Roughly the first six to eight weeks after childbirth are referred to as the postpartum period and although new mothers are generally overjoyed at the arrival of their newborns, they are also left to grapple with physical, mental, and emotional adjustments.
Postpartum symptoms can feel overwhelming at times, particularly when trying to manage them alone; Read further for helpful tips to effectively and healthily navigate the postpartum period.
What Are Some Common Postpartum Symptoms, and How Can They Be Managed?
Most people have heard of postpartum depression, but even new mothers who don’t experience prolonged depression are likely to encounter the “baby blues.” Approximately 70-80% of new mothers will deal with negative feelings or mood swings in the weeks following childbirth as a result of hormonal changes.
Symptoms of the baby blues include everything from irritability, impatience, and weepiness to insomnia, anxiety, and restlessness. The good news is that these symptoms should only last for about 14 days after delivery.
Mothers who have prolonged symptoms of the baby blues or are experiencing additional feelings of guilt, worthlessness, or thoughts of hurting their baby, may be dealing with postpartum depression. At this point, it’s time to seek assistance from a provider.
While the mental and emotional postpartum symptoms are immense, the physical repercussions are equally lofty. Some physical symptoms new mothers can expect to see following delivery include:
- Breast engorgement — This is a result of lactation but the discomfort can be soothed with a warm or cool compress and cream can be applied to ease the pain of cracked or sore nipples. Fortunately, the engorgement will naturally ease over time.
- Constipation — A normal symptom of the postpartum period, constipation can be mitigated with a high-fiber diet, and by drinking plenty of water. If it is a persistent issue, new mothers can ask their provider about safe medications for relief.
- Uterine and pelvic floor pain — The uterus contracts after labor which can result in cramping. The perineum often tears during labor leaving new mothers quite sore. Uterine cramping will subside on its own (though a provider may approve certain safe medications, if necessary) but the perineum can be iced gently and Kegel exercises can help the pelvic floor regain strength.
- Vaginal discharge — It is typical for new mothers to discharge blood and tissue for up to four weeks following childbirth but it is important not to use tampons or douches until it has been explicitly approved by a provider. If bleeding becomes heavy, a provider should be contacted.
Generally speaking, postpartum care at home is all about adjusting as fully and as comfortably as possible. New mothers should get as much rest as possible, eat healthy diets to promote healing and overall well-being, perform low-impact exercises (once approved by a doctor), and work on assimilating to their new lives. Experiencing tough postpartum symptoms is natural, it is important to do everything possible to curb the symptoms, and to seek help from friends, family, and healthcare providers when it becomes necessary.