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MoonDragon's Pregnancy Information
THE TRUTH ABOUT POSTPARTUM


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postpartum period


CONGRATULATIONS, YOU ARE A PARENT!

Well, you have made it. You are a new mother. You have endured labor, and delivered your child into this world. You feel empowered, gracious, and thankful for having given birth to such a beautiful baby. However, you are not too upset that it is over now, are you? But is it really over? The answer is no. The postpartum period can be filled with as much emotion and confusion as the entire nine months that lead up to it. Some women actually find that the postpartum period is actually more difficult for them than the pregnancy and the birth.

POSTPARTUM PERIOD DIFFICULTIES

Usually, the postpartum period is classified as the six weeks following delivery. During this time, you can expect hormonal changes, similar to those experienced during pregnancy. Sometimes you may feel that your hormones were much worse after you have had your baby. If you look at your baby, you may cry. If you think of your baby, you cry. Although you are very happy, you just cannot believe that you could love anyone so much. And that thought makes you cry, too. You could write a book on the things that will trigger your crying fits, during and after pregnancy, but you do not need to bother yourself with the details. Just be prepared to be VERY emotional after you have your baby. Some women have more problems with emotional swings than other women.

You may also notice that you feel sad, lonely, left out or angry during the postpartum period. This condition, known as the "Baby Blues" and it is common, and effects between 50 to 75 percent of all new mothers. Although it may only last a few hours or a few days, it can also last a month or so or even longer. Along with the emotional aspects of "Baby Blues," you may also notice that you have trouble sleeping, you are irritable, and cry often. These emotional aspects may be intensified by lack of sleep (new babies need to be fed every 2 to 3 hours) and lack of support by your partner, friends, and family. New babies (especially when combined with other children in the household) take a great deal of work and you need to make sure you have a support system set up prior to your birth to help prevent you from feeling overwhelmed. If the symptoms worsen, you may be suffering from a deeper form of depression, known as "Postpartum Depression." Approximately 10 to 20 percent of new mothers experience this condition. Characteristics include lack of appetite, thoughts of harming yourself or baby, sleeplessness, anger, hopelessness and anxiety. This condition is easily treatable, so consult with your midwife or health care provider immediately. Sometimes these feelings can last well beyond the first few weeks or months after the baby is born. Treatment may need to be considered if this happens to you.

MoonDragon's Pregnancy Information: Postpartum Depression

POSTPARTUM SEX

Most health care providers and some midwives will ask that you refrain from sex for six weeks after delivery. You may feel that six months would be more appropriate or you may want to have sex before the six weeks is over (usually more partners want to do this much more than birthing mothers). The purpose for this time of abstinence is to let your body heal. This includes preventing infections that could be caused by sexual intercourse; much needed time for healing of an episiotomy (if you had one) or a cesarean incision (if you had a surgical birth) and to regain your overall sense of well being. For most women, their sexual libido is nil. This lack of sexual desire is nature's way of preventing another pregnancy too soon after giving birth. It appears that, although most men can not remember their anniversary, they know when that six-week mark will hit without batting an eye. Do not feel obligated to have sex just because your husband or partner is anxious to resume sexual relations. However, if you are just as anxious to resume sexual relations, than more power to you. Just be sure to let your body tell you when it is ready. If it hurts... stop or use other forms of sexual intimacy besides intercourse.

MoonDragon's Pregnancy Information: Postpartum Care - Sexual Relations

SOME MORE WEIRD STUFF FOLLOWING CHILDBIRTH

Now, I have shared with you the "typical" what to expect. This is information that you will be provided with. However, for those of you who are first-time mothers, there is another side. A side that your mom never told you about. Things happen after delivery. Weird things. And you may not be completely prepared for them.

After you deliver your baby, you may shake uncontrollably. You may also sweat, vomit, or feel the need for a bowel movement. Keep in mind that, during this time, your midwife is assisting in the delivery of the placenta. If you feel sick or uncomfortable, ask your midwife for assistance. You may also notice that the floor or the bed is covered with a lot of fluid. You may not believe that all of this fluid came from your body, and it may make you queasy to think about it. Your midwife will allow you to rest and hold your baby for a while, but the time will come when you need a shower. When you stand up out of bed, the rush of blood and fluids that comes from your body may send you into a tailspin. Be prepared for this. Some new mothers are not and may get very upset when it happens. You may think that you are dying... or something like it. Rest assured, you are not dying and it is normal. Your midwife will know if it is not normal. You may feel dizzy or faint-like. Be sure to have plenty of support to assist you to your shower in case you need to sit down along the way. Your midwife does not want you to faint onto the floor. Keep someone in the bathroom with you in case you need help during your shower and to assist you in and out of the shower.

