The first 6-weeks after having a baby



As you know, your body changes a LOT during your pregnancy, and again after you give birth. In today’s blog we’re going to go through some of the more common postpartum discomforts and what to do about them.


Disclaimer:

1. If you’re worried about a discomfort, please call your healthcare provider and follow it up!

2. Talk to your provider or pharmacist before you take any medicine to treat a discomfort. If you’re breastfeeding, some medicines aren’t safe for your baby.

3. Go to all of your postpartum check-ups, even if you’re feeling fine. They are in place for a reason, and your health care provider can help spot and treat health conditions that you may not be aware of.

How does the postpartum period affect your emotions?

The first few weeks after your baby is born can be a time of excitement—and of being very tired. You may look at your wondrous little baby and feel happy. But at the same time, you may feel exhausted from a lack of sleep and your new responsibilities.

Many women get the "baby blues" during the first few days after childbirth. The "baby blues" usually peak around the fourth day and then ease up in less than 2 weeks. If you have the blues for more than a few days, or if you have thoughts of hurting yourself or your baby, call your doctor right away. You may have postpartum depression. This needs to be treated. Support groups and counselling can help, as can medication.

Cesarean Section Delivery

There is a lot to consider as well as the general information listed below, so take a read of our blog on this topic.


Perineal Discomfort

The perineum is the area between your vagina and rectum. It stretches and may tear during labor and vaginal birth. It’s often sore after giving birth, and it may be more sore if you have an episiotomy (a cut made at the opening of the vagina to help let your baby out) or tear. Your perineum may also feel a little numb because the nerves inside and around your vagina are stretched from your baby's birth. The feeling will normally come back in a few days, but it can sometimes take longer.

What you can do:

· Use ice around your perineum for 20mins every 2-3 hours to help reduce pain and swelling, especially in the first couple of days.

· Use perineal support when you do a poo. To do this use hold a wad of toilet paper and use it to apply mild pressure to your vagina/perineum.

· Keep the perineal area clean and dry, especially if you have stitches. Wash from front to back, only using water, and gently pat it dry.

· Change your pad every couple of hours, even if it’s not full.

· Don’t strain on the toilet! Keep your stools soft by maintaining a healthy diet, getting plenty of fluids, and possibly laxative support.

Afterbirth pains

These are belly cramps you feel as your uterus (womb) shrinks back to its regular size after pregnancy. The cramps are often worse after subsequent babies, and should go away in a few days.

What you can do:

· Use a hot water bottle

· Ask your health provider or pharmacist for over-the-counter medicine you can take for pain.

Vaginal discharge

After your baby is born, your body gets rid of the blood and tissue that was inside your uterus. This is called vaginal discharge or lochia. For the first few days, it’s heavy, bright red and may contain blood clots. Over time, the flow gets less and lighter in colour. You may have discharge for a few weeks or even for a month or more.

What you can do:

· Use big maternity sanitary pads until the discharge stops.

· Change your pads regularly to keep the area clean and reduce any risk of infection, especially if you needed stitches.


Breast engorgement

This is when your breasts swell as they fill with milk. It usually happens a few days after giving birth. Your breasts may feel tender and sore and VERY full. The discomfort usually eases once you start breastfeeding regularly. If you’re not breastfeeding, it may last until your breasts stop making milk, usually within a few days.

What you can do:

· Breastfeed your baby. Try not to miss a feed or go a long time between feeds. Don’t skip night feeds.

· Take a warm shower or lay warm towels on your breasts to help your milk flow.

· If your engorgement is really painful, put cold packs or frozen cabbage leaves (yes, that’s right, they’re not an old wives tale!) on your breasts.

· If your breasts are leaking between feeds, wear nursing pads (you can get disposable or reusable ones) in your bra so your clothes don’t get wet.

· Tell your provider if your breasts stay swollen and are painful. If you develop a blocked duct/mastitis see your GP or women’s health physiotherapist.

· Get a well fitted supportive maternity bra that doesn’t have underwire.

Nipple pain

If you’re breastfeeding, you may have nipple pain during the first few days and weeks, especially if your nipples crack. It can be VERY painful to breastfeed with damaged nipples.

What you can do:

· Make an appointment with a lactation consultant to be sure your baby is latching on to your breast the right way. If you are still in the hospital they may have a lactation consultant you can see. You can try contacting the Australian Breastfeeding Association for advice and to arrange a consultation, otherwise there are many private lactation consultants.

