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Tips for Postpartum Care

We often get so consumed with the excitement and joy that a newly born baby brings us that we forget that there’s an entire recovery process women must go through after giving birth. It’s common to hear about your first, second and third trimester – but did you know that there’s technically four trimesters? The fourth trimester refers to the period of time, roughly three months, after the baby is born that is also referred to as the postpartum period.

The postpartum period, according to CEUfast’s Postpartum Care Course, begins at the time of delivery of the infant and ends approximately 6 to 8 weeks after that time, once most of the woman’s body systems have returned to their pre-pregnancy state. It’s also good to note that each individual is different and some may recover easier and quicker than others or experience different symptoms.

So, after being pregnant for roughly nine months, you go through this extensive delivery process and then you have to take care of a newborn baby. Should be easy, right? Everyone has to go through it, right? The postpartum recovery stage is one of the least talked about stages due to common misconceptions of this time, and is in no way an easy process. However, being knowledgeable about this area and knowing what to expect can make the process a little less difficult.

What to Expect During Postpartum Recovery

confused new mother holding baby image

Every postpartum recovery process is different – whether you had a great nine months of pregnancy, had a natural delivery, had a C-section or had what seemed like the worst pregnancy experience ever.

“Once a woman delivers, she should have her blood pressure (BP) and pulse monitored every 15 minutes for 2 hours, and her temperature monitored every 4 hours for the first 8 hours,” wrote Kelly LaMonica, Author of the CEUfast Postpartum Care Course. “All vital signs should then be monitored at least every 8 hours while the woman is in the hospital.”

Although the basic care of a newborn can take up a majority of a mother’s time, it’s still important to put your needs and your health as a priority. After all, your baby is counting on you to feel and do your best so that you can take care of them. Before the baby arrives, try your best to educate and prepare yourself for the care you might need after the baby comes.

Here are a few different tips, according to an article from What to Expect, which can help the healing process during the postpartum process:

  • Healing the Perineum: For the first 24 hours after delivery, try to ice your perineum every couple of hours; when you use the restroom, try to spray warm water over the area before and after going to keep urine from irritating the skin. You can even try to take warm sitz baths for 20 minutes a few times a day to ease the pain, and you should try to avoid long periods of standing or sitting and sleep on your side.
  • Care for your C-section scar: If you have a C-section delivery, you should clean your C-section incision with soap and water once a day. Then, dry it with a clean towel and apply antibiotic ointment. Talk to your doctor about whether it’s better to cover the wound or leave it open to air out, and avoid carrying most things (except your baby) and hold off on vigorous exercise for a little while.
  • Ease aches and pains: After your delivery, your muscles will be tightened up like you just ran a marathon; if you are achy from pushing, it’s okay to take acetaminophen and take hot showers and use a heating pad. You can even treat yourself to a massage.
  • Stay regular: It may take a little time to have your first bowel movement, but try not to force it. Eat plenty of fiber-rich foods, go for walks and use gentle stool softeners to get and stay regular.
  • Kegel exercises: After delivery, there’s no better way to get feeling better down there than getting started with doing some postpartum kegel exercises as soon as you are comfortably able.
  • Keep your breasts cared for: breastfeeding can be tough and even if you don’t breastfeed, your breasts might be feeling achy, pressure or hurting. Try using a warm compress or ice packs and gentle massage. If you are breastfeeding, let your breasts air out after every nursing session and apply a lanolin cream to prevent or treat cracks that might occur.
  • Go to your doctor's appointment: Even though it might be the last place you want to go after you give birth, you should keep your doctor's appointments so that they can check and make sure everything is healing as expected.

It might be tough to get back to your pre-pregnancy routines after becoming a mother, but it’s always good to make some time for yourself. While the baby has someone to watch them and is safe, try to go for a walk, get your nails done or do something that you enjoy. It’s also good to know that it’s never bad to reach out and ask for help if you start to feel overwhelmed, unhappy or just need a moment to catch your breath. After all, the first couple of months that a baby is born can be some of the toughest.

Other Difficulties You Might Face

graphic of worn out mom on low energy

Motherhood can look and seem like an easy task, especially these days when social media and television shows might not tend to show the dirty, not-so-fun side of things, such as changing a diaper eight to ten times a day in the beginning. Part of proper postpartum care is being taught what to expect and how to care for a newborn baby. And – as a new mother – you shouldn’t be afraid to ask your nurse for help, if needed.

“The most important need for a healthy postpartum woman is education,” LaMonica writes. “Women and their partners have expressed their desire to learn competence in caring for their babies. Newborn care is the major education point, especially for first-time mothers. These new moms need reassurance that they can care for their babies.”

When a baby is first born, there is a lot of information that comes along with taking care of the baby. Parents should learn about best practices for safe sleeping, breastfeeding or formula intake, changing diapers, and much, much more. But it’s also good to set limits for yourself and ask for help when something becomes too overwhelming. It’s also good to make sure you are taking care of yourself, especially when a lack of sleep can become a big issue after first having a baby.

Another difficulty mothers might face around this period of time is postpartum depression, which is becoming more widely common and talked about. When you check up with your doctor during your postpartum visit, typically they ask how you are feeling mentally and you should take it very seriously. Many times, women tend to think feeling down or fatigued is “normal” during this time and don’t seek treatment, which can further complicate things down the road. It’s good to get help when you need it and not be afraid to receive proper care. Becoming a mother comes with plenty of ups and downs and twists and turns along the way. However, receiving help and knowing what to expect beforehand can help and make things a little easier, leaving you happier with your little bundle of joy.

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