Are you looking forward to meeting your little bundle of joy? Here are 6 Tips for Postpartum Recovery to help you prepare yourself for life after delivery. Understand the changes to your body, identify signs of illnesses, and overcome the challenges in breastfeeding. We'll share first-hand experiences from a mother of three!
Having a newborn baby can be both overwhelming and exhausting, especially for first-time mums. I, for one, had no idea what I was getting myself into, I simply didn’t know what to expect right after the birth of my precious little one. From one mother to another, I hope that this article will help tide you through your postpartum recovery process. Here are 6 tips to help you manage your expectations about life after delivery:
1. My tummy is still huge!
It came as a total shock to me that after delivery, my tummy appeared to be the size it was when I was six months pregnant. During the post-delivery visit to my doctor, I bumped into a friend who could hardly believe that I had already given birth and thought that I was joking when I told her that I had already delivered.
Thankfully, I later discovered about the wonders of post-natal massages in my conversation with a friend. A post-natal massage is supposed to improve blood circulation, help your womb to eliminate blood and discharge and stimulate it to contract, restoring it to its pre-pregnancy state.
It took me almost a year to return to my (almost) original figure without a post-natal massage. In the meantime, I had to get clothing in a size or two larger than my usual size. Don’t be disheartened if you cannot fit into your favourite pair of pre-pregnancy jeans just yet.
I booked a massage therapist when I was still pregnant with my second child. The post-natal massage consisted of a full-body massage which was so relaxing that I fell asleep during the massage and only woke abruptly to the sound of my snore. My masseuse commented that I must have been exhausted. Indeed, I was.
Towards the end of the post-natal massage session, my masseuse gave me a uterus massage, rubbed herbs on my abdomen and wrapped it with a binder. I was instructed to wear the binder for about 6 to 8 hours a day to provide physical support and to help me regain my figure faster.
From my personal experience, I got back into shape quicker than without post-natal massage. This was something which I opted for again when I delivered my third child, so you might want to consider getting one too!
2. I'm bleeding profusely!
Whether you have had a vaginal delivery or a c-section delivery, you will experience postpartum vaginal bleeding and discharge known as lochia. This is how your body expels the extra blood and tissue in your uterus that helped your baby grow. Your blood may initially be accompanied by some clots and mucous. You’ll have to wear thick maternity pads until the heavy bleeding subsides (usually after 10 days), after which you may switch to using regular sanitary pads. From my experience, I bled a lot for the first week after childbirth, and the whole bleeding process lasted for about 6 weeks.
3. How do I care for my wound and stitches?
It is quite common for your obstetrician to perform an episiotomy during natural childbirth to enlarge the space and facilitate the birth of your baby. An episiotomy is a surgical incision that is performed by the doctor using a pair of sterile scissors under a local anesthetic when the baby’s head is crowning and you are about to deliver. This is to enlarge the vaginal opening and prevent multiple tears which may occur if your pushing is overly fast and strong. After the episiotomy, your doctor will stitch the wound close, typically using dissolvable sutures. Dissolvable sutures will break down on their own within two to four weeks and hence, do not require removal by a doctor.
During the healing process, you need to keep your episiotomy wound clean and dry to minimize the risk of infection and to promote healing. After passing urine or bowel movement, use clean water to wash the wound, and soft cotton balls soaked in antiseptic liquid to clean the wound. I was issued a bottle of Hexodane wound wash from the hospital I had delivered in and brought it home when I was discharged, to continue caring for my episiotomy wound at home.
If you have had a c-section, the dressing over your wound may be changed to a waterproof type before you are discharged from the hospital. You may have a bath but do keep the dressing dry for the first few days. The pain which you experience from the incision wound should subside as the days go by.
4. I'm afraid of pooing!
To be honest, I was terrified of the thought of passing motion for the very first time after childbirth. I had a constant fear that my episiotomy wound would split or get contaminated during the process. In case you feel this way, you are not alone. If you've had stitches, doing a poo won't make your stitches come apart.
When you feel the urge to poo, don't put it off, or else you may get constipated. Remember to drink plenty of water to soften your stools, so that you can pass motion more easily. On hindsight, having gone through this process three times, it was really not as bad as I had imagined.
5. I want to breastfeed, but…help!
Breastfeeding is a wonderful way to bond with your baby and at the same time, provide all the nutrients that your baby needs. I’m going to be honest here, breastfeeding was NOT a breeze for me. But hey, do not be discouraged – once you get the hang of it, you will be okay!
This may happen due to prolonged suckling, since your newborn nurses eight to 12 times a day for the first month. Your nipples can become sensitive and sore even if the lactation consultant has confirmed that your breastfeeding position and technique are correct. For me, the pain lasted for a couple of weeks with each child I breastfed. In case you are wondering - no, I didn’t get immune to the pain after breastfeeding my firstborn. But knowing the benefits of breastfeeding for my baby helped me persevere.
Here are some tips to help you through the breastfeeding process:
- See a lactation consultant: While you are still recovering from childbirth in the hospital, you should request for a visit from the hospital’s lactation consultant to check your baby’s latch and show you the various feeding positions.
- Get get a good latch: Your newborn should have a large portion of the lower part of the areola (the dark skin around your nipple) in her mouth when she feeds, with your nipple against the roof of her mouth, cupped gently underneath by her tongue.
