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What to Expect After Childbirth

By Janelle Green, CNM, MSN

What to Expect After Childbirth

In the hospital, before your baby’s birth, the world revolved around you and your pregnancy. Now you’re home and reality hits – it’s back to life as usual, only now you also have a newborn. You wouldn’t be the first mom to ask: Now what? Here’s what to expect those first few days home.

During pregnancy your body physically changed in many ways and now some of those changes are here to stay. If you had a cesarean section, your scar can take months to fully heal.
Weight loss happens slowly, be prepared for it to take at least 4 months – or even up to a year until you feel that your body is similar to the way it was before.

Oh, my leaky body!

No matter what kind of birth you had, afterwards you’ll have vaginal bleeding for up to 6 weeks. Bleeding that lasts longer than this or soaks 2 or more maxi pads in an hour is reason to call your healthcare provider. Once the bleeding stops, it may still take a while for your normal menstrual cycle to return, especially if you’re breastfeeding.

And for you nursing moms, you’re breasts are likely to leak at inopportune times. Using nursing pads and wearing a supportive bra helps prevent milk from soaking through your shirt. Sore nipples and clogged ducts can happen but breastfeeding should never be painful. Get help quickly if you experience any pain in your breasts so that a bigger problem doesn’t emerge. Flu-like symptoms (headache, sore throat, fever) and redness in your breast (typically one-sided) needs expert attention right away. This could be mastitis, an infection requiring treatment.

Oh, my moods!

Your fluctuating hormones and new baby care responsibilities will fill you with emotional ups and downs as you adjust to this new phase of life. It’s common to feel teary or upset after having a baby. But if you’re feeling an overwhelming sense of anxiety or are unable to find pleasure in daily activities, reach out for help. The first two weeks after having a baby can be especially difficult emotionally, but sadness or anxiety that continues beyond this time should be evaluated by a professional. You’re particularly at risk for postpartum depression if you have little help at home or if you’ve suffered with depression before.

Oh, my new needs!

The idea of nurturing yourself after you have a baby may seem like a joke given all the competing demands on your body and your time. However, spending just a couple of minutes for yourself can be the boost in mental and physical energy you need.

Getting out for a walk or even just stepping outside for a breath of fresh air can provide a new perspective on an otherwise stressful day. Ask friends to drop by for a short visit – that may just be the break you need. Meditation or prayer can also provide a momentary pause that will help you to cope. The best soul food is often just taking a break to cuddle with and gaze at your little one. Give each other credit for the journey you are making together, and don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it!

Shopping List

You may need these things post-birth. Buying them now will save you the hassle of sending your partner or family out later:

  • Heavy-flow maxi pads (no tampons during this time!)
  • Ibuprofen or acetaminophen
  • Stool softener
  • Witch hazel wipes
  • Lanolin ointment for your breasts
  • Nursing pads
  • Newborn and size 1 diapers and wipes
  • Reference book for parents on baby’s first year

About the author: Janelle Green, CNM, MSN is a mom and midwife in Fresno, CA.

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