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Take Care of Yourself After Pregnancy

Take Care of Yourself

After delivery, there will be much to do to care for your newborn. In all of the hustle and bustle, don’t forget to take time for yourself.

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take care of yourself after pregnancy

Taking Care of Yourself After Having a Baby


As a new mom, you will experience many physical and emotional changes. Find out what to expect as well as get important nutrition and exercise advice.

It’s all the information you’ll need to take good care of yourself, so that you can take better care of your newborn.

Activity

Daily activity
It’s important to resume normal activities, but do it slowly. Start by gradually increasing your activities and resting if you feel tired. Follow these guidelines to get yourself back on track:

Week 1

  • Rest as much as possible.
  • Only take care of yourself and your baby’s needs.
  • Avoid stairs and unnecessary trips up and down steps.

Week 2

  • Gradually increase your activity.
  • Avoid lifting anything heavier than your baby.
  • Perform light housework if you feel up to it.
  • Start to take short walks, increasing distance, time and speed each week.
  • If you have had a vaginal birth, you may start to drive unless otherwise directed.

Week 3

  • Start to resume normal activities around the house.
  • If you have had a cesarean delivery, you may drive short distances unless otherwise directed.

Week 4

  • Resume normal activities.

Rest
Having a baby places a huge demand on your body. Getting enough rest and sleep helps you recover quicker.

  • Plan to take naps when the baby is sleeping and get eight hours of sleep per night.
  • Limit the number of visitors on your first days at home.
  • Encourage family and friends to help with cooking, cleaning, and other chores.

Bleeding and Vaginal Discharge

After delivery, bleeding amount and time varies from person to person. Use the following as a guideline:


  • Use pads, not tampons, and do not douche.
  • Days one to three, discharge may be bright to dark red.
  • Days four to 10, discharge may be brownish pink.
  • After day 10, discharge should be yellowish white and may last four to six weeks post-delivery.
  • Odor is similar to menstrual bleeding.
  • You may pass small clots (less than the size of a quarter).
  • Bleeding will gradually decrease but increased activity may cause a temporary increase in discharge.
  • Discharge should not run out as a steady trickle or flow.
  • Notify your healthcare provider if you are passing large clots, continuously bleeding, heavily bleeding, or if the discharge has a foul odor.

The return of your first “normal” period depends on many factors. Breastfeeding may delay your period; however, it does not stop you from getting pregnant. Your period will most likely return four to eight weeks after delivery. At that point, it’s okay to use tampons.

Contraception and Sexual Activity

Discuss plans for birth control with your healthcare provider before discharge from the hospital or at your follow-up visit. He or she will advise you when it’s safe to resume intercourse. Resuming intercourse before being advised is okay but may result in:


  • Pain/discomfort in episiotomy or repair site
  • Infection
  • Pregnancy

Diet

Following a healthy diet will help you rebuild your strength and get back to normal.


Food

  • Increase your fiber intake as it will help you resume normal bowel movements.
  • Include foods from the five basic food groups.
  • If you’re breastfeeding, there are no specific foods that you should avoid; most babies are very tolerant of the normal foods in your diet if they are eaten in moderation.

Liquids
As your body heals, drinking adequate amounts of fluid helps carry away waste products and helps prevent urinary tract infections.

  • Drink eight to 10 eight-ounce glasses of fluid per day.
  • Choose healthy fluids such as water, milk or fruit juice.
  • Avoid high-sugar or high-caffeine drinks.

Medications
To assist your recovery, your healthcare provider may prescribe or suggest that you take a prenatal vitamin daily. Contact your provider before taking any medications.


Bowel Movements, Hemorrhoids and Urination

Bowel movements
It may take three to five days post-delivery to have a bowel movement; your normal pattern may not resume for several weeks.


  • Avoid constipation by drinking adequate amounts of liquids, eating high-fiber foods and exercising.
  • Take laxatives as needed for constipation.
  • Contact your healthcare provider if constipation persists.

Hemorrhoids
Hemorrhoids may develop during pregnancy or from the pressure of delivery. They normally go away several weeks after delivery if you follow these suggestions:


  • Avoid constipation.
  • Don’t strain to have a bowel movement.
  • Avoid heavy lifting.
  • Avoid prolonged sitting.

If you do develop hemorrhoids, here’s how to treat them to get relief:

  • Use a sitz bath.
  • Use cool witch hazel compresses.
  • Consult your healthcare provider about stool softeners.

Urination

  • Drink adequate liquids.
  • Avoid holding your urine for long periods of time; empty your bladder at least every three hours.
  • Report burning, pain, urgency or frequency to your healthcare provider.

