Postpartum care is an essential part of preparing for labour. The period of adjustment and healing after birth requires careful planning and can even be seen as the fourth trimester. Your body will continue to go through significant changes as it adapts and heals. On top of these further changes, the postpartum period is an essential time to bond with your baby.
Read on to discover
- What does postpartum care include?
- What body changes can you expect in the postpartum period?
- What helps postpartum healing?
- What is postpartum care, and why is it important?
- How can I make labour easier and faster?
- What should I do before going into labour?
- When should I start preparing for labour?
- When should I start labour preparation classes?
- When should I start preparing for childbirth?
- When should I start preparing for multiples?
- What are my birth options?
- Postpartum Care FAQ
What does postpartum care include?
One of the biggest adjustments in the postpartum period is the adjustment to motherhood. The postpartum period can last anywhere from six weeks to six months. Not only is your body going through after birth recovery, but it is also continuing to adapt to help you care for your infant. Understanding what to expect during the postpartum period, how to care for yourself during this period, and even how to prevent many postpartum symptoms like tearing or constipation can help ease your way into motherhood and, at the very least, help you know what warning signs to watch out for.
Postpartum care should include:
- Physical recovery
- Emotional and mental recovery
- An increase in breast milk production
- Bonding and caring for your infant
What body changes can you expect in the postpartum period?
Pregnancy and giving birth change the body. Just a few of the ways that your body will change include:
Your body ramps up milk production in the first few days after birth. This sudden production of breast milk often makes your breasts feel firm or engorged. It typically only lasts a few days, and there are multiple ways to minimise discomfort and relieve pressure in the meantime.
Many experience constipation following birth. Prepare in advance by switching to a high-fibre diet and continue with that diet afterwards. You will also want to ensure you drink enough water. Proper hydration can help with many postpartum symptoms.
Changes to the pelvic floor
It is a difference between perineum and pelvic floor. Perineum lies below the pelvic floor muscles. It protects them. During the vaginal delivery, women might experience vaginal tears (perineal laceration) might occur. In this case cold compresses are recommended.
The perineum often stretches, tears, or is even cut during delivery. When recovering, you may find relief by sitting on soft surfaces like pillows in the postpartum period.
During a vaginal birth, the pelvic floor muscles undergo considerable stretching and strain. That is the reason why pelvic floor exercises are advised after pregnancy, such as Kegel exercises.
Hormonal changes often result in excessive sweating. You may experience these sweats during the night. Using multiple blankets and wearing breathable fabrics can help you adjust through the night to stay cool.
Your body is recovering from a very stressful ordeal and will be in pain. One of the bigger sources of pain may be due to your uterus shrinking again after birth. This shrinking can cause pain, though the discomfort should subside over time. Inform your healthcare professional or midwife of your pains, especially if they do not lessen. There are many complications that can cause ongoing pain.
Studies has shown that water birth significantly reduce the rate of episiotomies and vaginal trauma.
Nipple and breast pain is common in newly breastfeeding mothers. Using nipple balm from Multi-Mam or a compress can help prevent drying out and cracking while alternating which breast and direction your infant feeds from can reduce the risk of breast duct blocks, mastitis and if not treated it can lead to breast abscesses.
Your body will continue to discharge blood and tissue from your body after birth. This is why most will experience vaginal discharge for the first few weeks after birth. Do not use a tampon or attempt to douche to remove this discharge sooner, as this may lead to an infection.
Discharge should be light and continue to get lighter as time goes on. If you bleed heavily (saturate a pad within two hours) or if your discharge smells foul, then get in touch with your GP or midwife immediately as these may be signs of an infection or serious complication.
Baby Blues and Postpartum Depression
Baby blues is very common during the postpartum period, and preparing and knowing what to expect is an essential part of any postpartum care routine. Most mothers will experience at least some symptoms in the few days after they give birth, and in most instances, it can continue for a few weeks.
Symptoms of “baby blues” can include:
- Unexplained and unexpected crying
- Increased irritability
- Difficulty sleeping
- Unexplained sense of sadness
- Mood changes
However, if it does not stop, you may have postpartum depression. Postpartum depression can be severe and can drastically impact your quality of life and your relationships. In extreme instances, you may feel completely numb to your baby and may even have thoughts about hurting your infant.
Those with postpartum depression need to seek out help. If symptoms last more than two weeks or seem to get worse, getting guidance, help, and support is critical for your quality of life and your infant’s sake.
Postpartum depression does not always start immediately after birth, either. It can begin any time afterwards, with some patients even experiencing postpartum depression a year after they give birth.
What helps postpartum healing?
