During the postpartum phase, women experience abrupt changes in hormone levels. These hormonal shifts can trigger mood swings and may even contribute to postpartum blues. In most cases, emotional mood swings resolve within one to two weeks after delivery. When feelings of anxiety or depression are intense or persist longer than expected, it is important to consult your obstetrician.
An important part of postpartum care is making sure you get the rest you need. The addition of a new babyis exciting for family and friends and this means lots of calls and visits. Now is the time to slow down and take advantage of offers to help. Nap when your baby naps, or let others take over house and baby chores for a few hours each day.
Remember, your body has just produced a miracle. You may experience sore muscles and vaginal soreness – especially if you had an episiotomy. Vaginal discharge, known as lochia, is also normal. Although bright red and heavy initially, lochia lessens within a few days and gradually stops.
Other common postpartum symptoms include: contractions that resemble menstrual cramps, constipation, hemorrhoids and sore breasts. Supportive measures to relieve discomfort are helpful.
Make sure to drink plenty of water and eat a fiber-rich diet to help your bowel routine return to normal. If hemorrhoids are a problem, soak in a warm tub and ask your OBGYN about using a hemorrhoid cream. To relieve breast tenderness, apply cool compresses between feedings, wear a good support bra and use nursing pads to keep nipples dry.
If you had a C-section, you will likely require a mild pain medication for the first week or two. Follow your obstetrician’s instructions for wound care. Avoid soaking in the tub or swimming until your OBGYN tells you the incision is sufficiently healed.
Postpartum activity after a vaginal delivery really depends on how you feel. Unless instructed to limit physical activity, most women can return to normal activity within a few days. Women who had a C-section should avoid lifting anything heavier than their baby for 6 weeks and avoid driving for 2 weeks. C-section patients should also limit activity to short walks and light housekeeping until after their postpartum check-up. Most obstetricians suggest waiting 6 weeks before having sex after both vaginal and C-section deliveries.
Although you are probably eager to lose the extra baby weight and get in shape, remember – it takes time. Most women lose around 10 pounds immediately after birth. With regular exercise and a healthful diet, you should be back at your pre-baby weight within a few weeks.
The six-week check up is an important part of postpartum care. However, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists reports as many as 40 percent of women do not return for a postpartum visit. This appointment not only allows your OBGYN to assess your healing progress, it is also an opportunity for you to ask questions or discuss concerns.