So, now you have showered. You will either have those lovely hospital-grade maxi pads or you may use large, absorbent incontinence pads. You may have them in disposable mesh underwear or you may use your own underwear to hold them in place (use old, large "grannie" panties with a wide cotton crotch and fabric that covers your entire bottom because you will have some leakage). Avoid using fancy little thongs and lacy little Victoria's Secret panties as these will not work to hold the large absorbant pads in place. Do not worry about how big your bottom looks in these pads. Your midwife will check your lochia flow (the postpartum blood flow) and check for hemorrhoids periodically. She will also massage your belly occasionally to make sure the uterus is staying "clamped down" and to expel any blood clots that may form. You will feel a gush of fluid at this time and the belly may be tender to the touch as she massages it. Please do not hit her when she does this. It is necessary. You may feel a bit embarrassed about having your perineum and bottom checked, but having a baby changes you and your concepts on modesty. If you needed any repairs done, you midwife may do the suturing before or after the shower, depending on her preference and the amount of repair work that may need to be done. I prefer to do any repairs before the shower if they are needed. That way, the mother is able to come back to bed clean, refreshed and ready to snuggle down with her baby.

Your midwife may tell you that it will be normal to pass some "blood clots" within the first few days after delivery. Sometimes they are not too specific here. They should say, "If you notice clots the size of lemons, do not be concerned. It is normal." Because that is exactly what it can be like. Unless informed, you can panic and call your midwife or health care provider immediately. Usually they insist it was normal, and just your uterus healing itself. You may find that extremely hard to believe, but if you are still there after passing a clot of fair size, they must be right. You can expect anywhere from three to six weeks of discharge, ranging from bright red, brownish, to pink, to clear. Take it easy during this time and do not over-stress or strain your body. If you do, you may notice an increase in bloody discharge. This is your body telling you to slow down and ease up on your activity. Eventually the bleeding will stop, and life can return to normal. Well, not quite.

WEIGHT GAIN & WEIGHT LOSS

You see, you will find that when you gain weight during pregnancy, it is okay. After all you are pregnant. But once that baby is born, there is a lot left over that wiggles and jiggles. Granted, there are a lucky few who can have a baby, and get right back into their pre-pregnancy wardrobe. But, most women are not one of those people. In fact, you may want to continue to wear your maternity clothes for several weeks after your baby is born. It can be frustrating, upsetting, and feel like a losing battle. But remember that it took 9 months to put the weight on, and it may take at least that, to get it off. You will have extra skin and belly tissue that will need to readjust itself after the birth. Although your skin is stretchy, it is not an elastic band that immediately pops back into place after the baby is removed. It takes time and effort to tighten things up.

You may also notice several stretch marks that you had not noticed before. As you tone up your body, they will reduce in size and intensity. These will lighten over time and fade in color, though they may never completely disappear.

You should try to wait until you stop bleeding before beginning any exercise program or wait the full six weeks. If at any time during the first 6 weeks that your bloody discharge changes from a faint color or brown to a bright red (fresh blood), this means you are overdoing it. Stop and relax. Get plenty of rest. Give yourself a chance to recover from your birth.

POSTPARTUM DIET

Continue to eat a healthy diet postpartum. Drink plenty of nourishing fluids. This is important for breastfeeding your baby. I recommend that new mothers continue with their pregnancy diets and add extra protein (about the equivalent to one peanut butter sandwich) daily to their diets. You may want to continue taking your prenatal vitamins, if you need these, since you will still have the nutritional requirements as a nursing mother as you did while you were pregnant. You will be burning calories by making milk for your baby. Breastfeeding is an excellent way to help you get your "baby fat" off of your body as well as helping your body to recover more quickly to its pre-pregnancy condition. Breastfeeding releases hormones that will help your uterus to efficiently return to its normal size and hormones that will assist you in bonding with your baby. Continue to avoid junk foods, high calorie fatty foods and sugary sweets. However, you can now have a glass of wine with your dinner instead of grape juice.

