directions for bathing, how to begin gentle exercises to speed recovery and how to help avoid constipation.

You should:

  • Drink 8 to 10 glasses of water daily.
  • Expect vaginal discharge.
  • Avoid stairs and lifting until you’ve healed.
  • Avoid driving until you can make sudden movements and wear a safety belt properly without discomfort.
  • Call your doctor if the incision becomes red or swollen.

 

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