Sleeping until 9 on a lazy Saturday morning. Leaving the house quickly when a friend calls to invite you to an impromptu dinner party. Running a “quick errand” to Target. Catching up on your DVR list after a busy work week.
Remember these days, gals. It will be replaced with early Saturday mornings fueled by coffee, planning two months in advance for a night out, taking all day to prepare for a 30-minute run to Target, and crashing on your couch once baby finally falls asleep.
Sounds a bit rough and it is, but you also now have the greatest job title ever. You are a mom. You get to be on the receiving end of the unconditional love of a child. You will cherish those sleeping snuggles after that midnight feed and get to hear those sweet baby coos. Already forgot about those lazy Saturday mornings I bet, haven’t you?
I am a busy wife and mother to three children ages eight, five and one. Becoming a mom not only changes your daily schedules but also leads to some significant changes to your body and health. We spend significant time planning our registry, so it’s important to also learn about some normal changes medically after pregnancy.
I like to refer to the postpartum period as the fourth “trimester.” Hopefully your delivery went as planned and all are healthy. You have experienced a monumental transition to your body. Every organ system in your body is in a transitional state to your new normal.
It is very common to have moments of rapid mood swings from elation to sadness, irritability and anxiety, decreased concentration, insomnia, tearfulness and crying spells. However, some women, about 10-15 percent, have a more severe form of these symptoms and actually have postpartum depression (PPD). These moms have a depressed mood or loss of interest on top of the other typical symptoms that are present most of the day, every day. You may be at increased risk if you have a history of depression, depression during pregnancy or a family history of depression.
What are some possible treatments? First don’t try and be a hero; accept help. Nap when baby naps. We all hear this recommendation and just ignore it. I ignored it until my third baby, but this really is important. Multiple studies have shown that regular sleep can be just as effective as medical therapy in mild cases of PPD. Shower daily. Wash off the grime and stress of the last 24 hours. Get out of the house. This can be a simple stroll around the neighborhood or a short outing with baby. If your symptoms are severe or persistent tell your doctor immediately. Some women will require counseling or medical therapy to improve and that is OK. I have many patients who struggle with this, so never feel like you have done anything wrong. Ask for help.
How you decide to nourish your baby is a decision only you can make. Your physicians will provide you with education no matter what your decision is. Whether you choose to breastfeed or not, you will experience breast engorgement. Engorgement is full, heavy, red, painful breasts three to five days after delivery, sometimes associated with a low-grade temperature that occurs when your milk comes in. If you choose not to breastfeed discuss with your doctor how to treat engorgement.
If you choose to breastfeed I have a few tips. First, RELAX. It’s not like the movies. You have breasts and babies know how to suck, but that does not equal breastfeeding. It takes practice and patience, which you may be a little short on when you are sleep deprived. Second, experiment with different feeding positions to find a few that work for you and your baby. Third, feed often and stay well hydrated. Your hospital gives you that giant water cup for a good reason. Jefferson City is blessed with multiple options for assistance with breast feeding, both inpatient and outpatient, so please visit with the lactation consultant early and often.
If you thought your loss of bladder control during pregnancy would end with delivery, this isn’t usually the case. Urinary leakage is very common after delivery. The good news is it does improve over time, and your doctor can talk to you about pelvic floor exercises that can be helpful.
At the same time, you may be wondering when you can finally ditch that pad. Vaginal bleeding after delivery is called lochia. It can last up to six weeks, and it transitions from bright red and heavy flow to dark brown and then yellow-like discharge. Once your lochia ends and your doctor clears you for intercourse, you can transition back to tampons if you prefer.
It is normal to have decreased libido (sex drive) after delivery. Up to 60 percent of women will have decreased interest up to three months following delivery.
Why, your partner may ask? Usually, it is due to concerns over pain, fatigue or worrying about hurting yourself. Our breastfeeding moms may have more of these symptoms because of the lack of estrogen. The lack of estrogen can also lead to vaginal dryness. Rest assured, unless you had major complications, resuming intercourse by six weeks is perfectly safe.
The media is saturated with celebrities walking the red carpet days after having a baby and looking fantastic. Let’s remember they have teams making them look this good. Most women lose half of their pregnancy weight in the first six weeks. Remember, it took 40 weeks to gain the weight and can take 40 weeks to lose it.
If you want to get back to exercising or start a new exercise program it is OK to resume a few weeks after delivery. Watch out with heavy lifting or heavy core work as it isn’t the best for your bladder health. Increasing your activity level and modestly reducing your caloric intake will lead to steady weight loss.
I hope the information I shared with you helps prepare you for your new job: motherhood. Good luck and congratulations!