When you get pregnant, planning is inevitable. You plan your prenatal visits to make sure that your baby is healthy and you are in tip-top shape. You will also find yourself planning the birth process and deciding whether you will exclusively breastfeed your baby.
More often than not, expectant mothers tend to focus on the pregnancy, childbirth, and everything that comes with it. Unfortunately, an essential part of the whole journey is brushed to the side, which shouldn’t be the case. Planning for your postpartum care is as important as planning your pregnancy or even the birth of your child.
Postpartum is the period right after giving birth. It is the first 6-12 weeks after delivering your baby, and it is the time when you and your newborn need all the care you can get to adjust to your new life and the demands of motherhood.
With that in mind, it is extremely important to plan your postpartum care because this will definitely have a huge impact not only on you but also on the rest of the family.
What is postpartum care?
Postpartum is also known as the 4th trimester of your pregnancy. Obviously, you will go through so much during the time you carried your baby and then during labor and childbirth. A common misconception is that everything will go back to normal as soon as you give birth, but in truth, this is just the beginning of your new life. This is also the time when your newborn adjusts to life outside your womb. Imagine having to cope with all the changes, including those your baby has to go through!
Postpartum care goes beyond the physical healing of your body. It also focuses on your emotional and mental state after you have had your baby. Considering all your new responsibilities as a mother, a postpartum care plan will ensure that your own needs are not neglected.
How important is postpartum care?
Postpartum care is an essential aspect of your recovery from pregnancy and childbirth and your adjustment to your new responsibilities. It is common for new mothers to focus all their time and energy on meeting the needs not only of the baby, but of the whole family. However, it is extremely important to look after yourself and consider your needs as well, especially in the first 2 weeks postpartum.
It may sound hard to do when you are facing the demands of a newborn, but you also need all the care you can get. This is also the time to listen to what your body is saying, especially if you are dealing with health conditions such as postpartum eclampsia, hemorrhaging, a fever of over 100.4° F (38° C), shortness of breath, or chest pains, to name a few. Immediately seek medical attention if you’re experiencing any of these.
While the focus is on the physical aspect, you should also prepare for a postpartum depression plan. Being open to all possibilities during your postpartum recovery can really be an advantage. A good postpartum care plan focuses on holistic healing and includes:
- Physical postpartum care: The focus is on your ability to regain your physical strength after pregnancy, labor, and childbirth. It also includes having the time to rest and nourish yourself, especially during the first couple of weeks after having your baby, when the demands are at their peak.
- Emotional postpartum care: The focus is on the emotions that accompany dealing with your new role as a mother and what is happening around you. Sometimes, everything seems to be overwhelming, and you have to address these issues as early as possible. It is perfectly normal to feel stressed out or tired. However, if these feelings become extreme, be open about them, and always remember that what you feel is valid.
- Mental postpartum care: The focus is on your mental health after giving birth. On average, about 85% of new mothers experience mental health issues, with the majority of them showing mild symptoms that are temporary. If you have felt the need to see your doctor, call them even before your 6th week postpartum appointment. Your mental health should always be a top priority during this period.
Postpartum care tips for every new mother
Every time I give birth, I always have a postpartum care plan. Perhaps it is ingrained in our practices and traditions in the Philippines, but looking back, I’m certainly glad I did all that. My postpartum care plan focuses on how I can regain my strength and take proper care of my baby. A midwife visits me every day for a month and makes sure I am getting all the care that I need. On top of that, she helps with the baby baths and any breastfeeding difficulties I may have. It surely made my life much easier back then. Depending on where you live, a doula may provide the same services.
I’ve heard a lot of advice about postpartum care. Whether you asked for it or it was unsolicited advice, you should be able to know what will work best for you since you will be the one making adjustments and considering the demands of having a newborn again or for the first time.
Postpartum care may differ depending on your needs, which will, to some extent, reflect the birth method (vaginal or CS). The recovery time is much shorter when you give birth vaginally—it takes about 2 weeks while CS moms need at least 6 weeks to recuperate from the surgical incision.
All my 3 pregnancies ended with vaginal births, so let me share with you some tips that helped me during my postpartum period.
