Postnatal Health

Giving birth is undoubtedly one of the most emotionally and physically demanding experiences and it can leave you feeling exhausted, as well as a little confused and excited. It is really important to try and keep an eye on your health after you give birth; you will have frequent check-ups but you need to make sure you allow your body time to rest and recover before you throw yourself into life as a mother. In most cases, it takes around six weeks to feel ‘normal’ again, although everyone is different. The following articles will offer advice and information about keeping healthy after giving birth, offer advice about postnatal depression and provide details about people and organisations that can help you if you’re struggling.

Common health problems

Giving birth is a huge upheaval for both your body and your mind and after the birth you may experience health problems. Common problems after giving birth include:

  • Infections, including kidney, urine and uterine infections
  • Postpartum haemorrhage (bleeding after birth)
  • Exhaustion
  • Postnatal depression
  • Swollen and sore breasts
  • Vaginal discharge
  • Haemorrhoids and constipation
  • Hair loss
  • Incontinence
  • Stretch marks
  • Stress and emotional problems

After you give birth, your condition will be monitored carefully both while you are in hospital and when you return home; if you experience any pain or symptoms of health problems, tell your midwife or health visitor or arrange to see your GP and they can arrange treatment. If you are having trouble coping with the emotional demands of being a new mother, you should also talk to a health professional about this, as it could be a sign of postnatal depression (see the articles below for more information about this condition).

After giving birth, it is normal to feel tired and emotional so you should try and get plenty of rest; if you’re having trouble sleeping because your baby often wakes up during the night, ask your partner, friend or a relative to look after the baby for a couple of hours while you nap; if you are worried about doing this because you are breastfeeding, you can express the milk and the baby can be bottle fed.

Coping with a newborn baby

Every new parent will tell you that looking after a newborn baby is a very demanding task; suddenly, your life is flipped upside down, your sleep patterns are disturbed and your daily routine and life as a whole are changed completely. There are, of course, huge benefits of having a baby but it is a difficult job and it’s perfectly normal to struggle a bit to start off with.

Try to prepare yourself by reading books, talking to other parents and attending antenatal classes during pregnancy; it is important to realise that every baby is different and it may be impossible to raise a baby in exactly the same way as specified in parenting magazines and books but these will give you an idea of what to expect and some tips on how to cope.

The first few days usually pass by in a bit of a blur, as you adapt to life with your baby and try to catch up on sleep. During the first few weeks of your baby’s life, your health visitor will visit you on a regular basis; make the most of this opportunity and ask any questions you have and discuss any aspects of parenting you want to; you can also talk to your health visitor about your general health and how you are coping with the emotional side of being a new mum; if you have any worries or concerns at all, make sure you talk to somebody about them.

Try to get some rest; this can be really difficult as newborn babies often wake up during the night, so try to nap during the day while your baby sleeps and ask others around you to help out; you can ask parents, friends or relatives to have your baby for an hour or two while you catch up on sleep and have a bit of time to yourself.

Try not to pressure yourself about being a ‘supermum’; it takes time to learn how to look after a newborn baby and nobody is expecting you to do a perfect job straight away; it is perfectly natural to have concerns and be worried but make sure you talk to somebody about it and don’t be scared to ask for help; if you don’t have friends or family members that can help you, talk to your health visitor or your GP.

Tips for keeping healthy after giving birth

After giving birth, it’s important to try and stay as healthy as possible; below are some tips for keeping fit and healthy:

  • Try to get plenty of rest, especially during the first six weeks after you’ve given birth, as your body needs time to recover.
  • Eat well: try to eat lots of fruit and vegetables, wholegrain carbohydrates and fresh fish and meat; eating a healthy and balanced diet helps to ensure your body is getting all the nutrients, minerals and vitamins it needs and will boost your immune system.
  • Try to exercise regularly: after around six weeks, try to introduce regular exercise into your daily routine; start with gentle exercise and build up gradually. Exercise helps to reduce stress, release tension and ensure your body weight is kept at a stable and healthy level (if you are trying to lose your baby weight, regular exercise will help you to achieve this). Exercise is also a great way to get out of the house and have a bit of time to yourself.
  • Drink plenty of water: water has a huge range of health benefits and is much better for you than sugary drinks and drinks that are full of caffeine.
  • Take a bit of time to yourself: having an hour or so to yourself can make the world of difference so ask a friend or family member to look after the baby while you go out with friends or do something you enjoy, like going swimming, shopping or going to see a film.
  • Ask your health visitor or doctor if you have any worries, concerns or questions.
  • Ask for help if you’re struggling or if you are experiencing any of the symptoms of postnatal depression.

Where can I get advice and support?

If you have any questions about parenting, your health or the health of your baby, don’t hesitate to arrange to see your GP or ask your health visitor when they come to see you.

There is now a huge range of websites dedicated to pregnancy, birth and parenting; if you don’t feel comfortable talking to your GP or somebody you know or you simply want to find out information, these sites can be a great way to communicate with other mums or experts and get tips and advice. You can also ask your friends and relatives for help and advice. You can also consult magazines, books and DVDs for information and tips.

If you’re struggling, don’t suffer in silence; ask your friends and family members for help or talk to your GP or health visitor. If you don’t feel comfortable talking to somebody face to face, you can contact the Association for Post Natal Illnesses or call the Samaritans.

Postnatal Health:

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