From the moment a woman finds out she is pregnant all her focus shifts to preparing for the duration of pregnancy, staying healthy, setting up the baby room, packing the hospital bag and preparing for labour & birth.......but what about postpartum and everything that follows once birth is finished? And I am not talking about knowing the best way to change the baby's diaper or how to distinguish between the different cry's of your baby. I am talking about preparing how to care for YOURSELF during this time. After all, you can't pour from an empty cup as they say!
"A well nourished mom, nourishes the world"
The changes that happen in your body & mind are remarkable & I really encourage you to give this a lot of thought and preparation before you actually experience it. Being informed about remedies that could help with postpartum recovery & getting familiar with strategies to help you ease into motherhood can really go a long way. Some of the challenges you might face in the postpartum period include; postpartum mood disorders, a sore perineum (from natural birth), after pains & a weak pelvic floor/pelvic floor prolapse. These are just to mention a few, but let's have a closer look at them.
During the 1st few days following birth the woman's uterus needs to shrink back to pre-pregnancy size, this is called uterine involution. This is when the uterus contracts and shrinks around 1cm per day and this can cause a lot of discomfort for women.
Factors that influence this is breastfeeding since higher levels of Oxytocin is released when a women breastfeeds and this will further encourage the contractions of the uterus. So yes, we definitely want the release of those extra Oxytocin to encourage love & bonding between mom & baby but unfortunately it comes with a bit of pain!
1) Heat packs can help alleviate some of the pains
2) Homeopathic arnica can also be of great help
3) Massaging the belly with various essential oils such as lavender oil or chamomile oil
After giving birth vaginally most women experience pain and tenderness in their vagina, vulva and perineal area. This is due to the stretching, tearing or an episiotomy that took place of the perineum when a woman gave birth vaginally.
If you had an episiotomy or severe tearing it is best to consult your doctor on wound care in order to prevent infection from occurring.
1) Sitz baths - only immersing the bottom up to the hips in warm water, mixed with epsom salts, witch hazel, lavender oil, olive oil, baking powder and chamomile essential oils. Soaking for up to 20minutes. **Please check with your doctor 1st and also avoid if you have any allergic reactions to any of the above. Specific ratios of ingredients will depend on the size of your bath
2) Padsicles - taking your maternity pads and soaking them in Witch Hazel and Aloe vera, freezing them and using them for a soothing relief from the pain. **Again, please make sure you are not allergic to any of the products and get confirmation from YOUR medical doctor
3) Resting as much as possible is a great remedy as well in order for the body to help deal with the inflammation
Postpartum mood disorders
Now this is a topic I am very passionate about. The range of postpartum mood disorders go far beyond just baby blues or postpartum depression. There is a range in between and signs and symptoms you need to be aware of.
Up to 80% of women experiences baby blues, this included being teary for no apparent reason, irritability, being over sensitive & some anxiety that goes along with the new world of being a mom. These symptoms should clear up after 2 weeks with just the necessary support systems and understanding from the people close to you and no further intervention should be needed. If you feel like these symptoms are not getting any better and you are not able to lift yourself out of the "blues" it might be a sign of something more serious and you must seek help! Letting postpartum depression go on without intervention can have a significant impact on you, your baby as well as your family. That is why it is SO important for the loved ones around you to also be aware of these symptoms so that they can step in when help is needed.
Symptoms of postpartum depression/anxiety included but is not limited to:
1) Difficulty sleeping, insomnia & exhaustion
2) Lack of energy
3) Low sex drive/No sex drive at all
4) Changes in appetite, weigh gain or weight loss
5) Excessive worry, anxiety, agitation and weepiness (crying all the time without reason and no comforting works)
6) Guilt & sadness, fear of being alone with the baby
7) Panic, anger and difficulty coping
8) Scary thoughts about yourself or the baby, feelings that the baby is better off without you as their mom
9) Lack of enjoyment of activities that you used to love, can't find the sense of humour in situations anymore
10) Crying a lot, or not at all, feeling numb or detached
11) No urge to socialise with friends and unable to concentrate
**You may experience all of the above or only a few of the symptoms
Please seek help if you do experience any of these or think that you might have postpartum depression/anxiety. You are NOT alone and the people who love you wants to help you!
What can you do?
1) Reassurance and understanding from the people close to you
2) Think of getting a postpartum doula
3) Seek medical help - talk to your doctor and get the right referrals
4) Eating a well balanced diet & getting exercise
5) Have a support system. Surround yourself with people who want to help you and LET them. You can't do this all by yourself mommy!
6) Encourage her to talk about her feelings
7) Understand that this can happen to anyone whether you have a history of depression or not.
You can find help at the following places:
PNDSA - Post Natal Depression Support Association: www.pndsa.org.za or sms ‘help’ and your name to 082 882 0072
The South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG): www.sadag.org/
Anxiety and Depression Association of America – Support Groups in South Africa: www.adaa.org
A few extra tips for preparing for postpartum health & wellness:
1) Try get enough sleep
2) Ask for help and when someone offers to assist, let them
3) Try to join mothers support groups and be social
4) Take time to still do things that YOU enjoy
5) Spend quality time with your partner and nurture your relationship
6) Take every day as it comes and expect the roller-coaster of emotions
7) Exercise, even if you just go for brisk walks with the baby
8) Have a healthy, well balanced diet
9) Empower yourself with knowledge on PPD and the signs & symptoms
"Strong moms make strong, happy babies"