Childbirth can be incredibly empowering but also exhausting, overwhelming and you may feel vulnerable with your emotions all over the place for days or even weeks afterwards. It this persists, it may be time to seek professional help and consider if you have birth trauma that is unresolved.
It’s important to have plans in place to take care of yourself after the birth. Just as a baby is born, so is a new mother. And mothers need mothering to. If you don’t have family support around or social networks to help with the housework and cooking for a while, consider hiring a doula if you are able to do so. It may be a good idea to manage expectations of eager family members before hand and let them know that while you would appreciate gifts of food or someone to help with the laundry and the stacks of dishes piling up, to keep visits short so that you and baby can stay in bed and have a babymoon.
Remember that this is a great time to have your partner feel involved in taking care of your new baby and examining all the wonderful changes it will go through, from the first poo after birth to baby’s first bath and understanding its different cries and what this means. Birth partners may not be able to help with breastfeeding, but they can babywear so that the new baby has warmth and physical contact with the other parent and develops a bond with the other parent early on.
Physical changes after birth
After growing a baby for 9 months, your will start to change. You may not go back to your pre-birth self exactly - you may have extra skin where you didn’t have any before, and stretch marks, your breasts heavy and full of milk, and you will probably still be wearing a bad for weeks.
Your uterus should feel hard and you’ll have contractions over the next few days as your uterus contracts and goes back to its pre-birth size. This will cause some bleeding and a few blood clots might come out. If a blood clot comes out that is quite large or if there is fresh bleeding after the first few days, check with your midwife. The first week will feel like a normal heavy period and then there will be brownish or clear discharge for the next month. You will get mesh underwear to wear after birth and can then start wearing pads. Check with your doctor on whether you can wear a tampon, depending on whether you tore during birth.
If you did tear during birth and had to get stitches, use antiseptic soap and don’t rub at the stitches. The first poo after childbirth will be incredibly painful. You can use pads soaked in witch hazel for pain relief. Lie down as much as you can and rest, and don’t lift anything heavy. If you feel feverish or sick, call your doctor or midwife.
Enjoy the time just staying in bed with your baby - its okay if your house is messy, someone else can deal with that. Your baby just needs you and your partner. You can keep taking your prenatal vitamins and iron and calcium supplements. If you feel unwell reach out for medical advice. Its normal to feel like being cocooned up in bed and being quiet with your baby, but you shouldn’t feel unwell. Your iron levels will be checked at a post birth check up to make sure you are replenishing your iron levels, once it’s back to normal you can stop taking the iron supplement.
There will be other changes that aren’t just physical, especially if you had a difficult birth, or a birth that didn’t go according to plan, you may feel isolated, like you failed, have violent thoughts, or not bond with your baby as much as you’d like to. These can be symptoms of birth trauma, post partum depression, ptsd, or just baby blues. It’s important to seek professional help. I will explore this in a separate post. Make sure you book in catch ups with friends to come visit you, or join a local mothers group so that you have people to talk to.
Post birth exercise
While there is no rush to getting back to your pre-birth body, there are a number of exercises you can do to help your body shed that post birth weight and get back your muscle tone. Remember, it took 9 months to grow a baby so don’t feel like you need to put any pressure on yourself to look like a yummy mummy in hollywood.
Some exercises you can do are lying flat on the floor and raising your leg to a 45 degree angle. You can also support your waist and sit up slightly, and raise your ankle up, making circles with your feet, clockwise and anticlockwise.
You can try contracting your pelvic muscles around your vagina to build back the tone. Also lying on your back and raising your body up, shoulders flat and knees bent. Contracting muscles as you lift will help.
There are a number of youtube videos with postnatal workouts, but its important not to overdo it. Your body has gone through a huge transformation. Start with pelvic floor exercises, abdominal exercises, pilates, walking, and gradually build it up when you feel stronger.
Here are a few useful links:
If you do have pelvic floor damage, there are some great organisations who can help you get rehabilitation:
Cover Image by Gisela Merkuur from Pixabay
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