MoonDragon's Pregnancy Information: Postpartum Care - Bathing
MoonDragon's Pregnancy Information: Postpartum Care - Bleeding
MoonDragon's Pregnancy Information: Postpartum Care - Elimination (Using the Toilet)
MoonDragon's Pregnancy Information: Postpartum Care - Perineal Care
MoonDragon's Pregnancy Information: Postpartum Care - Weight

HOSPITAL POSTPARTUM EXPECTATIONS

If you have done your birth at the hospital and you are ready to take your baby home... you may find that it is more difficult to adjust than if you had your baby at home. This is especially so if this is your first baby. Most homebirth moms know to have someone stay with them for the first few days and they do not have to worry about going out for several days after the birth. They are already in their own environment and they also usually have their homebirth midwives dropping in on them frequently for the first few weeks to check on them. Unfortunately, many hospital birthed mothers do not have this type of support system and encounter many more problems (including having more problems with "the blues"). If you give birth in the hospital, make sure you have a change of clothing to wear home that is loose and comfortable. You will not be able to get into your pre-pregnancy clothes yet, most likely, for several weeks. You will also need to arrange transportation and a baby carrier for the baby. Make sure you have arranged with someone to be with you and help you with taking care of the baby, help you to the bathroom and do meal preparation and basic household chores for the first few days or weeks. Believe me, you will want to try to get as much sleep as possible. After all, labor and birthing is not easy and your body needs to recover. Although this is a momentous occasion, keep your non-helpful visitors to a minimum. Avoid sick people completely and do not allow them to visit until they are well.

MoonDragon's Pregnancy Information: Postpartum Care - Fatigue
MoonDragon's Pregnancy Information: Postpartum Care - Diet

LACK OF SLEEP, NIPPLE SORENESS & BREAST ENGORGEMENT

Whatever dreams you may drift off into, they will be interrupted by a hungry baby every few hours. This leads to breastfeeding. Be prepared for pain, at first. If you can stick it out for just a few weeks, the pain will stop, I promise. Engorgement when your milk comes in is normal. You may feel that you may not be able to do it since when your baby latches on it can make your toes curl as you are tensed in pain. But before you know it, you will be able to breastfeed your baby while you are cooking breakfast. It will get better with time, and it is a very rewarding experience and very beneficial to your baby and your body. Your midwife will make sure that you have the basics down before she leaves you if you gave birth at home and she should make herself available to you over the next few weeks to help you if you are encountering any problems. If you have problems with nipple soreness or cracking and bleeding, talk with your midwife about obtaining breast cream especially made for breastfeeding. It would be wise to also find the local Le Leche League and contact them for helpful hints and assistance.

MoonDragon's Pregnancy Information: Postpartum Care - Breasts

BECOMING A PARENT - THE BIRTH IS JUST THE BEGINNING

When all is said and done, you will be amazed at how much you have gone through, and at the end result. I must say that giving birth to my five babies was a life-changing, empowering experience, especially so with my last two born at home. Sure, I am a bit more jiggly, and my boobs look like a couple of oranges hanging in socks. But it was all worth it, and I would do it again. You have never, and will never, feel a love like you do for your child. And it only grows with time (however, you may seriously question it when your child hits puberty and become an ungrateful, secretive, mouthy teenager who seem to hate you and are embarrassed about you being so weird and uncool. During this time you may begin to think about locking them in a closet until their 25th birthday... but that is a whole new parenting subject). Each stage of your child's growth will have its trials and tribulations along with its rewards.

Single parents and those without a supportive partner can find it difficult at times. Even with a supportive partner, it can be trying. Parenting is the hardest job you will have. Pregnancy, childbirth, and becoming a parent will change you, but definitely for most people, it will be for the better.

Make sure to talk to your friends and your midwife if you need advice or simply a shoulder to cry on when things get intense. If you need extra medical help, discuss your feelings with a psychological counselor specializing in postpartum care or your health care provider. Talk to people who have been through childbirth recently. There may be support groups in your region. Do not be afraid to expand your support network if you need insight from those who have the experience still fresh in their minds. Trust yourself, and your body, and you will do just fine!



MoonDragon's Postpartum Care Index
MoonDragon's Breastfeeding Information
MoonDragon's Herbal & Holistic Information
This has herbal and holistic remedies for dealing with various breastfeeding and postpartum concerns.





MoonDragon's Pregnancy Information Index
MoonDragon's Pregnancy Information & Survival Tips






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