Postpartum Reality

Ahhh, the joys of bringing another life into the world. Seeing their face for the first time. Getting to know them and sharing that first bonding moment with them. That is the stuff everyone looks forward to after they have a baby. But wait … there’s more. There are plenty more fun stuff to look forward to after you have delivered a baby. Here are just a few of the exciting stuff they forgot to mention about before you signed up for this whole pregnancy thing.

Bleeding

You expect the postpartum bleeding, but it’s the blood clots you might not think about. These clots of blood can come out most frequently in the first few days. This usually happens after you’ve been resting awhile and stand up. Walking around wearing a depends diaper wasn’t what I pictured for the first few days but they shortly became my best friend after the first few hours. I eventually made it to regular pads, then just panty liners before being free from any bleeding. It can take anywhere from 1 week to 6 weeks before you are clear from any bleeding.

Swelling

Just when you thought that swelling was a thing of the past, it’s back! Many women receive IV fluids in labor and this can contribute to postpartum swelling in the first few days post birth. The good news is that it’s often very short lived. Many women find that this swelling which usually starts in the feet and can work their way up tends to go down once their milk production kicks in and the baby gets some good feedings in.

Sweating

Many women find that for a couple of days after they give birth they are sweating a lot with most women experiencing this symptom only at night (a few find it happens all day). Try to shower when you can and wear absorbent fabrics like cotton when you sleep to help make you more comfortable. I found that my sweating actually helped significantly with getting the swelling down.

Hunger

A large percentage of moms say immediately following their birth is – “I’m hungry!” This was very real for me. Within 30 minutes of giving birth my mom went across the street from the birthing center and picked up some Burger King for me. Oh I remember that meal as the best meal ever. Whopper Jr, Medium fries and a chocolate milk shake. I can t still taste it. Be careful though for many women this feeling can last a few days or a few months. Be sure that you are choosing snacks that are wise for your nutritional needs.

Episiotomy Care

Your bottom is where you expect it to hurt. Chances are you’re feeling a bit tender in the area from your vagina to your rectum, the perineum. This whole area expanded to allow the birth of the baby and slowly goes back into shape. These tissues may be swollen and ice packs right after birth can be very beneficial. You are more likely to have pain here if you had stitches of any type, also if a vacuum extractor or forceps was used your tissues may have sustained more damage.

A sitz bath can also be beneficial. In the hospital or birth center the nurses will show you how to do this bath. Sometimes you can even get a portable one to use at home. Some companies even sell herbal sitz baths for promotion of healing and comfort.

Engorged Breast

Whether you intend on breastfeeding or not your milk supply will come in somewhere between 2-5 days after giving birth. When that happens your poor breast will swell and become … well … engorged. To help with the pain and swelling babycenter.com recommends the following:

  • Wear a supportive nursing bra, even at night. Be sure it isn’t too tight.
  • Nurse frequently — every two to three hours — even if it means waking your baby.
  • Avoid having your baby latch on and suckle when the areola — the dark area around your nipple — is very firm.
  • Avoid pumping milk except when you need to soften the areola or when your baby is unable to latch on. Excessive or habitual pumping can lead to overproduction of milk and prolonged engorgement.
  • While your baby’s nursing, gently massage the breast he’s on. This encourages milk to flow and will help relieve some of the tightness and discomfort.
  • To soothe the pain and help relieve swelling, apply cold packs to your breasts for a short period after nursing. Crushed ice in a plastic bag works well.
  • If you’re really in pain, take ibuprofen, acetaminophen, or a mild pain reliever prescribed by your healthcare provider.
  • Don’t apply direct heat, such as warm washcloths, heating pads, or hot water bottles, to your engorged breasts unless it’s to soften the areola and help your milk letdown. Instead of alleviating the pain, this may make the condition worse

Uterus Messages

Okay so this one wasn’t too bad, but it was just yet another thing to think about and make sure I did. As if the postpartum contractions weren’t bad enough … and trust me, they can be rough some times … it is highly recommended that you message your uterus until it returns to its original size. It helps with the bleeding and such. My midwife instructed me to do this after each feeding and each time I used the rest room.

That is a lot to think about. So many different things going on. Add to all that:

  • Stress of becoming a new parent
  • Worries if baby is really getting enough food or do you have to give in and give them formula to supplement even though you really didn’t want to
  • Does my baby have jaundice?
  • Trying to explain to each family member that No it isn’t okay to touch the baby yet only to have to apologize for hurting their feelings. Seriously??
  • What’s that spot on the babies back, that wasn’t there when they were born.

Its no wonder that 10-15% of women suffer from postpartum depression. Watch out ladies, that first step is a dozy. They say if you can survive the first 12 days, then the next 21 years should be  a breeze.

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