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Proper post pregnancy care is essential for both the health and happiness of mother and baby, not just to ‘look good again’!
Pregnancy can be a difficult time for some, with big problems like severe and prolonged morning sickness, bloating, backache and a myriad of little problems like sore breasts and frequent urination. The discomfort gets pushed up several notches with labour being excruciatingly painful and climaxes in child birth. But, guess what? It is only the beginning of a whole new set of physical and emotional health issues that need care.
And I am not talking about getting back your figure. Sometimes the astonishing speed at which celebrity yummy mummies recover their figures, (or at least claim to) can make ordinary women in a sleep deprived and emotionally vulnerable state feel inadequate. Yes, looking good can make you feel good, but it is just the tip of the iceberg and should not become an obsessive focus of post pregnancy health care.
After the long 9 month wait mothers are eager to jump in to motherhood. But irrespective of a normal delivery with or without drugs or a C-section, the body needs time to recover. Those with C-sections have undergone major abdominal surgery. In normal deliveries the cervix has to stretch to 10 times its usual size and the uterus has to eject a baby through the vaginal canal. So it is not uncommon to have surgical cuts or tearing that needs to be stitched up.
New mothers are typically told that they should be back to normal in 6 weeks, but in many cases the estimate turns out to be over optimistic.
Let us look at post pregnancy care for healing of the body first.
My doctor told me the bleeding typically stops in 4 weeks. Mine almost stopped in a month and then resumed a few days later for another 4 or 5 days. I visited the doctor in panic. I had to have an ultrasound to be safe, but there was no issue. Each body is different and individual experiences can be different from the typical. While there is no reason to panic, it is wise to check with your doctor.
After child birth, the first time you visit the bathroom can be scary. I personally found that it helped to drink a lot of water. Even more scary is passing stools for the first time. I was really worried that any pressure I put during the process would rupture the stitches.
Fortunately many doctors prescribe a stool softener. There is some soreness and pain that I found mildly bothersome for a few days. The doctor’s recommendations need to be followed to ensure that the stitches do not get infected. Intermittent stomach cramps, particularly during breast feeding are to be expected.
This can often cause sore nipples. Sometimes they crack, bleed and even get infected. This can be because of incorrect latching and talking to a lactation specialist might help. There are many breast feeding positions including natural breast feeding, which can help with proper latching.
Certain breast feeding positions can put stress the wrists or arms causing pain. I had tendinitis in my wrist because I rarely bothered to use pillows and ignored minor pains. Then, I could hardly carry my baby for a week. A mild nagging pain continued for almost 4 months and to date the wrist is much weaker than it used to be. Repetitive stress injuries are common among breast feeding moms but with awareness and care they can be prevented.
Before pregnancy my menstrual cycle was extremely regular, almost exactly 28 and a half days between periods. I found it inconvenient and uncomfortable to have unpredictable periods in the first year after child birth.
This study found a significant incidence of critical problems like severe anaemia and maternal sepsis among the rural population with a suggestion that it can be sorted out with post natal home visits by midwives and doctors.
There are also psychological problems associated with childbirth, that need to be addressed for comprehensive post pregnancy care.
PPD is very common with over 10 million cases per year in India. There are a myriad of symptoms including sadness, emptiness, irritability and difficulty bonding with the baby. Pregnant women and their families need to educated by doctors about the symptoms of PPD and stay vigilant for them.
PPD can be treated with counselling, antidepressants and hormone therapy, but can continue for months if left untreated, and can be dangerous for both mother and child.
Many mothers are sleep deprived as a result of strange sleeping patterns of babies and frequent night time feeds and diaper changes. Even without PPD, this is sufficient to cause some crankiness and irritability. It is important to make some me time everyday, even if it is only an hour. Spouses and family members need to be understanding and help facilitate this.
Many SAHMs spend the whole day with babies and crave adult company. In nuclear families, sometimes no such adult company is available. Spouses can help by providing much needed adult conversation at the end of the day which would go a long way towards cheering up mom.
Post pregnancy, doctors usually prescribe iron, calcium and vitamin D and B supplements. During pregnancy and breastfeeding certain nutrients get depleted and need to be replenished. It is important to take all supplements suggested by the doctor. Insufficient vitamin D can be a cause of PPD. A healthy balanced diet rich in fibre with plenty of fluids is recommended for post-partum recovery and lactation.
A baby is best cared for by a healthy and happy mother. So post pregnancy care is not only important for the mother, but for the baby too. New mothers must must make their own health a priority. Early motherhood can be a stressful time and supportive spouses and family can ease the pressure by:
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