Thejust as naturally as it adapted to carrying a baby following conception. Pregnancy and delivery are normal physiological functions, but no one can ever pretend that they feel the same after their baby’s birth as they did before their baby was conceived – better, maybe, but not the same!
GETTING BACK TO NORMAL AFTER CHILDBIRTH
Your body has gone through a good deal of change during the past nine months. It will take time for the purely physical processes to settle down into the pre-pregnancy routine again, as long as six months. Whilst there is no need to become obsessed with your health, a little extra care will speed the physiological processes back to normal.
Remember that you are busier now than you were during the last weeks of your pregnancy, and, perhaps, busier than you have ever been before. You and your baby may not yet have evolved a routine that suits you both, and the sheer volume of extra work can be both time consuming and tiring.
An early bedtime is a good idea during the first few weeks, even if this means getting up again to give your new son or daughter a last feed. A rest, if not actually in bed, at least with your feet up, during the afternoon is also advisable for the first few weeks. Settle your baby down after his lunchtime feed. Ignore the housework whilst you relax with a good book, or take time off to catch up on your favourite hobby. Rest is particularly important if you are breastfeeding. Tiredness is one of the commonest causes of failure to continue breastfeeding.
You will be paying a good deal of attention to your baby’s diet in the early days, and it is also important to consider your own. A full, mixed diet, with no crash slimming course, must be the rule of the day. Naturally you will be anxious for your figure to return to normal as soon as possible, but do not let this wish over-ride health factors.
Simply reduce carbohydrate foods: biscuits, sweets, bread and cakes, and concentrate on the protein foods: meat, fish, eggs and cheese-with good helpings of fresh fruit and vegetables. The more nutritious the food, the less you will need. Sweet, starchy carbohydrate foods may give a quick burst of energy, but they also leave you hungry again after an hour or so.
Nibbling between meals is bad for health. Never skip a meal because you are too busy-a ten-minute sit-down with some scrambled egg, a glass of milk and some fresh fruit, or a cheese salad and a glass of milk, will make very little difference to what you get done in a day, but all the difference to how you will feel.
Do not believe the old wives’ tale that if your body craves for sweet sugary foods or lashings of cream cakes, it is because you need these foods. This is quite untrue! Cheese or fruit will take the edge off a nagging appetite for longer, and will also do you far more good. Iron and vitamins, in tablet form, will be an essential part of your dietary intake for three months after your baby’s birth. Do not forget to obtain these, either from your own doctor or from the hospital before you leave.
Breastfeeding mothers are often concerned about the effect that their diet will have on their babies. Within reason, however, there is no need to eat any differently. Trial alone will tell a mother if certain foods she has been eating have a detrimental effect on the baby. Sometimes, for example, an excess of fresh fruit or spicy foods can upset a baby’s tummy. Even this will resolve itself as he becomes more mature.
can do no harm, but in excess neither you nor your baby will benefit. If you are breastfeeding there is no need to force yourself to drink vast quantities of fluid. Simply drink to quench your thirst. Two and a quarter litres (4 pints) is the average amount of fluids needed during each twenty-four hours. As it is possible for some drugs to be absorbed in breast milk, always check with your doctor first before taking any medicines, including contraceptive pills.
Eating the right type of food-fruit, vegetables, stoneground wholemeal bread, will avoid constipation as well as toning up your body generally. The avoidance of constipation is particularly important following the birth of a baby. The muscles of the pelvis have been stretched by the birth process, and any excessive straining can predispose a mother to prolapse of the vaginal walls.
EXERCISE AFTER PREGNANCY
The need for exercise to keep your body in trim and your mind alert goes hand-in-hand with adequate rest and a nutritious diet.
Walking a baby in the pram is a new experience for the first-time mother. Weather permitting, you should try to slot half an hour’s walk into your day.
Lifting is the one everyday activity around the house that should be avoided. Husbands should be pressed into service to carry heavy loads of shopping for their wives at this time-even if they have been unaccustomed to doing this before!
These are just as important-if not more important-as the antenatal exercise that you practised so conscientiously every day before the birth of your baby. You will have been shown the basic post-natal exercises whilst in hospital, and you will have practised them during your stay. Now, at home, beginning two or three weeks after the baby’s birth, you will have to make a determined effort to fit the exercises into your tight daily schedule of caring for your baby, family and home. But do try; efforts will be rewarded by a speedy return to a trim figure and a general feeling of well-being.
Lochia is the term that is applied to vaginal discharge following delivery. Immediately after the birth the discharge is bright-red in colour and may contain a few blood clots. Gradually, over the succeeding days, the loss becomes less and of a brownish or pinkish colour. This shows that the uterus is involuting (returning to normal) satisfactorily.
In hospital the midwife will record the amount and colour of the lochia and the height of the uterus on your temperature/pulse chart. The bright-red discharge may return for a few hours or days when you start getting back into your normal routine again at home.
This should not, however, persist for long. If it does, seek medical advice. The total duration of the Lochia varies from two to six weeks. It tends to cease earlier in women who are breastfeeding their babies. This is due to the effect that a sucking baby has on the uterus.
RETURN OF PERIODS AFTER PREGNANCY
Again this is very variable, and is often postponed for longer in women who are breastfeeding. The only clue that you may get as to the return of the periods is when the vaginal discharge becomes red and more profuse for a few days.
INFECTIONS AND OTHER COMPLICATIONS
Infection of the uterus is very rare these days. When an infection is present the lochia will become bright red and offensive, and there will be abdominal discomfort. Antibiotics will quickly clear the infection.
Occasionally a minute piece of tissue from the placenta is left inside the uterus. When this happens there will be a return of red discharge, usually about ten days after the delivery. An injection of a substance to make the uterus contract will control the bleeding. A subsequent D and C (dilation and curettage) will be necessary to remove the piece of tissue. This will be done under a general anaesthetic.
RESUMPTION OF SEX AFTER CHILDBIRTH
Not surprisingly, many new mothers find themselves tired to the point of exhaustion at the find of the day and, therefore, disinclined to resume sexual intercourse. Physically there is no reason why lovemaking should not be resumed as soon as the discomfort and soreness following delivery have worn off, but the vaginal discharge makes some couples aesthetically unwilling.
By the time the post-natal check is due, the vaginal discharge will probably have cleared, and, provided all is declared well from the physical point of view, sex can be resumed. There is, however, far more to harmonious sex relationships than mere physical factors. If a mother is tired and feeling disinclined neither she or her husband will enjoy making love.
She, who has borne her husband’s child-with no small degree of effort-should set the pace for the timing of the return to sex. An understanding husband will show his love for his wife at this time by an increasing tenderness and awareness of the emotional and physical help that she needs. By helping with the care of their baby and sharing everyday household tasks, he can see that she avoids becoming overtired. A full participation in the pleasures and pressures of everyday life will contribute to a richer relationship in every way.
When sex is resumed, contraceptive precautions are necessary because as theyou can become very fertile soon. The type of protection can be discussed with the doctor at the post-natal check. Until the mother’s body has had time to return fully to its normal state (usually about six months after the baby’s birth) it is more satisfactory if the husband is the partner to take contraceptive precautions.