Bringing a new life into this world is a beautiful experience and it can be transformative for the new mother in more ways than one. While childbirth brings joy, it also takes a toll on the body; that’s why every mother needs time to heal after this life-changing experience. Postpartum care of the mother is important to ensure she does not suffer from long-term health complications.
Postpartum care: Tips for the mother
- Sleep when the baby sleeps, to ensure good rest and to avoid exhaustion.
- Have a balanced diet that will provide the body with adequate nutrients to facilitate healing.
- Limit visitors and practise some amount of isolation for the first three months after delivery to avoid infections.
- Reach out to your doctor or a therapist if you are feeling low or anxious.
- Ask your spouse/family members to help out with chores around the house and give you a hand in caring for your newborn
How to sail through postpartum care
Vaginal bleeding and wound healing
Healthcare providers must assist the mother in caring for wounds in the perineum region (area between the vagina and the anus) or possible tears following vaginal delivery and cleaning the abdominal wound to prevent infection, in case of a Caesarean section birth. Doctors may prescribe painkillers and ointments for the wounds to heal.
Nutrition and supplements
The mother must be encouraged to eat a balanced diet that will strengthen her muscles, prevent postpartum issues and help the body get back to its pre-pregnancy state. The treating doctor may advise on continuing iron and calcium supplements till the end of the postpartum period.
Dr Saraswathi Srinath, senior gynaecologist and co-founder of Sudatta Adoptive Parents Network, Bengaluru, tells Happiest Health, “in a normal delivery, we recommend the mother to be active from the first day after childbirth unless she has been advised bed rest for health complications. Even for Caesarean births, she is encouraged to be up and about from the second day. The mother should get good nutrition and must drink a lot of fluids, to prevent urine infection and aid in milk production. In some cultures, the family members may tell the mother to eat only bland food or to not consume certain foods. This advice is mostly based on superstitions, so it can be ignored. It is important for the mother to eat a nutrient-packed meal including proteins, fibre, vitamins and minerals, which help repair the muscles. She should also be encouraged to breastfeed her newborn, as it is beneficial for both mother and baby.”
Support for breastfeeding and newborn care
New mothers must be encouraged to exclusively breastfeed their little one and given guidance to ensure their newborn latches on to the breast properly. Healthcare providers must teach the mother how to take care of her baby including giving a bath, preventing infections and so on.
Postpartum depression and anxiety
The rigours of pregnancy and childbirth, lack of rest and the challenges of caring for a newborn may be too overwhelming for the new mother. This may trigger postpartum depression and the affected woman may show symptoms of anxiety, lack of interest in any activity, feeling low or irritable and having mood swings. It can be treated with counselling and medication.
“We are increasingly seeing mothers with postpartum depression and they need to get timely intervention for the condition. Women must seek help when they feel anxious or depressed and family members can help identify the problem. Family members, especially the spouse should share the responsibility of caring for the newborn so that the new mother does not feel alone or overburdened,” advises Dr Srinath.
Exercise and self-care
While rest is necessary for the mother to help the body recuperate, being physically active is equally important.
“The new mother should avoid any strenuous activities but can gradually start normal chores around the house. Being sedentary increases the risk of becoming overweight, having high blood sugar levels and other health complications post delivery. Mild exercises recommended by the physiotherapist at the hospital, Kegel exercises (to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles to prevent problems like urinary incontinence) and walking can be done during the postpartum period. After three months, the mother can go to the gym if she desires or take up any other fitness routine,” says Dr Suhasini Inamdar, consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist, Motherhood Hospitals, Indiranagar, Bengaluru.
“She should also take time out for herself and indulge in self-care so that she does not feel overburdened with the care of the baby. Warm baths are good for relaxing. Light massages may be recommended only for the limb and back; massaging the breast and abdomen should be strictly avoided,” Dr Inamdar adds.
The ACOG recommends that breastfeeding women may use hormonal contraceptives that are progestin-based so that it does not interfere with milk production. “We advise couples to abstain from sex for the first three months after childbirth and later they can use barrier contraceptives or intrauterine devices, after consulting their doctor. Birth spacing of two years is ideal,” says Dr Inamdar.