- Prepare to focus on your baby for the first 6 weeks. Stock up on food supplies, freeze some ready-to-eat meals, and discuss a plan with your partner (particularly household chores and baby needs) before giving birth. Set some expectations and let it be known that you will be needing all the help you can get. Familiarize your partner with your postpartum care plan so that everything can be in place before your D-day comes.
- Observe proper hygiene because the last thing you want is having to visit your ob/gyn on account of a vaginal infection. Your vaginal bleeding will decrease on the 3rd or 4th day but can last until the 4th to 6th week. Be sure to contact your healthcare practitioner if you notice heavy bleeding accompanied by a fever, soreness, or pelvic pain.
- Sitz baths are recommended for postpartum recovery if you have given birth vaginally. The warm water definitely has a soothing effect and can be a part of your postpartum perineal care plan, especially if you have had an episiotomy. It can help to increase your blood flow, helping you heal faster. A sitz bath is also helpful in easing the pain caused by hemorrhoids during childbirth. Aside from its healing benefits, it can also provide some R&R after a long day.
- If you have had an episiotomy, as I did, you should know how to take care of stitches although they should dissolve on their own within 4-6 weeks after birth. In addition to a sitz bath, taking pain medication as prescribed by your doctor can help ease the pain. The discomfort will gradually go away, but be sure to take things slow while you are on the road to recovery.
- Constipation and hemorrhoids are often part of the deal. I consider these the most difficult parts of all my births. Your physical inactivity can cause constipation, while the pushing during birth can be the culprit in the case of hemorrhoids. To avoid this, drink a lot of water and eat fibrous food. Also, I asked my ob/gyn for a stool softener, which worked wonders for me each and every time.
- You can expect some difficulty breastfeeding. An important part of your postpartum care plan is a nursing care plan after delivery. A lactation consultant can help you deal with different breastfeeding issues, such as breast engorgement, painful feeding, improper latching, and even breast milk supply in the initial days after delivery. You can also get advice on the best breastfeeding position for you, especially if you’re a CS mom recuperating from your incision.
- Maintaining a healthy and well-balanced diet is a must while pregnant and equally important after giving birth. Choose to eat healthy while you are recovering as this will not only benefit you but will play a huge part in producing breast milk for your baby. You can also ask your ob/gyn for postpartum supplements that can help you to heal faster as well as provide much-needed vitamins and minerals, especially iron, since you are expected to bleed for weeks after giving birth.
- If you have led an active lifestyle before getting pregnant or even before giving birth, you can start with gentle exercises such as walking or light household chores after 2 weeks of rest from vaginal birth. However, this is entirely different in the case of a C-section. You will be needing at least 6 weeks of rest and should obtain your doctor’s permission before resuming any form of physical exercise.
- A visit from your mother or your best friend will allow you to take a break from your daily responsibilities as a new parent. It is essential to keep a list of important contacts, both professionals and people from your social circle who can support you during your postpartum recovery. Having all the help you need available is important, especially if you feel symptoms of postpartum depression.
- Rest when you can, which mostly means sleep while the baby sleeps. I heard this so many times while I was recovering from childbirth. Believe me, exhaustion and lack of sleep can really affect the way you take care of your baby. So, don’t worry about the chores—focus on getting enough rest and sleep.
- Make time to visit your doctor during the 6th week after giving birth to see how well you are recovering from the delivery. Get the most out of this appointment: discuss everything and anything that worries you. However, if you feel an urgent need to see your doctor, you should not wait for your 6th week postpartum appointment. Set one whenever you feel that you need some professional help.
You are still you after giving birth
Having a new baby is overwhelming but rewarding, too. You may find yourself exhausted at times. You may also find yourself looking in the mirror and not seeing the old you.
I felt that way and even had the postpartum blues. I was so sad, and yes, I felt so different because of the changes my body had gone through during pregnancy and childbirth. However, seeing my baby restored my confidence. It also reminded me that time flies, and before I know it, my little one will no longer need all of my attention.
You deserve a solid postpartum care plan, just like your baby deserves all the love and care you are giving. Your child is being celebrated during childbirth, but you should also be celebrated.