Whether you’ve just given birth or are researching information on how to take care of yourself after pregnancy, congratulations! Your motherhood journey is just beginning, and though most of your interest and efforts will revolve around your newborn, it’s crucial for you to find time to give yourself the care you need.
Immediately after birth, your body enters the postpartum period. Your body will undergo many changes that affect how you look, eat, think, and even sleep. Not all of these changes are easy to adjust to. To help you prepare for the next step of your motherhood, consider the following information about postpartum self-care.
Rest is one thing it seems mothers, especially new moms, can never get enough of. Giving birth is physically demanding and exhausting. Many new moms find transitioning to immediately caring for a newborn challenging. Resting as often as possible is vital to help maintain energy levels and prevent additional fatigue.
Many new moms don’t regain their normal energy reserves until several weeks after delivery. Though this is an exciting time for parents and their families, it’s important to pace yourself and listen to your body. Try to resist the urge to show off the newest family member for a few weeks by limiting visitors, asking trusted loved ones to step in and help with the baby, and giving yourself time to rest as often as necessary. Sleep when the baby sleeps, may seem like nonsense, but honestly, it’s one of the best pieces of advice for new moms everywhere.
What you eat matters during postpartum. Your body is still going through changes. Though you may hope for a swift return to your pre-pregnancy body, some changes may be permanent, such as new dietary needs. Include lots of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and fiber into your diet. Embrace it and wear it like a badge of honor.
Talk to your doctor about the benefits of nursing for you and the baby and what additional nutritional needs you’ll need to think about as a nursing mom. Your doctor should also talk to you about some dietary restrictions you need to consider while nursing, including avoiding alcohol in drugs— just like you did during pregnancy.
Don’t starve yourself to rush and lose the baby weight. You’ve earned it. If you continue to eat properly and stay hydrated, the weight will come off when it’s time. Losing weight too fast can harm your health and keep you from enjoying your newborn and role as a mother as much as you should.
Motherhood is a busy time, but you owe it to yourself to stay active. Take walks, go swimming and start exercising when your doctor gives clearance so you can maintain your health and shed the excess baby weight. Staying active is also essential in helping you regulate your moods and can keep the doldrums, baby blues, or postpartum depression at bay. Avoid heavy lifting, vacuuming, and moderate to strenuous activities until your doctor lifts all activity restrictions.
As you adjust to your new role, there’s nothing wrong with asking for help. In fact, not asking for help is one of the biggest complaints moms often have in hindsight. Being a parent can be tiring, especially after going through an intense physical and mentally demanding task of labor and delivery. It’s not easy for moms, especially new ones, to get the help they need when they need it. Don’t assume people are going to step up and offer. You know best what your body needs. Ask friends and family to help; you’d be surprised at how eager they are to comply. You just need to speak up.
Postpartum Cramps and Bleeding
After childbirth, there may be breast engorgement, bleeding, cramps, spasms, and all sorts of unpleasant sensations and sights from the vaginal and perineal area. You may even have trouble with bowel movements. As you progress through the postpartum phase, these issues should gradually resolve. But talk to your doctor about what you are experiencing so they can advise you on what is normal and what is cause for concern and how you can manage pain and cramping.
If you’re breastfeeding, it’s normal for cramps to feel stronger. Cramps are normal and a sign that your uterus is contracting and shrinking to its pre-pregnancy size. Stress, low hydration, poor dietary habits, and even inadequate rest affect postpartum symptom severity and duration.
Some cramping is expected and can be painful, especially if this isn’t your first time giving birth. Take pain medications as prescribed by your doctor and monitor your bleeding. Report any unusual or concerning changes like bleeding that’s heavy enough to soak through pads after an hour, bleeding that doesn’t get lighter, bleeding that becomes heavier, or persistent pain and discomfort that become unmanageable.
Your mental health is always important, especially now that you’ve just given birth. Your hormones are still fluctuating a bit, and some mood swings are normal. It’s also normal for some women to develop feelings of depression, anxiety, and sadness at the changes they’ve been going through and have yet to experience. Don’t keep things bottled up.
Talk to others, join a mom group, and let your doctor know how you feel. There’s no shame. Sometimes poor moods are beyond your control due to the recent changes in your situation. Medications and talk therapy are amazing and can help improve your outlook and mindset. Get outside for fresh air, take breaks, and find time to do something just for you to enjoy and relax, even if it’s for a short time, like reading or eating a favorite healthy snack.
Giving birth is an exciting event. So is the next stage, caring for yourself and your newborn. For more information on pregnancy, childbirth, and beyond, ELDAH maternal care experts are here to help.