Body & Soul | Fit Pregnancy

Body & Soul

The key to recovering from childbirth and taking care of your newborn is to place nonessential activities on hold and take care of yourself too. Here's how.

Week Two

Continuing Your Recovery
You'll start feeling better during week 2, but that doesn't mean you should launch into major housecleaning mode. Instead, try to get outside. You'll continue to have vaginal discharge as well as soreness and itching at any incision sites. If you're breastfeeding, your nipples may be sore.

How To Care For Yourself
Don't overdo it Vaginal discharge, which was bright red during week 1, will turn brown during week 2. If you exert yourself too much, however, it will turn red again—that's a warning sign you're doing too much and need to slow down.

Start taking brief walks This will exercise your muscles and reduce your risk of developing blood clots, which are more common after childbirth. Take it easy, but do a little each day.

Get help if nursing hurts Some nipple soreness is normal, but if your nipples are cracked, bleeding or truly painful, contact a certified lactation consultant (visit iblce.org for a referral).

Week Three

Dealing With Emotional Changes
During pregnancy, estrogen and progesterone levels are about 10 times higher than normal; once you give birth, they begin to plummet. By day 7 postpartum they return to prepregnancy levels, but the emotional ups and downs are just starting.

"Your hormones impact every organ system, and your body needs weeks to adjust," says OB-GYN Gaudet, who also wrote Body, Soul, and Baby (Bantam). During this time your emotions can be all over the place. The "baby blues" usually don't last long, but if they do and are severe, you may have postpartum depression, which affects about 10 percent of new mothers.

How To Care For Yourself
Don't suffer in silence Talk to your doctor, nurse or midwife as well as family and friends if you can't shake your moodiness, especially if you have a history of depression.

Lower your standards Give yourself a break if you don't measure up to prepregnancy expectations regarding housework and social obligations. "A lot of women have this 'supermom' idea that they have to do everything themselves to be a good mother," Chandley-Adams maintains.

Take a break every day Do something special for yourself, even if you just call a friend, listen to music or read.

Week Four

Feeling Exhausted
Your body has done quite a bit of healing by week 3, but your brain may be foggy with exhaustion. "Never in your life will you be as sleep deprived as you are when you have a new baby," says Alice D. Domar, Ph.D., executive director of the Domar Center for Complementary Healthcare in Boston. "But remind yourself that this phase of your life is temporary."

How To Care For Yourself
Sleep whenever you can Remind yourself to put everything but the most essential tasks on hold, nap when the baby does and sleep close to your baby so you can get maximum rest.

Get dad's help with feeding Once breastfeeding is established (after about a month or so), have your partner give the baby a bottle of pumped milk during the night so you can sleep.

Practice stress-relief techniques Try meditation, a mindfulness exercise or a mini-relaxation (inhale slowly and deeply, hold for a couple of seconds, then exhale slowly and fully).

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