What Exactly is Postpartum Care?
Postpartum is considered the first six weeks after you have given birth to your child. Postpartum care is taking charge of what happens during those six weeks.
Your hormones are going crazy. And your lady parts are unrecognizable. Taking care of your body and mind is one of the most valuable things that you can do!
Hormones and Postpartum Care
During your pregnancy different hormones are at work in your body. These hormones helped to grow and develop your baby. When your hormones fluctuate, it can affect your behavior. And even your mood.
Right after you deliver your bundle of joy – and that ugly placenta sac – your progesterone and estrogen levels dropped drastically. And your body was pumped full of oxytocin. “That’s science talk for hormones”. But what does this mean for you?
When you gave birth to your child. Do you remember that rush of amazing awe? Do you remember looking at your baby and being so incredibly happy? That is due to the hormone oxytocin. That hormone surged through your body and contributed to that feeling you felt. Oxytocin is called the happy hormone for a reason.
Also the hormone Prolactin has increased drastically. This hormone is responsible for sending the signal to your body to produce breast milk. That yellow, sticky colostrum will soon turn into breast milk made specifically for your baby.
What Causes Mood Swings After Childbirth?
More hormones. Progesterone and estrogen are no longer needed in such high doses since their main part was played in growing your baby. But when those hormone levels dropped after giving birth, it caused mood swings. Your emotions are now all over the place.
These changes in your hormones might make you feel a little crazy. You will never know how it will affect you personally. Some women might experience the baby blues or postpartum depression. If you are feeling long bouts of sadness after two weeks postpartum make sure to check in with your OBGYN and see what your doctor suggests.
How Long Will It Take for Your Hormones to Go Back to Normal?
It takes around two to three months before your hormones will regulate back to your pre-pregnancy state. Then you might start to feel more “normal”. But now normal is a relative term. You have a new normal to get acquainted with. This leads to you taking care of yourself. A little self-care goes a long way in increasing your happiness.
Self-Care for Postpartum Moms
I don’t quite know why, but women tend to overlook the most important part of postpartum care – taking care of yourself. How can you expect to take care of a newborn if you are putting yourself on the back burner?
Sleep When You Can
You see this everywhere because it’s important. When I had my son, my husband and I tried to do everything together. THEN we became sleep-deprived and irritable. We changed up our game plan to us taking care of our son individually in 3-hour increments. OH, I cannot tell you how amazing it was to get a full 3 hours of sleep. I literally felt like I had gotten at least 8. My mood increased drastically, and I was more on point. I promise you will be too with a little extra rest.
Stay Hydrated and Eat
Your baby has become your top priority. You respond to his every cry, and if your baby falls asleep on you, you probably will refuse to move till he or she wakes up. But going back to not putting yourself on the back burner. You need sustenance. You need calories. You might be asking why, but calories = energy. Postpartum wellness starts with the choices you make. Plan ahead for when your babe comes.
Here is what you need to do!
● Take a daily vitamin – whether that means continuing your prenatal vitamin, switching to postnatal vitamins, or just simply taking a one a day vitamin.
● Have your meals planned out as far as you can – stash up on freezer meals, or if you have friends and family that live close by utilize them and see if you can set up a calendar of meals to be delivered to you! Also, there is always the option of restaurant food delivered right to your door.
● Have snacks stashed around the house in places that you frequent – like the living room.
● Stay hydrated! Especially if you are breastfeeding because breastmilk is 80% water.
If you take anything away from the article, take away this. There are 1,440 minutes in a day. Take 20 minutes a day for yourself – more if possible. You alone choose what to do with those twenty minutes. Break it up into four, five-minute breaks. Or take a 10-minute shower, read for 5 minutes, scroll Facebook for 5 minutes.
My point is, take some time for yourself. A lot of moms feel like they lose their sense of self, and feel like they can’t do anything anymore without the baby. Breath mama, and take care of yourself.
Body Issues You Should Expect Postpartum
The most obvious body issues that come postpartum are vaginal pain/or abdomen pain depending on if you had a vaginal delivery or a cesarean. The one body issue that is usually not thought of, is that first horrific bowel movement of death – Sorry for getting all intense, but I swear the first poop was worse than childbirth itself.
