While there are certainly postpartum benefits that come with having a baby, there’s also a laundry list of issues a new mother can experience. It’s no surprise that, along with this little bundle of joy, there will be growing pains, road bumps, and undoubtedly, long, sleepless nights. You’ve prepared for everything you thought would be thrown your way, and your new perspective on life has gotten deeper, wiser, and more meaningful. While your undying dedication to the newest member of your family is unwavering, caring for your newborn to the best of your ability isn’t the only thing you should be paying attention to.
It’s natural to put your baby’s every want and need before your own, as most parents tend to do. But it’s just as important to take care of yourself. You know how flight attendants tell passengers to secure their own oxygen mask before helping anyone else? Well, it’s pretty much like that. If you’re not taking good care of yourself, chances are you won’t be doing your little one any favors, either. This means you need to keep an eye out for anything that might be going on with your body. Although some postpartum problems are worse than others, these four are among the worst that can happen.
1. Sore breasts and leaking milk
It’s common for women to experience a noticeable increase in their bra size, both during pregnancy and post baby. Regardless of whether or not you choose to breastfeed, your body is adapting to caring for a newborn. And size isn’t the only difference. Sore breasts and leaking milk, Mayo Clinic says, can occur shortly after delivery. Methods of relief include nursing, using a breast pump, applying warm washcloths, and taking a warm shower to express the milk. If you’re breastfeeding your newborn, place ice packs on your breasts between feedings. If you’re not breastfeeding, wear a firm, supportive bra, which will help stop milk production.
2. Vaginal tearing
If a woman has been pushing for several hours, some doctors will perform an episiotomy, a small incision to make more room for the baby during delivery. But as Dr. Bruce Shephard, an OB-GYN in Tampa, tells Parents, episiotomies aren’t too routine anymore. If one isn’t performed during labor, there’s a chance that tearing may occur. If this happens, stitches are typically required, and pain and discomfort around the wound are common. Parents recommends using a squeeze bottle filled with warm water after going to the bathroom during the first week. Additionally, soaking in a sitz bath, which allows you to soak in warm water to relieve discomfort, three times a day for 10 minutes can help.
While contractions during labor and delivery can be brutal, contractions post-delivery are no walk in the park, either. Yes, contractions will continue even after you’ve given birth — a process called involution. Beginning with labor, the uterus will shrink and tighten to help push the baby and placenta out. Then, the process will continue until the uterus is back to its pre-pregnancy size and shape. According to Babble, “The contractions are usually only noticeable for the first few days postpartum, but can last longer. And they’re nothing like labor contractions; they don’t hurt first-time mothers, but can be uncomfortable after subsequent births.” The publication also notes breastfeeding can make the sensation stronger.
4. Postpartum depression
Despite Tom Cruise’s outrageous claims during his feud with Brooke Shields, postpartum depression is definitely a real thing. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about one in every eight women experience postpartum depression. Women who experience feelings of numbness or a general disconnection from their baby or doubt their ability to care for the baby should see a doctor.