Caring for Your Health After Delivery
How do I care for myself at home after delivery?
After delivery, you may think that you can jump back into life as normal. However, this time in your life is full of adjustment to life with a newborn, as well as a time of recovery. It’s important to remember that childbirth is something your body will need to recover from over time. No matter what type of delivery, vaginal birth or cesarean birth (C-section), your body will need time to heal.
The first month of having a newborn baby at home can be overwhelming at times. You might feel like all of your time is focused on caring for your baby – but don’t forget to take care of yourself. You might hear the phrase “if you don’t take care of yourself, you can’t take care of your baby” and there’s an element of truth to this sentiment. There are several things you will need to remember to do after delivery to take care of your own health.
Some physical tips to remember include:
- Resting: Delivering a baby is hard work and you probably weren’t able to sleep much in the hospital. The first few weeks after delivery are an important time for you to rest whenever you can. Try and sleep or rest when your baby sleeps. This rest will help you recover.
- Avoiding heavy lifting: You should avoid lifting anything that’s heavier than your baby while you’re recovering. This is especially important if you’ve had a C-section delivery.
- Washing your hands: It might seem like a small thing, but make sure you wash your hands often. Wash your hands after you visit the bathroom, change your baby’s diaper and before feeding your baby.
- Limiting your stair climbing: During the first week, you should try and cut down on the amount of stair climbing. Try to limit the number of trips you take up and down the stairs each day while you heal.
- Keeping your baby’s care simple: Learning your baby’s schedule and needs in the first few weeks is hard enough – don’t add to your to-do list when it comes to your baby’s needs. Your baby doesn’t need a bath every day. Instead, use wet wipes to make sure your baby’s face, hands and diaper area are cleaned daily.
Some social tips to remember include:
- Limiting visitors: People will want to come over and meet your new family member. However, this might not be the best time to be hostess to guests. Know that it’s OK to limit visitors or say no completely to company for the first few weeks. During this time, you’ll be adjusting to your new life with your baby, as well as healing from your delivery. If you decide to breastfeed, you will also be establishing feeding routines.
- Asking for help: Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Let your family and friends know ways they can help you. This could mean cooking meals, helping with laundry, doing household chores, babysitting siblings, or stopping at the store to pick up food and supplies.
- Not striving for perfection: When you do have visitors, try not to stress over small messes. People are coming over to see you and your new baby, not a perfectly clean home. Don’t push yourself to make your home look perfect during this time.
What’s postpartum depression and what signs should I look for after delivery?
Postpartum depression is a common condition that impacts many new birth parents. It’s a complex mix of physical, emotional and behavioral changes that can happen after childbirth, causing you to feel depressed. You might also hear the phrase “baby blues” used to explain a shift in some people’s emotions after birth. Feelings of sadness, anxiety, hopelessness, guilt and fatigue can all be a part of postpartum depression.
If you experience any of the following feelings or thoughts, reach out to your healthcare provider right away:
- A depressed mood for most of the day, every day for two weeks.
- Difficulty doing typical tasks around the house for your own self-care or for your baby.
- Thoughts of harming yourself or your baby. This includes thoughts of suicide.
- Thoughts of hopelessness, anxiety, guilt, panic or worthlessness.
It’s important to talk to others if you experience changes to your emotions after delivery. Reaching out to friends, family or your healthcare provider can be difficult sometimes, but you’ll often find these people want to help you.
How do I keep myself physically healthy after delivery?
Your medical care doesn’t stop as soon as you have your baby. You will still need to schedule appointments with your healthcare provider and take steps to make sure you're recovering well. One week after delivery, you should schedule an appointment with your obstetric provider for a follow-up visit. This is generally scheduled to take place within four to six weeks after delivery. In some cases, this appointment might be scheduled a little earlier, such as two weeks after delivery.
You should also do your perineal care, as advised by your healthcare provider. You will be given detailed instructions on your perineal care after you’ve given birth. Typically, you’ll keep following these instructions until your follow-up appointment.
Other things to remember as a part of your after-delivery care include:
- Wait to have intercourse until after your first check-up appointment. Your body needs time to heal after giving birth and waiting a few weeks to have sex is a part of that healing process. Your provider will tell you that it’s OK to have sex again when your perineum has healed (or the abdominal scar from your C-section has healed), and when your postpartum bleeding and discharge is minimal.
- Discussing birth control. It might seem strange to think that you could get pregnant again soon after birth, particularly if your period hasn’t returned yet. But you absolutely can. Often, your provider will talk to you about birth control options before your baby is even born. If you haven’t already, discuss it with your provider during your first check-up appointment. Even though you might not menstruate while breastfeeding, you can still get pregnant.
- Not douching or using tampons in the first few weeks after birth. You shouldn’t insert a tampon or douche in the first four to six weeks after delivery. Using pads to catch blood or discharge is the safest method.
- Continue taking your prenatal vitamins every day. If you run out of prenatal vitamins, you can take a multivitamin containing iron.
- Eat healthy meals. It’s a good idea to eat plenty of healthy foods in the weeks after delivery. A healthy diet will help you recover. It’s also recommended that you avoid alcohol and caffeine during this time.
- Drink eight large glasses of fluid each day. Water, juice and milk are all good choices when you’re trying to accomplish this goal.
- Take a walk. It’s good to take a break from the house and get a little exercise. Walking is a gentle way to start exercising again after delivery. Talk to your healthcare provider about when you can safely start a new exercise program and how much activity you can do at a time.
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