After giving birth to your baby, you will find that you go through a number of changes physically and emotionally. Here we discuss what those changes are and how your partner/family can help in the early days.
After pains – After your baby is born, your uterus will immediately start to contract. Some women, especially those having their first baby may not even notice this as it may be quite mild. Women who have had several children though may be quite uncomfortable with the after pains requiring analgesia. This should only last a day or so. When you begin to breast feed your baby, this also makes the uterus contract which might also be uncomfortable.
Abdomen– Your abdominal wall will have stretch sufficiently during pregnancy so don’t be surprised if you still have a bump after the birth! It will take weeks, even months for the muscles to tighten back up again
Blood loss – You will bleed quite heavily after birth for the first couple of days and then it will settle down. You may carry on bleeding for up to 6 weeks and even pass some small blot clots. If you pass clots larger than a golf ball you might just want to run it by a midwife.
Perineum – If you have had a tear or episiotomy you will likely be feeling a little sore. Make sure the area is kept clean and dry. It may take a couple of weeks for any swelling and soreness to go down.
Breasts – Your breast will have spent most of your pregnancy preparing to feed your baby. You may have even noticed some colostrum leaking from the nipples, especially if you squeeze them. After the birth, your baby stimulates your supply by feeding which cause the milk ducts to fill over the coming days. You may find that by day 3 or 4, your breasts feel quite heavy and engorged. This period should only last for a week or so until you have established breastfeeding and your breasts know how much milk to produce.
Sex and contraception
Some women decide to wait several weeks or months before resuming sex but others decide they want to try sooner. The decision is totally up to you but do consider factors such as:
Stitches – They can be irritated through sex if its too soon. Most stitches will dissolve and fall out within a couple of weeks after the birth
Manual removal of placenta – If you have had a manual removal of placenta (when the placenta hasn’t come away on its own and the doctor has had to remove it by hand) you may been more susceptible to infection. In this instance it might be worthwhile waiting 4 weeks or so before resuming sex.
You are extremely fertile after you have had a baby so do think about contraception otherwise you will find yourself pregnant before your baby is 8 weeks old! Some couples decide that they want to have babies very close together but do consider the fact that your body is not fully recovered and there is a greater risk for preterm delivery of your second baby if you fall pregnant too soon. Your doctor will see you at around 6 weeks postnatal to discuss contraception with you so until then, you may want to consider using condoms if you are having sex.
A large number of women (between 50% and 85%) each year suffer from the ‘day 3 blues’. This is the effect of hormonal changes in your body combined with a lack of sleep that can make you feel tearful and sad. Some women describe feeling like a failure especially if the baby cries a lot or is having feeding problems. In most cases, the ‘day 3 blues’ only lasts for a few days and you will start to feel better afterwards. Some women can develop postnatal depression which can be treated if picked up early so do look out for the signs. If you are finding that your mood is persistently low following this and you are having feelings of hopelessness, guilt, low mood, no desire to do anything or not feeling like you are enjoying life with your new baby, you may want to consider discussing these feelings with a midwife, GP or health visitor.
Help from friends and family
If you’re lucky enough to live near parents, siblings and friends, and have good relationships with them, ask if they’d be willing to help out. Try to spread help out over the first few weeks so everyone isn’t there at once, and you’ll have an extra pair of hands if your partner is going back to work. You’ll find that many helpers just want to hold the baby, which is fine if you need a break. But most of the time, you’ll probably want other kinds of help so you can bond with your baby. Be specific about what people can do (making meals, running errands, doing laundry), so you and your little one can get to know each other.
Make sure Dad is included
Encourage your partner to take an active role in baby care, and let him do things his own way so he can learn the skills and gain confidence. Some couples prefer to limit visitors during the early days to that much needed quiet time. (Let’s face it, sometimes it’s easier for dad to politely reschedule or end visits by pointing out that mum and baby are tired.)