Tips for You on Vaginal Soreness
You just gave birth to your baby. Your vagina stretched more than you thought ever possible. And you might have even torn – yikes not pleasant. Your lady bits went through hell and back. There is swelling, bruising, and soreness.
Right after birth, the hospital will provide you with perennial numbing spray, ice packs, a squirt bottle, and witch hazel pads. Utilize these.
● Instead of wiping, use the squirt bottle to clean your lady bits
● The numbing spray helps with the pain – as the name suggests
● Ice packs are a godsend
● The witch hazel pads will help with inflammation and irritation – I remember lining my postpartum pad with these bad boys, the instant relief was amazing
When it is time to discharge from the hospital, ASK FOR EXTRA SUPPLIES that you can take home with you.
When you are home, make sure to have some reusable ice packs and everything you snagged from the hospital. You can even make your own “Padsicles“.
What You Need to Know About Your First Poop
I wish someone had warned me about the first poop after childbirth. I remember it bringing me to tears. – I don’t tell you this to scare you, but to prepare you. The first bowel movement after childbirth is like giving birth all over again. Whatever you do, don’t not go, that can cause an increase in constipation making it harder to go in the long run.
Your doctor will commonly prescribe Colace, which is a stool softener. This will help, but it takes time to kick in.
What you can do to help move things along. . .
● Drink LOTS of water.
● Increase your fiber intake.
● Get up and moving as soon as possible – talk a walk around the birthing unit.
What You Need to Know About Breastfeeding Postpartum
You are sitting in the hospital and they lay your baby on you. You’re ready to start your breastfeeding journey. You know all about the benefits, and have prepared for this moment. So what else is there to know about breastfeeding?
Breastfeeding can take time to get used too. Like any skill in the world, it’s a learning process. Take advantage of the lactation consultants at the hospital and have a list of questions prepared to ask.
1. What are the different breastfeeding positions? 2. How can I get my baby to latch deep? 3. How many wet diapers in a day is a good indicator that my baby is getting enough milk? These are just a few examples.
The hospital may have you track your baby’s habits – how long the baby is fed on the left/right boob, wet diapers, bowel movements and color, how long the baby slept, ect. This is valuable information! I urge you to continue to monitor at home.
Among other things, nipple pain is a common problem in the beginning – the skin around your nipples and the nipple itself is delicate skin. That delicate skin is now being sucked on, what feels like constantly. Decrease nipple pain by:
a. Making sure baby is latching properly – a deep latch is what you want.
b. Choosing a comfortable breastfeeding position.
c. Changing your breast pads often and keep your boobs clean. You don’t want an environment where bacteria can grow and cause issues like thrush.
How Long Do You Have to wait to have sex postpartum?
Everybody wants to know when they can have sex again after childbirth. This will vary from person to person. This is based on your birthing process. Did you tear or have an episiotomy? Did you have a vaginal delivery vs. a cesarean delivery? Always listen to what your doctor recommends. They were there when your child was born, and know first hand what happened to your body.
● For vaginal delivery, most doctors recommend waiting 4-6 weeks.
● For Cesarean delivery, your doctor will want to see you at your 6-week checkup and make sure your incisions are healed up perfectly.
Birth Control Postpartum
The best way to not get pregnant again is to abstain from sex. Most women don’t like that answer, so let’s move on.
There are different types of birth control as you know, and now that you have a little one, there might be different factors to consider when choosing a birth control. Do you want more kids? Are you breastfeeding? Or are you done having kids?
The options are seemingly endless. If you are not breastfeeding. I’d talk to your doctor about your options because you will have more of a variety to choose from – ie condoms, IUD, injection, patch, pill, diaphragm, cervical cap, implant.
To the Breastfeeding Mom
Many women who are new to breastfeeding don’t know that some birth control can cause a decrease in milk supply so it’s a good idea to do some research.
● You should choose a progestin-only contraceptive because birth control with estrogen can cause a decrease in milk supply
● The Mini Pill is a Progestin-only pill – you will take this daily.
● The Shot AKA Depo Provera - you will get an injection every 3 months.
● Condoms – you don’t have to worry about your birth control messing with your milk supply at all.
Final Thoughts about Postpartum Care
Taking care of yourself postpartum can seem challenging with your hormones going crazy, knowing you need to take care of yourself, and all the body issues that come with it. BUT it is possible to be prepared. You got this mama, just breathe.