In the recent past new mothers stayed in bed for several days to a week after giving birth. Much of this time was spent in the hospital where the mother and her new baby received constant care. Studies now show that early discharge is generally safe for both mother and baby. Bonding begins sooner, less time away from home is less upsetting for the household, and mothers feel more confident at home. Hospital stays today for vaginal births without problems are usually 24 to 48 hours.
Once your baby is born, your body will change both physically and emotionally throughout the next year. Many of these changes happen in the first 6 weeks, called postpartum. Postpartum isn’t a time of illness, but a time of healthy change. Some changes restore your body to its non-pregnant state. Other changes allow you to give food, care, and love for your newborn.
It is important for you to spend time everyday caring for yourself both physically and emotionally. Your body will begin healing itself and shedding excess water. Your uterus will shrink back to its non-pregnant size. Postpartum is also a time of hormonal change and emotional adjustment. With all that is happening to you in such a short time, the first 6 weeks can also be a time of stress. Sometimes new moms can become so focused on their new role as a parent that they forget about their own needs. However, it is important for you to spend time everyday caring for yourself both physically and emotionally. Caring for yourself includes monitoring your health by learning what to expect, what is “normal,” and how to tell whether there is a problem.
This booklet tells you what to expect while your body begins healing and changing. In addition to telling you about changes in your body, this booklet tells you ways to speed healing and prevent problems, when to ask for help or advice, and what you can do to take the best care of yourself. In the margins there are Tips to make self-care easier and FYI (For Your Information) when you want to get a little smarter. Resources are given in Learn More About It when you are ready to learn more.
Postpartum usually refers to the first 6 weeks after birth.
Hemorrhage means losing a lot of blood in a very short time. You can learn more about hemorrhage and how to recognize the signs of hemorrhage.
The perineum is the area between the vagina and the rectum and both thighs.
More about Self Care After Vaginal Birth
Introduction to Self-care After Vaginal Birth
Preventive Self Care
Physical Changes and Healing
Activities and Healthy Exercise
Nutrition and Diet
Family Planning and Birth Control
Normal “Baby Blues” or Postpartum Depression
Your Postpartum Check-Up
Get as Much Rest as You Can
When to Call Your Doctor
Linda Abercrombie, RNC, CCE
Jeffrey H. Korotkin, MD
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