· Try using a nipple balm or cream to help protect your nipples.

· Consider using a nipple shield.

· After breastfeeding, massage some breast milk onto your nipples. Let your breasts air dry.


Swelling

Lots of women have swelling in their hands, feet and face during pregnancy caused by change in hormones and it may take time for the swelling to go away after you have your baby.

What you can do:

· Lie on your left side when resting or sleeping.

· Put your feet up.

· Try to stay cool and wear loose clothes.

· Drink plenty of water.


Haemorrhoids

Hemorrhoids are painful, swollen veins in and around the anus that may hurt or bleed, and unfortunately, they are really common during and after pregnancy. And they hurt A LOT.

What you can do:

· Soak in a warm bath.

· Use an ice pack over the area

· Ask your pharmacist about using an over-the-counter cream to help reduce the swelling and pain.

· Avoid constipation. Eat well and consider using a stool softener such as Moovicol.

· Drink lots of water.

· Try not to strain when you’re passing a stool. Check out our blog on the first poo after baby https://www.bubandme.com.au/blog/the-first-poo-after-baby-is-born


Constipation

You may not need to do a poo for a day or two after giving birth, even if you usually go daily. If you've had stitches or a tear, doing a poo won't make the tear any bigger, or make your stitches come away. Try supporting your perineum by holding a sanitary towel against it, or a wad of toilet paper, from the front. This may make you feel secure while you try. Once feeling returns to the area, this support may also help to ease any soreness.

What you can do:

· When you feel the urge to poo, don't put it off. Waiting can make you constipated.

· A little gentle exercise helps assist digestion, so have a walk around, and eat plenty of fibre-rich foods. Check with your women’s health physiotherapist if you are unsure what exercise you can and can’t do.

· Drink plenty of water, as dehydration hardens poo, which makes it more difficult and uncomfortable to pass.

· Chat with your pharmacist about using a stool softener to help reduce constipation.

· Make sure you are sitting in the optimal toileting position to help pass the stool. It makes SUCH a huge difference that we have outlined it step by step below.

· Have a read of our blog on bowel habits https://www.bubandme.com.au/blog/good-toileting-habits-for-a-healthy-bladder-and-bowel


Stinging wees

In the first few days after giving birth, tears and swelling in the vagina are the most common cause of pain with urination. It burns.

What you can do:

· Drink lots of water.

· Check with your provider for over-the-counter medicine to alkalise your urine. Your hospital will usually provide something for the early days.

· Use a squeeze bottle to pour warm water over the perineum as you're passing urine.

· Wee while in the shower.

· Check with your provider to rule out a UTI.


No urge?

Following the birth of your baby, you may have difficulty emptying your bladder or have changes to the normal sensation to pass urine. If the bladder is not emptying properly then the urine that is left behind can build up over time.

What you can do:

· If this is the case you need to use a bladder diary and empty your bladder every 2-3 hours, regardless of whether you feel that you need to.

· See your women’s health physio ASAP for a tailored plan.


Can’t make it to the loo in time?

It’s a common story that women don’t quite get to the toilet in time after having a baby. It does not feel ok. It could be that your pelvic floor is weak, you have some pelvic floor trauma or perhaps you have some other habits that have been exacerbated due to your delivery.

What to do:

· Start gentle pelvic floor contractions as soon as you are able. It’s common for your pelvic floor muscles to feel weak and sometimes women cannot feel them.

· Read our blog on this topic for more.

· See your women’s health physio for an accurate diagnosis and tailored plan


Sweating

This often happens to new mums, especially at night. It’s caused by all the changing hormones in your body after pregnancy.

What you can do:

· Sleep on a towel to help keep your sheets and pillow dry.

· Don’t use too many blankets

· Wear layers to bed so you can strip down.

Tiredness

This is a whole blog on it’s own, but let’s try and summarise. Your delivery may have been long and tiring. You may have lost blood. You often don’t sleep well in the last weeks of pregnancy so you come into motherhood tired. And you’re probably up through the night feeding your baby!

What you can do:

· Sleep when your baby sleeps, even when she naps during the day.

· Eat nutritious foods where possible

· Ask your partner, family and friends for help with the baby and around the house.

· Limit visitors. You’ll have plenty of time for family and friends to meet your new baby when you’re feeling rested.


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