Taking Care of Yourself After Having a Baby
Now that your baby has arrived, you may have questions about how to care for your new baby. You may also notice changes to your body, and have questions about how to take care of yourself. Following some of the information in this article will help you feel like yourself, so that you can enjoy this special time with your baby.
Giving birth is physically exhausting. Even if you are in great shape, you will need to rest after having your baby. It can sometimes take four-to-eight weeks to feel like yourself again.
While giving birth is an exciting time for you and your family, try to limit visitors and phone calls a week or two after having your baby. This will give you time to rest and learn how to take care of yourself and your new baby.
After your baby is born, your uterus will contract to its normal size. When this happens, you may experience cramps. These are called after-birth pains, and they usually subside in three or four days.
If you have given birth before, you may experience more intense cramps. This is because your uterus needs to work harder to return to its normal size. Also, breastfeeding mothers may have more cramps during and after nursing.
After giving birth, you may experience vaginal discharge (called lochia). This discharge consists of blood and the lining of your uterus. It usually changes color over several weeks. It can change from bright red, to pink, and then to white. This bleeding may increase as you become more active. It is also normal to have small clots.
It’s important to see a physician, if you experience any of the following:
- You are soaking through a large pad every three hours or less
- Your vaginal bleeding increases and doesn’t slow down when resting
- You are worried about the amount, color, or length of time you are bleeding
Until you stop bleeding, use a peri-bottle when you use the toilet. Always wipe from front to back, away from your vagina. For the first week at home, use soft tissues and gently pat dry.
Make sure to change your pads often. If your perineum is painful or swollen, place ice on the area for the first 24 hours after birth. Then, use a sitz bath three times a day for 20 minutes. A sitz bath is a special basin filled with warm water that you can sit on to soak your perineal area.
If you’ve had a vaginal delivery you may have stitches, and they may still feel uncomfortable when you return home. Fix your pad so that it does not rub against your stitches. Apply Tucks® or witch hazel to your stitches each time you change your pad, after a sitz bath, and whenever you are uncomfortable.
Your stitches don’t need to be removed and will dissolve in about three weeks. It will take about two-to-four weeks for your skin to heal completely. Take acetaminophen, ibuprofen, or prescription pain medicine as your doctor instructs.
You may be constipated the first few weeks after giving birth. To ease constipation:
- Drink 8-to-10 glasses of water each day
- Eat high-fiber foods, such as raw fruits and vegetables, fruit juices, figs, dates, prunes, whole grain breads, and bran cereal
- Try a mild laxative or stool softener, such as Milk of Magnesia®, Senokot®, or Peri-Colace®. (If you are breastfeeding, use Metamucil® or Colace®)
You may have hemorrhoids in late pregnancy, or after delivery. Hemorrhoids usually improve and disappear with time. If they are especially bothersome, you can try some of the following:
- Over-the-counter hemorrhoid cream
- Avoid straining during a bowel movement
- Limit the amount of time you are seated on the toilet
- Sitz baths
- Witch hazel pads
It’s not uncommon to experience mood swings during the first days or weeks after delivery. They can happen suddenly around the third or fourth day after delivery and may include the following symptoms:
- Feelings of disappointment
- Crying for no reason
- Trouble concentrating
It’s common for these feelings to go away soon after they start and usually without treatment. These symptoms may also be present in postpartum depression. Women with postpartum depression may have trouble coping with their daily tasks. If these feelings do not pass in a few days, speak with your doctor, midwife, nurse, or nurse practitioner.
To stay healthy after giving birth, make sure to eat nutritious foods, such as breads, leafy vegetables, and fruits, lean meats, and fish. If you’re hungry between meals, snack on fruit or low-fat dairy products.
If you doctor advises, continue taking prenatal vitamins. If you are breastfeeding, your body needs liquid to produce milk, so stay hydrated by drinking water whenever you are thirsty. Taking care of yourself will help you feel like yourself, so that you can enjoy this special time with your baby.