Post-Pregnancy Tips: Healing Your Body and Mind
Few things change life as drastically as having a baby. As natural as childbirth is, it’s a big adjustment for new mothers as they adapt to their new body, as well as their new way of life. If you’ve just had a baby, good post-pregnancy care may help ease your transition into motherhood and the new path that lies ahead. Consider these areas of self-care and tips for ensuring you’re the healthiest version of yourself as you take care of your new baby.
Mom Needs Sleep Too
Giving birth is both physically and mentally exhausting. New moms need rest almost as much as their babies do. Unfortunately, the time after you bring your baby home can also be the busiest. You’re getting to know your new child and learning how to care for him or her. It can even be busier if you have other children at home to care for. In past generations, new moms often had their own mothers, sisters, or other female relatives close by to pitch in and help, but as our families grow smaller and further apart, this is no longer always practical or possible.
Now’s the time to accept help, whether it’s meals or allowing someone else to vacuum. This gives you time to take care of yourself. In that vein, let someone else take care of the baby for a while. You might feel like you need to do everything for your new child, but your partner and support system are there to help you out. If they want to hold onto the baby so you can enjoy a quick nap, take them up on the offer!
If you can, sleep when the baby sleeps. Nap time may seem like a good time to do the dishes or make the beds, but unless you have other children to look after, take a cue from your new baby and get in some rest of your own. Housework can be taken care of while the baby is awake, but resting can’t, so take advantage of this opportunity.
Your Body Needs Time to Heal
Whether you’ve had a vaginal delivery or a cesarean section, your body needs to heal, and you need to allow yourself that time. Aside from rest, post-pregnancy care involves listening to your body to providing yourself with what you need. Your perineal area (the area between your vagina and rectum) may be red and swollen after you give birth. Try applying a wrapped ice pack to the area or soaking in a warm bath to help alleviate the pain.
If your doctor has recommended or prescribed pain medications and you need them, don’t try to tough it out — take them. Being in pain can increase stress and anxiety, and it makes it harder for you to rest and heal.
Mind What You Eat
After you’ve had a baby, eating and drinking fluids may take a back seat to your new role, but try not to let that happen. Healthy foods and drinks will help your body recover from both your pregnancy and delivery, and if you’re breastfeeding, they will provide you with the nourishment you need to produce breast milk. Here are some tips for minding what you eat as you adjust to motherhood:
- Keep healthy snacks handy for quick bites, and consider eating several small meals throughout the day rather than three big ones.
- Prepare ahead with fruit and vegetable smoothies to help you get nutrients in a quicker way.
- Drink fluids, especially water, whenever you feel thirsty.
Watch for Postpartum Depression Symptoms
It’s not unusual to feel overwhelmed or experience bouts of “baby blues” after your pregnancy. After all, you’ve just brought this helpless baby into the world, your life has changed, and your body is going through a number of physical and hormonal changes — all at once! This is why asking for help, getting enough rest, and eating well is so important. Allow yourself to express these feelings and know that they normally fade as you regain some control over your life and start to feel physically stronger.
Postpartum depression, on the other hand, is more than just the baby blues and is more common than many people may realize. According to the Centers of Disease Control, one in nine women experiences postpartum depression, and it may catch them off guard, particularly if they didn’t experience depression with previous pregnancies. Postpartum depression is serious and needs to be accepted and addressed for the whole family to thrive. Most importantly, postpartum depression is treatable. If you experience any of these symptoms, speak with your health care provider, who may refer you to a mental health professional:
- Withdrawing from loved ones and being unable to talk to friends or family members about your feelings
- Feeling numb or disconnected from your baby/finding it hard to care for him or her
- Worrying that you will hurt the baby
- Doubting if you can care for your baby properly and feeling guilty about it
- Crying more often than usual
- Feeling angry
Having a baby is one of the most exciting periods of your life, but the time after your pregnancy can be challenging. This isn’t the time to put yourself in second place. Post-pregnancy care is an important part of helping you and your family adapt and grow.