Pelvic Floor Exercises: Kegels

The pelvic floor muscles support the bladder and uterus, so it’s important for you to keep these muscles strong throughout your life. In addition to helping you prepare for delivery, these exercises may also help prevent urine leakage (incontinence) that may occur as a response to the normal aging process. To maintain the tone of your pelvic floor muscles, make Kegel exercises a part of your daily routine.


  • Sit on the toilet with your legs spread apart.
  • Start to urinate and then stop the urine flow.
  • The muscles you used to stop the flow are the pelvic floor muscles which are the same muscles you use to do a Kegel.
  • Tightly contract (squeeze) the pelvic floor muscles, hold for a count of six and release.
  • Repeat two times.
  • Do Kegel exercises whenever and wherever you want, even while sitting at your desk or in the doctor’s office (nobody can tell you are exercising) and make it a habit.

Hygiene

Daily care

  • Daily showering is recommended until your vaginal bleeding or discharge has stopped. 
  • Do not take a bath until instructed by your doctor. 
  • If you have had a cesarean delivery, pat dry the incision after showering. 

Perineum 
Whether or not you had an episiotomy, proper care of your perineal area (area between the vagina and anus) is important in promoting comfort and preventing infection. If you had stitches, they will dissolve on their own and therefore, do not need to be removed.


  • Wash your hands before and after you use the toilet. 
  • Use a peri-bottle for cleaning after each time you use the toilet. 
  • Pat area dry (front to back). 
  • Change pads frequently. 
  • Use sitz bath as directed. 
  • Gently wash with warm water and soap; avoid powders after washing.

Incision care

  • Wash your hands frequently; especially, before and after using the bathroom. 
  • Do not touch your incisions, but if you do, wash your hands first. 
  • Keep hand sanitizer handy. 
  • Do not remove steri-strips if they are present; follow your healthcare provider’s recommendation for removal of steri-strips. 
  • Keep your incision clean and dry. 
  • Shower daily. Let warm water run over your incision to clean it. You may need to lift your belly up so that the water can reach all of your incision. 
  • Do not scrub your incision (this disturbs the healing process and can lead to infection). 
  • Use a fresh, clean washcloth and towel each day; do not re-use washcloths or towels until your incision is fully healed. 
  • Do not use any creams, lotions or powders on your incision unless advised by your healthcare provider. 
  • Do not allow clothing bands to rub and irritate your incision. Use a clean, dry cloth to cover you incision if clothing is rubbing on it. The cloth should be breathable. 
  • You may need to lift up the skin on your belly above your incision throughout the day to make sure your incision is dry. 
  • Examine your incision frequently (at least twice a day) for signs of infection. 
  • Report any signs of infection to your healthcare provider immediately: redness, persistent or increased pain, drainage, feelings of pressure, a fever of 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or greater, flu-like symptoms or just not feeling right. 
  • Get plenty of rest. Your body needs to rest to heal. 
  • Drink water and eat as healthy as you can. Protein, vitamins and water are essential to the healing process. 
  • Keep your follow-up appointments with your healthcare provider. He will want to look at your incision to see if it’s developing an infection. Also, if you have staples, you’ll need to have them removed.

Pain and Discomfort

As your uterus contracts and shrinks back to its normal size, you may feel after-pains or cramps. These contractions actually help decrease bleeding. You’ll feel after pains the strongest for the first two to three days after delivery, and breastfeeding will stimulate these pains. If needed, take acetaminophen or ibuprofen as directed. Depending on the intensity of your pain, your healthcare provider may also prescribe medication. 

If you experience any of the following, call your healthcare provider immediately:


  • Bright red bleeding after your vaginal discharge has become pink or brown 
  • Excessive bleeding that saturates a sanitary pad in an hour or less 
  • Passing large clots 
  • Vaginal discharge with a foul odor 
  • Presence of severe abdominal cramps or pains not associated with breastfeeding 
  • Any fever above 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit 
  • Hot, red, painful areas on your breasts 
  • Sore, cracked or bleeding nipples 
  • Pain, burning, frequency or difficulty urinating 
  • Increased pain, redness, swelling or bruising of your perineal area 
  • Severe headaches and/or blurred vision 
  • Increased pain, drainage, redness, swelling or separation of abdominal stitches 
  • Sharp pain or cramping in your chest, legs or arms 
  • Difficulty breathing 
  • Red streaks on your legs that are painful to the touch 
  • Feelings of helplessness, extreme sadness or overwhelming anxiety
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