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Mothers: Common Problems of New Mothers

Most mothers-to-be focus on pregnancy and the birth of their child. After your baby comes home, you have a new set of challenges. Here are some tips for dealing with some common problems.

Recovering after giving birth

C-Section

A C-section is a surgery that delivers your baby through a cut in your belly and uterus. After a C-section, your belly will be sore. You may need help with positioning your baby comfortably for feeding. Walking and standing will be uncomfortable for the first few days. To help recover from a C-section:

  • Use the time in the hospital to rest. You may need to limit the number of phone calls and visitors.
  • Make sure you have some help for at least the first 2 weeks when you come home. The more you rest during that time, the faster you will heal.
  • Try to keep everything you and your baby will need close to you to avoid stairs, reaching, and bending. Until your belly heals, make sure you lift your baby slowly, keeping your arms close to your body, so that you put less strain on your stomach muscles. Avoid lifting anything heavier than your baby.
  • Follow your healthcare provider’s instructions about how to take care of the cut.

Episiotomy

An episiotomy widens the opening of the vagina for childbirth. It gives more room for your baby to pass through the birth canal. It usually heals within 7 to 10 days and with no complications. You may have some pain and swelling after an episiotomy. This can be relieved by:

  • Cloth-covered ice or cold packs on the area of the cut to lessen swelling and pain.
  • Warm tub baths 2 or 3 times a day for 20 minutes (called sitz baths) to help with the soreness. Wait until at least 24 hours after your baby was born before you start taking baths.
  • Sprays or pads that contain a numbing medicine.
  • Pain medicine, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Read the label and take as directed. Unless recommended by your healthcare provider, you should not take these medicines for more than 10 days.
    • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicines (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, naproxen, and aspirin, may cause stomach bleeding and other problems. These risks increase with age.
    • Acetaminophen may cause liver damage or other problems. Unless recommended by your provider, don't take more than 3000 milligrams (mg) in 24 hours. To make sure you don’t take too much, check other medicines you take to see if they also contain acetaminophen. Ask your provider if you need to avoid drinking alcohol while taking this medicine.
  • Having sex too soon after the birth can cause some pain. It is best to wait 4 to 6 weeks until the cut has fully healed and your healthcare provider says it’s OK to have sex again. You may have some pain the first few times, but it should go away after a time.

Feeling tired

Giving birth is stressful for your body. Your newborn needs to be fed, changed, and cared for 24 hours a day, which causes you to lose sleep. Feeling tired is natural for the first few weeks or months after you bring your baby home. To help manage tiredness:

  • Expect to be tired, and don't be upset with yourself about it.
  • Nap when your baby naps. Sleep is more important for you right now than doing dishes, laundry, and other chores. Let others help you with chores rather than trying to do everything yourself.
  • Try to sleep at least 1 and 1/2 or 2 hours during the day for the first 2 to 3 weeks. Ask your spouse, a friend, or relative to take care of your baby for a couple of hours to help you out.
  • You may want to nurse your baby in bed during night feedings. Make sure that you return your baby to her crib rather than letting her sleep in your bed. Babies are at higher risk for sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) if they sleep in an adult bed instead of a crib. Place your baby’s bed near your bed instead.
  • If you are bottle feeding, share night feedings with your partner.

Getting in shape

After the pregnancy, it will take time to get your body back into shape. Exercise and eating a healthy diet can help you lose weight, tone your body, sleep better and have more energy, and lift your mood when you feel down. To help get back in shape:

  • Eat plenty of fresh fruits, vegetables, whole-grain breads and cereals, non-fat dairy products, meats, fish, poultry, and legumes. Drink enough liquids to keep your urine light yellow in color. A strict weight-loss diet can decrease your milk supply if you are breast-feeding, and can leave you even more tired.
  • Start exercising as soon as your healthcare provider gives the OK. Walk with your baby around your house, yard, or the neighborhood as often as you can. Being more physically active will help you lose weight, and walking can also help calm a fussy baby.
  • When you are physically ready, joining an exercise or aerobics class will get you out of the house and keep you motivated to exercise. If you go back to work, park as far away from entrances as you can and use stairs instead of elevators.

Adjusting to being a mother

You probably got a lot of advice while you were pregnant, and will get a lot more as a new mother. Some people will tell you to let your baby cry, while others will tell you that you should always hold, sing, or rock your baby. With all the choices you have to make every day, you can feel like you are wrong no matter what you do.

You may miss your job and coworkers, yet don’t want to leave your baby. You may need to return to work for financial reasons. You may feel guilty no matter which choice you make.

  • Talk with other new mothers or join a parenting support group. Sharing common concerns and solutions to problems with other new moms can help you have more reasonable expectations.
  • Talk to friends who can help you stay balanced and help you remember that you are more than “just” a mom.
  • Give yourself time to get to know your newborn and don’t expect to get it perfect every time. Some babies are fussy, some are colicky, some develop allergies, and most won’t sleep through the night for many months. Even if you followed every piece of advice from books, the Internet, friends, and relatives, your baby will cry, not sleep through the night, or get a fever. Stay flexible and have a good sense of humor.
  • It's OK not to take advice that does not work for you. Each baby is different, and you are a different mother than your friend or relative. If you are worried about your baby’s health, talk with your healthcare provider.

Feeling depressed

After childbirth, many mothers feel more emotional. You are dealing with your hormones, a lack of sleep, pain from childbirth, high expectations, and changing routines. All these can lead to the baby blues. You may feel sad, afraid, or angry. For most women these baby blues are mild and go away within a week or two. Postpartum depression lasts longer and is more severe. If you feel depressed, here are some ideas that might help:

  • Find someone you trust to talk about how you are feeling. Other new mothers are a good support system.
  • Get someone to watch your baby and do something to relax and pamper yourself. Get a massage, take a bath, listen to music, or just take a long nap. Take time to focus on yourself and not just on the baby. Try to return to some of the things you liked doing before your baby was born.
  • Try infant massage. Spending quiet time with your baby not only can relax your baby but can relax you as well.
  • If you feel frustrated, depressed, angry, or otherwise unable to take care of yourself or your baby, talk with a trusted friend or relative, a counselor, or your healthcare provider. If you ever feel like shaking or hurting your baby, stop, put the baby in a safe place, and take a quiet break to calm yourself. Call a friend or relative for support or to take care of the baby for a little while. Also call your healthcare provider. NEVER shake a baby.
Developed by RelayHealth.
Pediatric Advisor 2015.2 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2014-10-23
Last reviewed: 2014-09-29
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Copyright ©1986-2015 McKesson Corporation and/or one of its subsidiaries. All rights reserved.
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