Keeping an eye on your symptoms and recovery is essential throughout the postpartum period, but the body needs time to heal at the end of the day. You also need time to adjust to being a new parent. There are ways to help your postpartum healing experience, however, and those include:
Plenty of rest
Getting plenty of rest is important both before and after delivery. Having extra help from loved ones during this time is essential, especially if you had a difficult birth.
There are many foods that can help improve the effectiveness of your recovery and should be eaten both before and after delivery.
- Lean meats
- High fibre foods
- Whole grains
- Low-fat or fat-free dairy products
- Iodine supplements
The vitamins that may help you most during your postpartum recovery are iodine which is essential for infants, choline, and omega-3. Improving your own intake of these nutrients will improve the breastmilk and, in turn, may help your infant.
Regardless of what diet or foods you eat, you will always want to stay hydrated. Drink more water than you usually do to account for milk production.
Take it slowly and stick with the approved exercises and stretches to help ease your body through the postpartum period. Kegel exercises might help improve your recovery, and stretches might help increase circulation and distribute white blood cells through your body.
Help from friends and family
You will need the most help during this period. Have friends and family come to help you and your partner.
There are many different ways that you can prepare for labour that will help improve your postpartum period. Understanding how you can make labour easier and even faster can reduce the strain on your body and speed up your recovery time. At minimum, knowing what to expect during labor and postpartum can help reduce stress and improve your ability to adapt.
What is postpartum care, and why is it important?
The body needs time to heal after giving birth. Not only will your body be changing drastically you will also be recovering from giving birth itself. Not only do you need to be patient and rest during your recovery, but you also need to keep a careful eye on your symptoms to ensure you are getting better.
How can I make labour easier and faster?
There are a few ways that you can better prepare for labour. Preparing for labour is important regardless of which birthing method you have chosen. Preparing for a water birth will be similar to the preparation for delivery in a hospital.
Preparing to give birth in a hospital and preparing for a natural birth will require the same steps prenatal and postpartum. Steps that you can take include:
Birth Preparation Classes (Antenatal Classes)
One of the most common and effective steps that help many parents-to-be prepare for labour and delivery is to find a birth preparation company and take a class. There are a variety of different options and many great techniques that you can learn that may help you. There are various labour positions, pain relief options, breathing techniques, relaxation tips, and more that can help you through labour.
There are additional benefits to taking labour preparation classes. On top of all the great techniques that you will learn, you will also meet many other expecting parents and have the opportunity to ask a professional directly for personalised advice or information.
Resting and Relaxing
Rest and relaxation are always going to be important both when preparing for labour and also for your postpartum care regimen. Healing takes time and resting without stress is a great way to give your body the time and energy it needs to focus on your recovery.
Improving Your Diet
- Lean meats
- Wild salmon
- Whole grains
Moisturising and Massaging
Moisturising, massaging, and ensuring that you stay hydrated might work to reduce stretch marks and the risk of tearing. Your perineal preparation for labour might include massaging petroleum jelly into the area, for example.
What should I do before going into labour?
There are several ways that you can improve your ability to care and recover in the postpartum period before you give birth. By preparing for cesarean birth, preparing for water birth, or in general, preparing for labour and birth in any setting, you can know what to watch out for and how to minimise risks to yourself and your infant.
Preparation for delivery in hospital, at home, or in a midwife unit must begin before you go into labour.
Take Birth Preparation Classes (Antenatal Classes)
Antenatal classes are a great way to prepare for delivery and to help boost your confidence by providing you with all the information that you need. There are various options available depending on where you are based, with some free and even online classes available to ensure you learn all the information you need.
Information you will learn in birth preparation classes can include:
- How to look after your infant
- How to feed your infant
- How to stay healthy and well during and after your pregnancy
- How to improve your diet during and after pregnancy
- Exercises to focus on during pregnancy
- How to make a birth plan
- How to cope and manage delivery and labour
- What arrangements and birth choices are available to you
- What different birth interventions are possible, from vacuum delivery to forceps
- What to expect emotionally and mentally during and after your pregnancy and birth
Antenatal classes online or in-person. They may focus on a certain aspect of pregnancy, delivery, or postnatal care, or they may cover all of it.
Create a Birth Plan
To create a birth plan, you first need to explore your birth options and then decide on the course of action that suits you best. It is always recommended to listen and work out a plan with a midwife or other healthcare professional. Those who have low-risk pregnancies and have already given birth before can often safely give birth at home, in a midwife unit, or at a hospital. Those classified as high risk can still have a birth at home, but it is important to have contingency plans and make the best decision for your health and the health of your baby.