- Vary your breastfeeding positions: Trying different breastfeeding positions may take the pressure off the most painful areas of your breast.
- Soothe your nipples: If you have dry, cracked or sore nipples, soothe your nipples using lanolin cream, or apply a few drops of your own breast milk, and air dry to avoid irritation from clothing.
- Protect your nipples: Breast shells can be worn inside your bra to prevent your sore or cracked nipples from chafing.
“I’m not producing enough milk!”
Newborns have very small digestive systems. Your body will produce its first milk also known as colostrum (which is thick, yellow, and sticky) in small amounts. Colostrum contains high concentrations of nutrients and antibodies for your baby. If you can, allow your baby to latch on to your breasts within the first hour after birth. By latching on and sucking rhythmically, he begins stimulating the cells in your breasts to initiate your milk supply.
From what I gathered through personal experience, the concept of breastfeeding is simple – it is all about demand and supply. The more your baby nurses, the more milk your body will produce. Let your baby nurse fully on each side. If you seem to be producing less milk than usual, try to feed your baby more often. You also can pump after nursing to help stimulate more milk production. Remember to also stay hydrated by drinking lots of water.
“I’m producing too much milk!”
Overstimulating your breasts by pumping or expressing milk between feeds may cause you to produce too much milk. If you are pumping or expressing to relieve discomfort, remove just enough to feel comfortable but do not empty the breast.
“Is my baby getting enough milk?”
When nursing directly, it is difficult to tell how much milk you are producing. There are, however, some indicators which can help you determine if your baby is getting enough milk:
- Listen for swallowing sounds during breastfeeding.
- The breasts should soften after feeding.
- Check the number of wet and soiled diapers a day. When your baby is about one week old, he should have four to six wet diapers daily and four to six poops every day.
- Ensure that your baby gains weight and meets the growth targets.
“I’m leaking milk!”
It is common for milk to leak from your breasts, especially if you are nursing your baby. Simply place a nursing pad in your bra to absorb the leak, or, attach a manual breast pump such as the Haakaa silicone breast pump to collect the leaked milk for storage later.
“I have a fever and pain in my breast!”
Should you develop a fever and pain in your breast, you could have an inflammation of the breast tissue which may have developed into a bacterial infection- mastitis. Mastitis may arise from a blocked milk duct, or from bacteria entering the breast. Don’t take this lightly because if left untreated, it may lead to a breast abscess that may require surgical drainage. See your doctor immediately to get appropriate treatment.
I contracted mastitis twice – when I was breastfeeding my firstborn and second born. It felt like a huge blue-black under my arm. I was prescribed antibiotics, advised to apply a warm compress on the affected area, massage the breast while feeding baby, as well as to vary the feeding positions.
Breastfeeding was initially tough for me because it hurt so much that I would cringe and release a silent scream every single time I latched my baby. Also, I was exhausted from the never-ending marathon feeds.
However, with perseverance and plenty of support from my husband as well as a good friend who had breastfed her child too, I started to enjoy the process after the pain started to subside. I enjoyed the convenience of breastfeeding- I would only need to pack a nursing cover along with me wherever I went. Just wear the nursing cover and latch, as simple as that!
6. I'm feeling extra emotional!
It is natural to feel extra emotional after giving birth. After all, your body is going through hormonal changes, recovering from the stress of giving birth and adjusting to a new norm of having to care for a newborn baby.
Baby blues occur in two-thirds of women, usually within the first week of delivery, and may take up to a week to subside. You may experience one or more of the following feelings:
- worrying about your baby’s health
- overwhelmed by the responsibilities of parenthood
- tearful without knowing why
- tired but unable to get sleep
I was not spared from the baby blues. I felt helpless and overwhelmed by the new responsibilities of being a mother.
If you are feeling down, seek support and encouragement from your spouse, family, or friends, and get some rest. If your baby blues symptoms persist beyond two weeks, do seek advice from your doctor.
One in ten women who have recently given birth suffers from post-natal depression (PND), an illness that requires medical attention or psychological treatment and possibly therapy. Those at risk include women with:
- past psychiatric illness (such as major depression)
- depression during pregnancy
- little support/financial worries/dissatisfied marriages or relationships
PND usually develops within the first few months after giving birth. However, it can start at any time during the first year. Many mothers experience at least one of these feelings at some point in time. However, if you experience many of these symptoms on most days and they don’t get better, you may have PND. Some symptoms include:
- feeling sad
- extreme tiredness
- a loss in interest in activities
- poor sleep
- a sense of hopelessness
- a sense of guilt
- lack of appetite
- body aches
- negative feelings towards your baby
It is important for you to get lots of sleep, maintain a healthy and well-balanced diet, exercise, and keep in touch with other mothers for support. Do seek professional help if you suffer from multiple PND symptoms that do not subside.
I hope that after reading this article, you will be better prepared for life after delivery. When the nights get long and the going gets tough, always remember that every child is a blessing from God. Having gone through the process three times myself, things will get better and easier to manage as your baby grows older, I promise.
If you enjoyed the blog article above, you can read the full version of my Journal Article here for more information and tips!
CaregiverAsia provides Confinement Nanny and Babysitting services. Sometimes, mummies can use an extra pair of helping hands too!
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