Postpartum

Your New-Mom Checkup

Once you have had your baby, you need to call your doctor and schedule a follow-up visit. The ideal time for your new mom checkup is four to six weeks after the birth of your baby. But you may need to see your doctor earlier, especially if you are having problems. Problems include postpartum depression, bleeding and other trouble with your health. If you had a C-section, you may need to have stitches or staples removed before your new mom checkup. Your new mom visit generally includes a routine pelvic exam and Pap test.

Your Health

Caring for a new baby is one of the most joyous and challenging times in a woman's life. At the same time, new mothers must take special care of their bodies after giving birth and while breastfeeding. Read on for tips about staying healthy and taking care of yourself when you get home from the hospital.

Nutrition

Your desire to eat should come back soon, if it hasn't already. That's because there's no more baby putting pressure on your tummy and bowels. Also, those irritating bouts of heartburn should have eased up by now.

Maintaining a well-balanced diet for yourself after the baby arrives is important for your recovery. It is especially critical for breast-feeding mothers. Try to drink at least eight glasses of water each day. This will help with making milk and keeping your body well hydrated. It will also decrease constipation. You'll also need to keep practicing a healthy lifestyle. You can do this by avoiding caffeine, cigarette smoking, alcohol and drugs. Talk about any diet issues with your doctor. This includes questions about prenatal vitamins. These vitamins should be continued after you give birth, especially if you are breast-feeding. They will give you extra iron and improve the quality of your breast milk.

Exercise

If you worked out regularly before and during your pregnancy, talk to your doctor about the best way to ease back into your exercise program. Take it slow and follow his or her advice. You may want to go back to your pre-pregnancy shape right away. But keep in mind that your body needs time to heal. Working out after having a baby is helpful, both physically and emotionally, for most new mothers. It helps to work off the extra pounds gained during pregnancy while boosting your self-esteem. Other paybacks include helping minor aches and pains that are a normal part of the period after your baby is born. Follow your doctor's orders on how much activity you can do for the next few weeks.

Postpartum bleeding, hemorrhage

You will have spotting or bleeding after birth. It will be similar to a menstrual period off and on for up to six weeks. This is normal. But some women bleed too much and need special care. This is called a postpartum hemorrhage (PPH). It happens in up to 5 percent of women after delivery. It's most likely to happen while the placenta is separating or soon after. If it happens in the days or weeks after you give birth, it's called a late or delayed PPH. It could be a complication if you have heavy bleeding and fill more than one pad per hour. If you have this problem, call or see your doctor.

Incision, episiotomy care

An incision may be needed to help deliver your baby. This is called an episiotomy. The cut is closed after the baby and placenta have been delivered. If you have this done, you can go back to doing normal activities shortly after birth. The stitches are absorbed by the body and do not need to be taken out. Pain and discomfort can be eased with warm baths and medicine ordered by your doctor.

Sore nipples, breast engorgement, breast pump

Within two to three days after you give birth, you may find that your breasts feel swollen and tender and lumpy. They may also throb and feel painfully full. Sometimes the swelling extends all the way to your armpit. You may run a low-grade fever, too. Don't worry. This is only short-term. Within 72 hours after you give birth, plenty of breast milk "comes in" or becomes available to your baby. As that happens, more blood flows to your breasts and some of the nearby tissue swells. To treat this, there are a number of things you can do. Breastfeed your baby regularly. Wear a supportive nursing bra. Many mothers express their milk using breast pumps. Contact a lactation consultant at your local hospital. This person is trained to help mothers who want to breastfeed their babies. Or you can talk to your doctor about more information on breastfeeding.

The "baby blues," postpartum depression

Besides the physical changes, you may feel sad or have the "baby blues." This is normal after you give birth. Between 70 and 80 percent of new mothers feel a little sad or depressed after giving birth. Your hormone changes, worrying about caring for the baby, and lack of sleep all affect how you feel. If you have the baby blues, you may:

  • Have mood swings
  • Feel sad, anxious or overwhelmed
  • Have crying spells
  • Lose your appetite
  • Have trouble sleeping

The baby blues most often go away within a few days or a week. The symptoms are not severe and do not need treatment. Be patient with yourself. Be aware of your feelings. And let your family, friends, and your doctor know what's going on. Ask them to be patient and caring.

If you are extremely sad or unable to care for yourself or your baby, call your doctor right away. You might have a serious condition called postpartum depression. Postpartum depression is worse than the "baby blues." It lasts longer, doesn't go away on its own, and can get worse if left untreated. Postpartum depression can get bad enough to make it hard for you to care for your baby or yourself. Postpartum depression can begin anytime within the first year after childbirth. If you have postpartum depression, your symptoms may include:

  • Feeling restless or moody
  • Feeling sad, hopeless, and overwhelmed
  • Crying a lot
  • Having no energy or motivation
  • Sleeping or eating too little or too much
  • Having trouble focusing or making decisions
  • Having memory problems
  • Feeling worthless and guilty
  • Not enjoying things that used to be fun
  • Withdrawing from friends and family
  • Having headaches, aches and pains, or stomach problems that don't go away.

Your doctor can figure out if your symptoms are caused by depression or something else.

Get help right now if you:

  • Are thinking about hurting yourself or your baby
  • Are having trouble caring for yourself or your baby.

Call Tennessee's free mental health crisis hotline for help:

  • 1-855-CRISIS-1 (1-855-274-7471).

The condition can be successfully treated safely and effectively. Your doctor can help you feel better and get back to enjoying your new baby. These tips may help you get into a "recovery routine":

  • Practice healthy habits.
  • Exercise at least three times a week.
  • Spend time with family and friends.
  • Make time for yourself every day.
  • Look for what's good in your life.
  • Reward yourself for reaching small goals.