A birth plan will need to include:
- Type of birth
- Where you will give birth
- Route to the birthing location (if applicable)
- Who will be involved
- Postnatal care
Pack Your Bags in Advance
You should have your bags packed at least 3 weeks before your expected due date. A few things you may want to pack include:
- Birth plan and any hospital or midwife notes
- Loose and comfortable clothes for both during labour and after
- Warm socks
- Multi-Mam Compresses
- Nursing bras
- Breast pads
- Sanitary or maternity pads
- A week’s worth of underwear
- Essential toiletries
- Items to pass the time
- Baby essentials
When should I start preparing for pregnancy?
You should start preparing for your baby the moment that you learn that you are pregnant. Not only are there many health check-ups, but you will also want to prepare physically, learn everything that you can, prepare for labour, take labour preparation classes, and create your birth plan.
When should I start labour preparation classes?
However, when it comes to starting antenatal classes, you will want to get started around 8 to 10 weeks before your due date or when you are 30 to 32 weeks pregnant.
If you are expecting twins, you will want to start preparing for labour and birth earlier. This is because twins, triplets, and other multiple births tend to come earlier than single births. In these instances, start your classes around the 24 week mark.
There are usually special antenatal classes that you can take if you are expecting multiples. These can help give you more specific advice on what to expect in the delivery room and how to recover and care for multiple newborns.
Antenatal classes are usually held once a week and last around 2 hours. Each program will have a different number of classes and, because of that, can have different recommended start dates. Check in advance to find the right antenatal classes.
When should I start preparing for childbirth?
You should start to make a birth plan as early as your second trimester, though it won’t need to be finished until your third trimester. It should be finalised between your 32nd to 36th week of pregnancy and slightly earlier if you are giving birth to multiples.
When should I start preparing for multiples?
Multiples almost always are born prematurely. Twins are usually born around 37 weeks, while triplets arrive around 34 weeks. Any baby that is born before 37 weeks is considered premature. Not only will you need to speed up the timeline of your birth plan when you are having twins or triplets, you will need to prepare differently to accommodate the likely chance that they will be born prematurely. Not only are they born earlier, but they also weigh statistically less, with triplets and other sets of multiples weighing the least.
This is why you should start antenatal classes earlier. Start classes around the 24 week mark, and have your birth plan finalised around 8 weeks before your expected due date. Work with your midwife or healthcare professional
What are my birth options?
What birth option you choose will play a big part in regards to your labour experience and also your after birth recovery. If you are at a higher risk of complications, your options will also be limited, but if you are a low risk, then you have the full scope of birth options to choose from:
Hospital births are still one of the most common and popular options. Just a few advantages include:
- Direct access to all healthcare equipment and specialists if complications arise
- Direct access to anaesthetists, meaning that epidurals are available
- Access to a special care baby unit if there are complications in your infant
Midwifery Unit or Birth Centre
Midwifery units or birth centres may be their own centre and separate from a hospital, or they may be part of the maternity unit in a hospital. There are many advantages to giving birth in these sorts of centres or units.
- You are in a facility better equipped to manage labour
- You are likely to be cared for by your midwife
Home births can be a comfortable option and are generally safe. It is important to note that there is a slightly higher risk associated with home births for first-time parents (9 in 1000 risk of issues for a first-time home birth instead of a 5 in 1000 chance of hospital birth for first-time parents). However, the risk for parents who are on their second child onwards is the same as hospital births – 5 in 1000. Home births are usually managed and supported by a midwife who is there throughout your labour.
There are several benefits to a home birth:
- More comfortable
- Can be with partner and family
- Likely will be cared for by the midwife you have been working with throughout your pregnancy.
- Fewer logistics to manage
However, you will always want to plan out a contingency plan in case things change last-minute and you need to go to a hospital.
Postpartum Care FAQ
How do my birth options change my postpartum experience?
Your birth choice will change your postpartum experience. For an example, having a home birth means you are in a more comfortable setting and can immediately start recovering. If there is a complication, you will need to be taken to a hospital, however, so always plan for emergency measures.
Being in a midwife unit or at a hospital means greater access to healthcare and can be the best option for those who are high-risk. If you are high-risk, preparing for labour could be better suited in a hospital or midwife unit where you have immediate support.
How will a water birth affect my postpartum period?
Studies have shown that water births significantly reduce the rate of episiotomies and vaginal trauma. Water births have been found to reduce the risk of requiring the placenta to be manually removed and also reduces severe postpartum haemorrhaging and maternal infection rates. Perineal tears and labial trauma, however, remain the same between those who have water births and those who don’t.
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