After Birth: What to expect physically and emotionally

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Giving birth is a strenuous and exhausting effort. Add to that few sleepless nights, engorged breasts, and recovering from stitches or a C-section, and you may feel like you’ve been run over by a bulldozer. Hopefully, your little bundle of joy evens out the scales and makes it all worth it.

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Severe fatigue: It’s essential to have help from family and friends. Although you’ve heard it before, you really should try to take advantage of daytime opportunities for rest (ie: when the baby is sleeping, you should be sleeping!) Avoid the urge to try and keep up with the housework or resume other tasks. RESTING will help your body recover more quickly.

Afterbirth Contractions These contractions indicate the uterus is shrinking to normal size, and are often strongest during breastfeeding (hormones associated with lactating also help the uterus return to normal size). Generally, after a first birth, these contractions are light or can’t even be felt at all. They become increasingly severe with later births.

Bleeding: Your body will shed the uterine lining over a period of about four to six weeks. It will initially be bloody, then thinner, pinkish and eventually yellow. It should not have an unpleasant odor.

Hair loss: During pregnancy, your hair may have seemed more luxuriant because hair-follicle growth became synchronized. Now your hair may temporarily appear thinner as this extra growth falls out. Increased perspiration is also common as the body loses some of its extra fluid.

Engorgement: Because your breasts are now supplying milk for your infant, breast enlargement and often engorgement occurs 3-4 days after the birth. Breastfeeding mothers can ease the discomfort by wearing a supportive bra, feeding the infant on demand and using acetaminophen. Bottle-feeding mothers should also wear a well-fitting, snug bra and use cold compresses.

Pain while Breastfeeding: It is very important to make sure your baby is latching on properly during feedings. Soreness is normal in the first couple weeks, but painful feedings are a sign that something is wrong. If you are experiencing cracked or bleeding nipples, seek the help of a breastfeeding consultant.

Vaginal Soreness: After stretching, tearing, or being incised and then stitched, the crotch area will be quite sore. It will be especially obvious while using the bathroom. The healing process normally results in a return to comfort within a few days. It is usually advised to wait 6 weeks before resuming sexual activity, as your vagina and vulva may feel dry and tender for weeks after any stitches heal, due to normally low levels of estrogen during milk production.

Extra pounds: Within the first day or so after birth, you’ll quickly loose about ten pounds. The remaining weight will be lost gradually, about 15 pounds in the next six or more weeks.  You may be anxious to have a waistline again, but women loose weight at different rates. Eating properly and exercising can hasten this process and add to a sense of well-being.

Your Feelings

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Because you are experiencing exhaustion, ecstasy, soreness, and hormone changes all at once, it’s important to understand your feelings and foster open communication with your partner.

Family Time: As a couple, you must decide on your level of interaction with friends and family. Some new parents want to spend time alone, bonding with each other and their new baby. Others relish visits with friends and family. Your decision may depend on the personality type and level of helpfulness. For instance, some grandparents are a pleasure to have around; others are critical, demanding or unavailable. Don’t be afraid to tell people that you are resting or just not feeling up to have visitors at the present time. In most cases, they will understand!

Be Realistic: After birth, gourmet meals, fashion dressing and immaculate housekeeping are unnecessary. Allow your spouse or partner to maintain the household while you rest.  Accept any offers of help, even if you don’t normally feel comfortable doing so.

Range of Feelings: Your life has changed forever, which can be wonderful and daunting at the same time! Women may be surprised at the intensity of feelings associated with a new baby. You may be madly in love with your tiny, perfect angel. You may be in awe at the new life in your care.  But you may also be overwhelmed by the responsibilities. You might feel anxious about your body’s slow healing and return to your pre-baby figure and pre-baby routine. You might worry that you’re not doing things right. You might even swing back and forth at times. It’s important to have the support and involvement of loved ones. Online forums where you can chat with other women in the same situation can also be helpful and comforting.

Intimacy: Sex may seem uninteresting, even impossible, at first. The baby is hungry or needs to be rocked, you’re sore, and most of all tired. You and your partner will  need to be patient. Interest in sex comes back, proven by the number of second and third siblings in the population.

Warning Signs

Not all warning signs mean something is wrong, but they indicate that you should talk to a doctor or caregiver to make sure everything is OK. Use this list as a guide.

  • Severe persistent pelvic pain, especially with fever.
  • Very heavy bleeding or a malodorous discharge after the first few days.
  • Distinct area of redness and pain in a breast, especially if accompanied by fever.
  • Worsening pain or swelling of the vaginal area after the first few days.
  • The loss of sexual desire or pleasure is a problem for either partner.
  • Inability to carry out baby care; uncontrollable crying.
  • Morbid concern about baby
  • Paralyzing indecision about job.
  • Persistent depression.
  • Inability to sleep, eat and concentrate on performance of daily activities
  • Hatred of baby

We hope that your new baby brings you incredible joy and fulfillment, and that you are able to adjust smoothly to the new challenges and changes in your life! Visit the pregnancy & new baby pages at iVillage for more information on baby care… and new mommy care!

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