The first few weeks after your baby is born can be exciting but also challenging and overwhelming as you adjust to being a mum. We spoke to Lesley Gilchrist, co-founder of My Expert Midwife and registered midwife, for her top tips on how new mums can look after themselves in the first few days and weeks after having a baby.
During pregnancy your body has undergone amazing changes as it supported the new life growing inside you. We are often told how important it is to take care of ourselves during pregnancy, but it is also essential for recovery during the postpartum period, (which is the first 6-8 weeks after your baby has been born), to look after your mental and physical health, as this will give you a more positive start into family life.
During the early days with your new baby, you may be feeling much more tired than you thought, so take time to listen to your body and rest when you are able to. This can be easier said than done when you have a newborn or other children and a house to run, so here are some ideas about how to make the most of visits from family and friends:
Caring for your physical health
The postpartum period really is a time to focus on you and your new addition to the family. Depending upon what type of labour and/or birth you have had can mean that your needs vary greatly. If you have had a vaginal birth your body often recovers more quickly, but you may still have some soreness for a few days even if you didn’t need any stitches. Start by making sure you are always in a position that makes you feel relaxed, as sitting in a very upright position could become quite uncomfortable after a while. Here are some tips to make things a little more comfy:
· Remember to take regular pain relief that you’ve been prescribed or bought over the counter- this will help to relieve any soreness and keep you more comfortable.
· Find a position that is comfortable for you, especially if breastfeeding for long periods. A side lying position is often good and will relieve any pressure on your bottom if you have stitches.
· Keep the area where you’ve had stitches very clean by bathing or showering at least twice a day, this will minimise the risk of infection.
· Change sanitary pads very regularly, at least every four hours as this reduces the likelihood of getting an infection in the area.
· Wash your hands before and after going to the toilet.
· If you feel as though the area is becoming more sore as each day goes by, has an unusual smell, is oozing or becoming more swollen, make sure you see you midwife or GP. If it is becoming infected you may need some antibiotics.
· Think about starting to practice your pelvic floor exercises as soon as you feel able to. This will help you feel more in control of your bladder both now and in later life.
· Eat healthily and drink plenty of fluids to help your body heal from any wounds such as episiotomy, tears and caesarean section wounds.
If you have had a caesarean section, you need to remember that this is a major surgical procedure, which will take longer to heal from afterwards than a vaginal birth. You may find that your movement is much more restricted, so you need to take more care when walking around and when getting in and out of bed etc. If possible, you may need more help for a longer period of time from your family and friends. Check your wound daily to make sure it is healing well. There should not be any redness that is spreading or any smells or oozing coming from the wound site. If you are worried then contact your midwife or GP for advice. You shouldn’t drive until you are sure that your surgery won’t affect your reaction times, check with your car insurance company to see if they have any specific driving restrictions relating to surgery.
Caring for your mental health
Mental health issues are now being more openly addressed by the media, with celebrities and even royalty now speaking about their own experiences with their mental health.
It is very common for women to feel tearful for a few days after the birth, so don’t be alarmed if you suddenly burst into tears for no apparent reason, this is not unusual and known as “the baby blues”. It is caused by the powerful cocktail of hormones your body produces pregnancy, which is now changing to a different mix of hormones, needed for nursing your baby as well as your body’s recovery processes. However, it is wise to recognise that there is a difference between this and postnatal depression (PND).
PND affects up to 1 in 10 women to varying degrees and can last for several months or longer. You are also more likely to suffer from PND if you have previously had PND, depression, anxiety, mental health problems or other social problems affecting your life. If you do feel low in mood for longer than a few days, talk to your midwife or GP who will be able to help you and signpost you to other organisations so you are able to get the right help and support.
Possible signs that you may be developing PND are:
· Feeling sad or down for longer than a few days and your mood is not showing signs of improving.
· Not being able to make decisions as easily as you used to be able to.
· A lack of interest in yourself or your loved ones and not enjoying activities that you used to.
· Feeling tired and low in energy stores consistently, even after resting or sleeping well.
· Unable to sleep, even though you feel tired.
· You are finding it difficult to bond with your baby.
· You are having scary thoughts about hurting yourself or your baby.
What is important to remember is that no one is going to judge you for seeking help, as this is a common condition. The sooner that you seek help, the sooner you can access support and start to feel better again.
So remember after the birth it’s not all about the baby, it is essential that you take care of your own physical and mental health needs, so that you are in the best shape to continue your journey into family life.
We have a My Expert Midwife Mum-To-Be Gift Set (worth £69) and a tube of their No Harm Bum Balm (£16.50) to give away to one lucky winner.
To see the full range of products for mums and babies, visit myexpertmidwife.com.