Three Things About Postpartum You Should Consider
You’ve made it through pregnancy. Gone are the leg cramps, heartburn, PUPPP rashes, nausea, and whatever other difficulties pregnancy may have thrown your way. At this point, postpartum recovery should just be resting whenever possible to offset lack of sleep from midnight feedings, right? Unfortunately, there’s more to it than that.
It might seem like the “big decisions” before and during pregnancy are over, but there are several important postpartum considerations to address. These things sometimes get overlooked as parents are settling into new routines and roles in the household. Let’s face it, it’s easy to put everything except naps on the back burner when you’re running on two hours of sleep.
Here are three postpartum subjects that should be on your radar, though, preferably even before your child’s birth. By creating plans early, you can practice effective self-care during recovery and enjoy those baby snuggles even more.
1. Make a Plan for Contraception
One perk of pregnancy is that contraception isn’t something you have to think about. Depending on how long you were attempting to conceive before pregnancy, you may have gone years without using birth control. Because of this, you might not even be thinking about family planning methods once the baby is born.
That would be a mistake, as fertility can return surprisingly quickly after giving birth. While not the norm, some women can begin ovulating a mere three weeks after giving birth, making it possible for children to be born within a year of each other. If this seems like a very fast turnaround between pregnancies, that’s because it is!
Even before your due date, get a plan together for when you will resume practicing contraception. Put a reminder on your calendar, and make the process as convenient for yourself as possible. You can even order a variety of birth control online. Planning ahead is the best way to avoid too much time passing without acquiring adequate contraceptive tools.
2. Support Your Core Muscles
Numerous parts of your body go through noticeable changes during pregnancy. For most women, the most visible of these changes is the stomach walls shifting and expanding to accommodate a growing baby. In the second half of pregnancy, the rectus abdominis muscles on either side of your belly stretch and expand. Basically, there’s a lot of pressure and force on those core muscles, and this can take a toll.
To support your core after pregnancy, consciously practice good posture. Whether you’re sitting in a chair or walking, keep your back as straight as possible and take full breaths. Also, be selective with any exercises in the first few weeks after delivery. Crunches, push-ups, and certain yoga poses can aggravate stretched ab muscles.
In addition to ab muscles stretching, they can actually separate during and after pregnancy. This is called diastasis recti. It is a very common condition, but most women don’t notice the effects until after they’ve given birth. Wearing a supportive stomach band in the first few weeks can provide relief from discomfort.
The majority of diastasis recti cases resolve themselves within eight weeks of delivery. Sometimes, however, those overstretched muscles do not reconnect with time alone. So keep an eye out for the symptoms of the condition. If months go by and you’re still experiencing visible “doming” when your ab muscles contract, see your doctor.
After diagnosis, most cases of diastasis recti can be improved or resolved with physical therapy. By addressing the issue rather than ignoring it, you can avoid years of ongoing discomfort.
3. Monitor Your Mental Well-Being
Having a new baby in the home is a wonderful thing. However, it can also be extremely stressful. Sleep deprivation, post-labor physical complications, or difficulties with breastfeeding can have a massive effect on your mental well-being. In addition, your hormone levels are still fluctuating after the baby’s birth and can significantly alter your state of mind.
During the postpartum period, taking care of your mental well-being is critical. Baby blues, postpartum depression, and anxiety are very common. Postpartum depression alone occurs in approximately 1 of 9 new mothers. The first step of mental self-care is knowing what to look for in the postpartum period.
In the first two weeks, you might experience what’s known as the baby blues. This can include anxiety, unprompted crying, and poor concentration, among other symptoms. Baby blues are generally caused by stressors of new parenthood or rapidly fluctuating hormone levels. If the baby blues continue for longer periods of time, true postpartum depression may develop.
If you notice yourself struggling with your mental well-being, don’t ignore it and attempt to power through. Asking for help from family and friends can alleviate some of your stress. Before giving birth, put together a list of people who have offered to help and their corresponding schedules. Having a concrete list of willing resources in place may make you feel more confident to ask for assistance when needed. If symptoms continue, don’t hesitate to reach out to your doctor.
Another important aspect of mental wellness is managing expectations. If you are picturing a stress-free, magical maternity leave, any deviation might feel like a personal failure. Know that feeling overwhelmed or stressed isn’t a sign of weakness or poor parenting. Think of asking for help as a smart, responsible choice for both you and your family.
Don’t Put Yourself Last
Your goal after giving birth is doubtless to be a wonderful parent. This doesn’t mean the postpartum period should be a time of destructive self-sacrifice and martyrdom. You cannot provide the best care to your child if you neglect important postpartum considerations.
Setting plans in motion for a range of self-care necessities isn’t only beneficial for yourself. By following through with birth control schedules and monitoring your well-being, settling into life with your newborn can go much smoother.