Postpartum Changes

Some of the most significant changes that can happen to a woman’s body are associated with pregnancy and the birth experience.  After delivery of a child, whether it is a vaginal birth or by cesarean section, a new mother can expect a range of physical and psychological changes. This article is intended to provide some general information regarding what is normal and some basic strategies for management. If you have further questions or concerns regarding your postpartum recovery, please call our office to speak with a nurse.

Breasts

  • Two to three days after delivery, your breast milk supply will increase. This can result in your breasts becoming firm and tender to touch.  If the breasts are painful, cold compresses or cold cabbage leaves can provide relief.
  • Feeding the baby often will help keep your breasts soft, and prevent engorgement.
  • For those who are not breastfeeding, it is recommended to wear a snug fitting supportive bra and avoid stimulating your nipples.
  • Please call the office if you are experiencing a fever associated with breast pain, deep shooting pain in your breast, or burning sensation in your nipple(s).

Bleeding

  • After delivery, you will likely experience vaginal discharge. This is called lochia, and is a combination of the old uterine lining and blood. Over time, it will naturally change from bright red, to pink, to a whitish color.
  • It is common for bleeding to be intermittent.
  • Decrease your activity level if you notice an increase in the amount of bleeding, as it is likely a signal for you to slow down and rest more.
  • After delivery, it is recommended to use pads instead of tampons until you have your first menstrual period, or until your health care provider advises otherwise.

Perineum

  • Your perineum will likely be sore and swollen after birth. The pain should improve daily over the first couple weeks.
  • Keeping the perineum clean and dry will help to promote healing and increase comfort. Use the peri bottle with warm water. After removing a soiled peri-pad, squeeze the bottle to rinse the perineum. Pat dry, from front to back.

Bowel and Bladder

  • It may be uncomfortable urinating or having a bowel movement for a few days after your baby’s birth. Pain or burning while urinating, or the urge to urinate frequently may indicate a bladder infection and should be reported to right away.
  • As soon as the urge to have a bowel movement arises, go to the bathroom right away. Avoid straining and sitting on the toilet for extended periods of time.
  • Reduce the risk of constipation by incorporating fiber into your diet. This includes fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Increasing fluid intake (10-12 glasses per day) is also recommended. If these strategies are not successful, over the counter docusate sodium can be taken (100mg tablets, twice daily).
  • Many women develop hemorrhoids during pregnancy and after giving birth.
  • Hemorrhoid pain may be relieved with ice packs or over the counter pads containing Witch Hazel. In most cases, hemorrhoids will eventually shrink and become less uncomfortable.

 

The Baby Blues vs Postpartum Depression

While the birth of a baby entails many physical changes, the transition into motherhood also involves a wide array of emotions, ranging from excitement and joy to fear and anxiety.  Further, emotional and psychological responses may occur that were not previously experienced with a prior pregnancy.

Many new moms experience the “postpartum baby blues” after childbirth, which can include mood swings, crying spells, anxiety and difficulty sleeping. Baby blues typically begin within the first two to three days after delivery, and may last up to two weeks. If the “baby blues” symptoms are persisting longer than two weeks, please call our office to check in with your provider.

Some new moms experience a more severe, longer-lasting form of depression known as postpartum depression. Prompt treatment can help you manage your symptoms — and enjoy your new baby. Please contact the office if (1) the baby blues are persisting longer than two weeks, or (2) if at any point you feel the “baby blues” are impacting your ability to care for yourself or provide care to your baby. Also, if you have questions or concerns regarding postpartum depression, we can assist with getting you connected to treatment resources.

 

 

 

 

References:

The New Mother – Physical Changes. http://www.cpmc.org/services/pregnancy/information/mother-changes.html

Postpartum Depression. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/postpartum-depression/basics/symptoms/con-20029130

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