When you have a baby, it’s natural to focus on the child’s health. Although your little one’s development is marvelous, you might also experience changes — and they need attention, too. Many people focus on how to prepare for pregnancy and how to have a healthy pregnancy, but not how to take care of yourself after pregnancy.
New mothers, here are six common health issues to expect.
1. Vaginal pain
Women are usually well aware of the pain they can expect during childbirth, but many don’t anticipate the pain afterward. With a vaginal delivery, it depends on how smoothly the delivery went and whether a laceration or an episiotomy needed to be repaired. If you do experience pain, try icing the area and using pain-relieving spray.
Women who have cesarean sections can expect some pain at the incision site. You’ll be given a prescription pain medication to take for about two weeks. Afterwards, ibuprofen should do the trick.
2. Breast pain
If your breasts are swollen, lumpy, hard or painful, they’re likely engorged. Engorgement may happen as your body figures out how much milk it needs to produce while establishing the milk supply.
Apply a warm compress prior to breastfeeding to help the milk flow, and ice packs and acetaminophen between feedings. Of course, breastfeeding itself can be uncomfortable or even painful for some women, but don’t give up.
If you do experience pain during breastfeeding, meet with a lactation consultant who can help your baby latch properly and eliminate pain.
Childbirth is tough on the body. In addition to infection at the surgical site of a C-section or at a tear in the perineum, postpartum infections can also appear in the uterus, bladder or kidneys.
The good news is these types of infections are fairly uncommon unless there’s an issue in delivery, like prolonged labor or prolonged rupture of membranes. We counsel our patients upon discharge from the hospital to watch for fever or increased pain. If those symptoms arise, it may be an infection, which can easily be treated with antibiotics.
4. Urinary incontinence
You’ll want to remember all of the public bathrooms you mapped out while you were pregnant. Urinary incontinence is common for six months or longer post-delivery. Pelvic‑floor physical therapy can help urinary incontinence by strengthening your pelvic muscles.
5. Pelvic organ prolapse
Pregnancy and childbirth weaken the pelvic‑floor muscles, which in some women can lead to prolapse, when the bladder, uterus or bowel protrudes into the vagina. The condition typically lessens after childbirth with rest, which includes not lifting anything heavier than your baby.
Even though many women who have prolapse in the postpartum period will improve, there is a chance it will return after menopause. But don’t fret and don’t keep it to yourself. There is treatment available.
New moms are notoriously tired, and understandably so.
The first two to three months will be a total blur, because of the baby’s feeding schedule alone. It’s absolutely normal — the first two weeks especially — to feel moody or cry easily due to exhaustion and lack of sleep. Be as prepared as you can be before the baby arrives by making sure you have these 10 things at home.
Lean on your support system to help with nighttime feedings so you can get even one or two full nights of sleep a week. If moodiness persists or progresses into uncontrollable sadness, feelings of worthlessness or wanting to sleep all day, ask your doctor to evaluate you for postpartum depression.
There are a lot of new health issues and life changes that impact new mothers post-delivery, but being knowledgeable about what to expect goes a long way in preparing your mind and body.
This is an exciting time in the life of your family — make sure you have the support you need so you can focus on cherishing every moment with your little one!
Questions about what to expect during and after labor? Our experts have the answers you need for a safe, healthy delivery.
About the author
This content has been written or reviewed by a member of the Baylor Scott & White Health medical staff.
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