Pregnancy Health Center
Changes In Your Body
Your life as you knew it is completely changed once your baby arrives. Taking care of a baby is a full-time job, and you're going to feel it - physically and emotionally. No matter what your prior professional or personal life may have been, motherhood is a total transformation. Some first-time moms find it difficult to adjust to their new role, but if you know what to expect it may be easier:
- Episiotomy aftermath: The healing process may take two to three weeks, but eventually your stitches will dissolve and you will be able to sit on a normal surface again. Meanwhile your health care provider will give you a list of things that you can do to expedite the healing process and to soothe the discomfort.
- Hemorrhoid care: One of the most common after effects of pushing during labor is a hemorrhoid, or swollen blood vessels around the anus that may bleed and be painful. Depending on the severity of the swelling, you may want to soak your bottom in a few inches of warm water in the bath or wear a cotton pad soaked with cold witch hazel cream in the anal area. Eating foods high in fiber will help to alleviate constipation, which may exacerbate hemorrhoids due to straining during bowel movements. If the pain is unbearable, you may need prescription medicine. Rarely, a blood clot may develop within the hemorrhoid. This can be painful and may require a procedure for treatment.
- Uterine contractions: During the first weeks after birth while your uterus returns to its prebirth state (over a six-week period), you may feel afterbirth pains or contractions, especially during nursing and after multiple pregnancies. Taking ibuprofen (motrin) can be a big help, although some moms may need prescription medicine. Sometimes lying on a pillow and changing positions may help the discomfort as well.
- Bleeding: It is normal to bleed after birth for about 4 to 6 weeks. This normal occurrence is called lochia, and it takes a while to subside as your uterus and the lining are going back to their regular size. The length of time is different for every woman but it will change from red discharge to white or yellow discharge and then it will stop. Sometimes, women notice a brisk gush of blood about one week after delivery. This is thought to bleeding from the scar where the placenta was attached. It usually goes away after about an hour. If you’re continuing to soak a large maxipad in less than an hour, or continue to have heavy bleeding after 6 weeks, contact your health care provider.
- Breast changes: Whether or not you are breastfeeding, you'll know when your milk comes in because your breasts may be so full of milk that they get hard and engorged. For women who breastfeed, frequent feeding will help relieve and prevent engorgement. For women who are not breastfeeding, stimulating more mild production must be prevented, so apply cold packs to breasts and wear tight-fitting bras and avoid warm showers and breast stimulation.
- Urinary and bowel movement issues: For the first few days (and sometimes weeks) after birth, your urine and bowel movements may be out of sorts. Some women experience a lack of control and others find it difficult to urinate or have a bowel movement. The culprit: stretching of the base of the bladder, the stretching and weakening of the pelvic floor muscles, tearing of the perineum, and nerve injury to the sphincter muscles around the anus. The treatment: Kegel exercises to improve the bladder, and special doctor-prescribed exercises to control your bowels. If you continue to have trouble with either one, it is important to inform your health care provider. Most women find that problems with urine, gas or stool leaking resolve within a few weeks to months after delivery.
- Intense fatigue: Every new mom suffers from sleep deprivation. To help manage your fatigue, you can line up or accept offers of help from friends or family to help you initially. Try and make time to nap if possible and get some rest, as you are recovering too. The best strategy: sleep whenever your baby sleeps.
- A rollercoaster of emotions: You may feel overwhelmed, stressed out, teary, elated, or even depressed. Some of those feelings are normal and to be expected, but if you're unable to function or shrug off the blues you should consult a professional. The huge hormonal shifts of delivery can cause severe depression in some women.
Irina Burd, MD, PhD, Maternal Fetal Medicine, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network.
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