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The postpartum period refers to the state of your body in the time following giving birth, right up to when your body returns to its pre-pregnant state internally. This time can last for several months and is a testing time filled with adjustments.
You’re adjusting to the fact that you have brought a new life into the world, and being a mom. Even if you’ve had a baby before, you often experience different things in those early days and weeks with your new baby. Your body is healing, and you’ll be faced with lots of brand new experiences that will be challenging, exciting and fulfilling. There will be a lot to learn in this space of time, and the best way to make sure you maintain a healthy, happy baby is to listen to your own body first.
Of course, every body is different, and not everyone responds to giving birth in the same way. Some of the things you may experience postpartum can include but are not limited to:
Postpartum care happens in the postpartum period and is any care you give yourself to help your body heal. You will adjust to your new life and family dynamic as you welcome your little one into the world. Part of the adjustment period will mean paying close attention to your own body and doing what you can to care for yourself. Some pain and discomfort is to be expected, so try not to panic if you get some aches and pains. However, if anything doesn’t feel normal to you, reach out to your doctor or another medical professional for reassurance.
Many women become consumed with their new role in this time and don’t give themselves adequate self-care to help their bodies and minds heal in the best way.
Why is postpartum care important?
In the postpartum period, most of your attention will be focused on your new baby.
Of course, this is absolutely normal and healthy, but it’s important to remember to take care of yourself too! You will only be able to give your baby the best care possible if you’re in a positive state yourself. You will feel tired, emotionally and physically, and with good reason! You’ve just spent the last 9 months growing another human, so it’s totally reasonable for you to feel overwhelmed and exhausted. Postpartum care is vital because it shapes the way you balance your baby’s care with your own, which will allow you to be the best mother you can possibly be.
You’ll need lots of emotional and physical support, so be patient with yourself. You won’t be able to bounce back into your normal life, so don’t feel ashamed of asking a friend or relative to help you out at home if you need to take a break or feed your baby.
One of the best ways you can ensure you’re taking good care of yourself is by staying nourished. Many lactation experts recommend you eat when you are hungry. However, many mothers often become so tired or busy that they forget to eat altogether! It’s essential to plan simple, varied and healthy meals that will keep you full for a long time while nourishing your body.
Be sure to include a wide variety of fruits, lots of fresh vegetables, leafy greens, grains and protein in your diet. If this is difficult, ask family to prepare meals for you, or use a meal delivery service if it’s in your budget. You don’t have to be superwoman just yet!
Another way of making sure that you’re reaching your full potential as a mother is by getting enough rest. You’ll want to pour all of your energy into making sure your baby is comfortable and happy, but you need to be rested to do this. When it comes to rest, you need to listen to your body and relax at any opportunity since you can’t be guaranteed a full nights’ sleep.
Rest is essential after giving birth. If you have a C-section (also called a cesarean), you’ll have to stay in bed for several days at the hospital. This may also be true if you had a difficult birth.
Many women say that they feel fully recovered after about 6-8 weeks postpartum. Still, even if you start to feel better, it really is crucial that you continue to ease yourself back into your life. After all, you’ve got an additional family member, so don’t feel like your marathon training needs to start now!
A typical newborn tends to wake up about every 3 hours and will need to be fed, changed, and comforted. This won’t allow for much relaxation time, especially in the 3-12 months or so, so you will need to become very practiced in the art of being able to sleep at the drop of a hat!
When it comes to your body, everyone will recover at a different rate with different postpartum symptoms. The majority of these symptoms, however, should ease up after about a week. Others (sore nipples and backaches) may continue for a couple of weeks. The best way to make sure your body fully recovers is to give it the rest and care it needs.
What do I need for postpartum care?
In an ideal world, family and friends will be there to help take care of you and your baby, but this isn’t always possible. If a day comes where trusted people aren’t available to give you a hand, don’t panic. There are countless postpartum products you can consider keeping on hand so you can manage even on bad days. Such as:
Your doctor or midwife will advise you on many of these points, but they are worth mentioning anyway. Aside from the obvious reasons (e.g., not harming your baby), it’s a good idea to avoid smoking and excessive alcohol consumption in the immediate period after giving birth so you can focus on your baby.
It’s always important to keep an eye on the food and drink you consume, but this is even more important if you are breastfeeding. You should avoid alcohol and anything that contains high levels of caffeine and sugar. When it comes to food, you’ll want to avoid eating too much fish, particularly swordfish, king mackerel and tilefish. These all contain high levels of mercury, which can be harmful to your baby’s brain development.
The clothes you wear should always be comfortable. Preferred clothing varies from person to person, but some clothes you might want to wear may include loose-fitting, flowing dresses, leggings, sweaters, hoodies and comfortable shoes. Some continue to wear their maternity clothes.
Comfort is key in post-birth clothing, and right now, you need to focus on your own physical comfort before everything else. Consider practicality, too, such as nursing bras and period underwear. These things may not be glamorous in this context, but they will dramatically increase your comfort. You’re likely to experience some wetness before or after breastfeeding, and light bleeding and incontinence down below, which can be made a lot less uncomfortable with period underwear (also called postpartum underwear).
The pain and discomfort you feel may depend on the type of birth you had - if you had a vaginal birth, you’ll likely feel more in the area around your vagina. However, if you have had a cesarean, you’ll probably experience more abdominal pain.
You can take over-the-counter pain relievers (such as paracetamol), and if you’re experiencing vaginal pain, ask your health care provider about a numbing cream. If you are experiencing abdominal pain, you can apply heat, such as a hot water bottle, to the affected area.
The general consensus is that you will be safe to take a bath about 3 days after giving birth. You may want to avoid using strongly scented bubble solutions or bath salts, just to be on the safe side, in case you have any unseen sore spots.
As we mentioned earlier, incontinence and some bleeding is extremely common among those who have recently given birth. It is often advised that women wear sanitary pads if they’re experiencing incontinence, but this may not be the most comfortable, affordable, or hygienic option.
Instead, underwear designed to soak up period blood is a much more comfortable option. Period underwear generally looks and feels just like regular underwear, which means no awkward, bulky discomfort. They may feel surprisingly thin, but they come with the added peace of mind that you won’t have to worry about leakage. Because they soak the liquid away, you aren’t “sitting in it” the same way you would a sanitary pad, which means you’re much less likely to deal with infections.
Most period pants brands’ underwear has tiny, built-in capillaries, so the evaporation of your body’s moisture happens more quickly. This is particularly handy on days when you want to slightly increase your activity levels, or maybe go out for your first walk with your baby. (And all the other firsts after that!) They’re also a good investment, as you can continue to use them when your periods resume. We recommend Proof for leakproof underwear, which is the only patented underwear for leaks and periods.
You will undoubtedly experience a lot of changes in your postpartum period. You’ll have to adjust to a new way of living if you’re a first-time mother, and even if this isn’t your first child, you and your family will still be welcoming a new little one into your lives. The main goal throughout this time is to keep yourself and your baby as healthy and as comfortable as possible. The best way to ensure this is to make sure this little one has a happy and healthy mother!
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