After giving birth, the newborn inevitably takes priority in the parents' lives. After all, bub is brand new, completely dependent on mum and dad, and will truly let you know when they need something!
It's easy to get completely caught up in caring for your newborn 24/7, and it can often feel like it's at the expense of the new mum's health and sanity. That's why postpartum care is so important.
During pregnancy and after birth there’s a lot to consider and look after, such as changes in hormones, healing vaginal soreness and adjusting to life as a new mother.
We’re here to help with a run-down of everything postpartum care.
What is postpartum care?
Postpartum refers to the six-week period after giving birth, and is a time of healing and adjusting to parenthood. You may also hear the terms puerperium, puerperal period and the immediate postpartum period.
The postpartum period begins immediately after childbirth as the mother’s body begins to return back to its non-pregnant state.
These changes include some rapidly fluctuating hormone levels, your uterus shrinking back after all that chaos, and healing from any harm, like tearing, irritation, tenderness or pain to the vulva and rectum region.
After birth pains
Afterpains are occasional contractions that you may experience during the first few days after delivery. Is it fair? No, you literally just put in all that work, and it should be over by now! Is it normal? Yes, unfortunately.
Afterbirth pains help prevent any excessive bleeding by compressing the blood vessels in the uterus and often resemble menstrual cramps. If the pain is hard to manage, your doctor may prescribe pain relief medication.
Adjusting to motherhood
Being a parent is a significant transition and adjusting can be both rewarding and tough, emotionally and physically.
A new baby brings with it a new reality that can be a shock to the system, and it can be difficult to navigate.
The best thing you can do is be open and honest with loved ones about how you’re feeling, and lean on them when necessary.
Reaching out to a trusted family member is a good idea, and you can also join new mother support groups to connect with other people who are on this new adventure, too.
Baby blues and postpartum depression
As WebMD states, it’s normal to feel overwhelmed and experience changes in mood after having a baby. It’s important to recognise that in postpartum, ups and downs are normal, and almost every new mother experiences them. However, checking in on your emotional well-being is crucial.
Up to 80 per cent of new mothers get what’s referred to “the baby blues”. They're short-term dips in mood caused by changes that come with the newborn.
However, if feelings of sadness persist for longer than a few days to a couple of weeks, you may be dealing with postpartum depression. This is more severe than the baby blues and requires intervention and medical help.
Around 10 per cent of new mothers will experience postpartum depression. Symptoms include feelings of hopelessness and/or worthlessness, anxiety and panic attacks, and feeling like you're not bonding with your baby. If these occur, you should see your doctor straight away.
It’s also important to remember that postpartum depression can happen to any new mother and there’s nothing wrong with getting some extra help.
Coping with body changes
There are many bodily changes that occur postpartum, most of which are expected and normal. These include postpartum pain, postpartum bleeding, sore nipples, sore breasts, perineal pain, weakened pelvic muscles, pelvic pain and mood swings.
However, there are things to help you adjust, especially after a vaginal delivery.
For vaginal soreness after giving birth, there are a few treatments options to help the discomfort and healing process. To soothe the pain:
- Alleviate any pressure on the area by sitting on a pillow or padded ring.
- Take a sitz bath where the genital area is submerged in warm water with salts, such as Kin Fertility’s Sitz Salts (which also can be bought with a sitz bath). This can help cleanse the area, while also soothing soreness, sensitivity and any swelling to the area.
- Use a cool or ice pack to soothe swelling and pain. You can also use cold therapy, such as witch hazel pads, or soothing padsicles such as Kin’s Postpartum Padsicles.
- Cleanse the area with a peri bottle after going to the toilet, such as Kin’s Peri Bottle, which can help take the sting out of peeing by taking toilet paper out of the equation.
- Use a cream, gel or foam to cleanse the area, fight bacteria, reduce swelling and provide relief from pain, itching and sensitivity. Kin’s Healing Foam is for the perineal for effective pain relief.
Any vaginal tears from delivery may take a few weeks to heal, or longer if they are extensive. However, if you’re feeling extreme pain, increased pain or heavy vaginal bleeding, your doctor or health care provider is the best point of call.
After childbirth, it’s normal to experience heavier vaginal discharge. As you begin to shed the superficial mucous membrane that lined your uterus during birth, your discharge may be heavier and include some blood.
To soak up this extra discharge, use postpartum pads and add extra comfort with undies designed for after delivery, such as mesh panties.
This discharge will reduce after a few weeks. However, if you’re concerned with the amount of blood, talk to your doctor or healthcare provider.
As mentioned, afterpains can occur in the first few days after childbirth. They may also be common during breastfeeding as the hormone oxytocin is released and may cause contractions in the uterus. If they are causing any concern, chat to your doctor about them.
Perineum soreness may include swelling and pain near and around the perineum, the area of skin between the vagina opening and anus.
To cleanse this area and help soothe it, take a sitz bath, use cold therapy or apply a cooling and healing foam, such as Kin’s Healing Foam, which can provide pain relief for the perineal area.
