Taking Care of Yourself
Tips to manage post-delivery problems, from cramps to depression.
Meeting a new baby’s demands can be especially difficult when you have postpartum issues of your own. Here are some solutions:
PROBLEM: Perineal Pain Whether you had an episiotomy or your perineum tore during labor and had to be stitched, it’s probably uncomfortable for you to sit, walk or use the bathroom.
RELIEF TIPS Try a sitz bath (sit in a few inches of warm water) for a few minutes several times a day; use a squirt-bottle to rinse yourself with warm water after you urinate; ice the area; sit on a “doughnut” or horseshoe-shaped nursing pillow to take some pressure off the area; or soak cotton balls in witch hazel and place them down under. For information on healing after a Cesarean section, go to fitpregnancy.com/csectionrecovery.
PROBLEM: Cramping and Bleeding When your uterus begins to contract and shrink after delivery, you may have menstrual-like cramping as well as bleeding that’s usually heavier than a menstrual period. Don’t use tampons, because they can introduce infection; wear overnight sanitary pads instead.
RELIEF TIPS Breastfeed! Nursing increases production of the hormone oxytocin, which stimulates the uterus to contract, reducing bleeding. Try a heating pad and warm showers and ask your doctor which pain meds are safe if you’re nursing.
PROBLEM: Hemorrhoids These swollen blood vessels surrounding the rectum are the result of constipation during pregnancy and/or pushing during labor and can last several weeks.
RELIEF TIPS Try sitz baths, ice packs, Preparation H or Tucks pads. Some women swear by placing a slice of raw potato on their bottom for 10 minutes several times daily.
PROBLEM: “Baby Blues”/Postpartum Depession Most new moms experience some sadness, tears, mood swings and irritability in the first days and weeks after giving birth. This is normal, but more severe and long-lasting symptoms can indicate postpartum depression.
RELIEF TIPS To minimize your risk of postpartum depression, sleep as much as you can (nap when the baby does), accept all offers of help and devote a bit of time to yourself every day. Even a 15-minute walk can recharge you. If you have severe depression that lasts longer than two weeks, call your doctor, as you may need treatment. Visit postpartum.net and read Beyond the Blues: A Guide to Understanding and Treating Prenatal and Postpartum Depression by Shoshana S. Bennett and Pec Indman (Moodswings Press).
Call Your Doctor if You Have:
✱ A fever of 100.4° F or higher
✱ Increased bleeding or vaginal discharge
✱ Nausea and vomiting
✱ Pain during urination
✱ Pain, swelling or tenderness in your legs
✱ Red streaks or painful new lumps on your breasts
✱ Redness, discharge or pain from an episiotomy, perineal tear or abdominal incision that fails to subside or that worsens
✱ Severe pain in your lower abdomen
✱ Severe depression
Learn much more For articles on every aspect of new motherhood, go to fitpregnancy.com/motherhood.