As delivery may stretch or injure your pelvic floor muscles, your uterus, bladder and rectum may be more susceptible to sensitivity. As they are less supported than usual, leakage may occur with sneezing, laughing, coughing or just generally going about your day.
To soak up these drops of urine, you can wear sanitary pads or Padsicles. Then, to re-strengthen the area, when you feel ready, there are a range of pelvic floor muscle exercises you can do, such as Kegels, which will help tone the area and give you better control again of your bladder.
Haemorrhoids and bowel movements
Haemorrhoids are extremely common during pregnancy and in postpartum. This is where veins in the rectum and anal become enlarged or swollen and cause bleeding, pain and discomfort. They can also be affected by bowel movement.
Sitz baths can help soothe the area and ice packs can alleviate swelling. You can also use cooling gels, creams or foams and over the counter medicine prescribed by a health care provider, such as stool softener and pain relief.
Constipation should also be avoided by eating loads of fibre-rich foods and drinking plenty of water.
After giving birth, it's normal for breasts to be tender, fuller and firmer. This is also known as breast engorgement and may be painful.
To relieve this, breastfeeding on both sides can help, and a warm compress can help with let down and get the milk flowing. However, pumping and expressing can cause breasts to produce more milk.
For guidance in this area, talk your doctor, healthcare provider or lactation consultant. Also, grab yourself a supportive and comfortable bra that's not too tight.
Sore and tender nipples are very common in postpartum, especially for those choosing to breastfeed. For some, cracked nipples may occur, which is often due to incorrect or ineffective latching from the baby's mouth.
There are many breastfeeding essentials that provide solutions to breast discomfort, pain and challenges. These include nursing pads, a supportive bra and nipple cream.
You can get many products to help, For example, Kin’s Breastfeeding Essentials bundle contains nipple balm, the Lactamo Ball and breast pads.
Hair loss and skin changes
As pregnancy and postpartum causes changes to hormone levels in the body, many mothers will experiences hair and skin changes.
During pregnancy, elevated hormones often result in having more thick, lush hair, that grows faster than it sheds. Iconic! However, after delivery, hair loss can occur up to five months after birth. Sad!
When it comes to skin, stretch marks are extremely common. They may not disappear after delivery, but they will fade from reds and purples into lighter silver and white shades.
Mothers may also experience dark patches on the skin, especially on the face, during pregnancy, which will also slowly fade after birth.
Losing weight after giving birth may take time – which is completely normal and fine. A lot of women will lose an immediate weight of around 5-7 kilograms from the weight of the baby, placenta and amniotic fluid.
After that, your body will gradually return back to before-pregnancy. This is can be aided with a healthy diet with whole grains and balanced meals. Plus, it helps to drink plenty of water.
For some new mums, losing baby weight may be a priority, while others may not be so concerned with weight loss. Either way, your body (and life) are going through some major changes now that bub is out of your body in into your life.
It’s vital that you're getting the right nutrients to support all of these changes. Healthy eating is an integral part of your health and well-being, so it's important to focus on eating balanced meals and whole grains, at least, as much as you can when you've got a newborn to care for!
For a postpartum diet and nutrition plan, talk to your doctor or healthcare practitioner.
When to see a doctor
If you have any concerns during postpartum that are causing you to worry, then checking in with your doctor is always the right move. Mothers should also get their postnatal check-up in the first six weeks after delivery.
There are some danger signs that may be indicative of health problems to be aware of. When these occur, you should see a health care provider:
- Increased vaginal bleeding
- Heavy bleeding
- Difficulty breathing
- Severe headaches or blurred vision
- Calf pain
- Problems urinating
- Increased pain or infection in the perineum
- Symptoms of depression
What do you need for postpartum care?
For postpartum care, there are a range of essentials that can help you heal in the period up to six weeks after birth.
Kin’s Postpartum Recovery Kit includes a simple 4-step recovery regimen that will soothe pain, discomfort and spur on the healing process.
This includes a peri bottle for cleansing, mesh panties for comfort, soothing padsicles and healing foam for relief.
How long should you rest after giving birth?
Postpartum recovery can take up to 6-8 weeks for general healing, especially after a vaginal birth, and longer to adjust back to feeling like yourself again.
Getting enough sleep should definitely be a priority, as it will aide the postpartum recovery process. This is the time to call on your loved ones to give you a hand!
For a better, individual answer, check in with your doctor where they can give you tailored medical care and provide medical advice on how long to rest for.
What can you not do during postpartum?
Postpartum is a time of bonding with bub, resting and recovering. With so much on the to-do list, there are a few things you should avoid, if possible. Some quick don'ts:
- Don't put anything in your vagina until your doctor gives the all clear
- Don’t overdo it with everyday tasks, ask for help when you need it
- Don’t ignore any severe or increasing pain, or any other symptoms that may be cause for concern
- Don’t hide any struggles you may be experiencing; rely on those around you and professional help
- Don’t ignore birth control
What is the importance of postpartum care?
As the World Health Organisation states, both women and newborns require support and careful monitoring and care after birth.
Postpartum care is vital in giving new mothers adequate support through this new and challenging time. Remember to look after yourself!