What is Postpartum?

What the heck is postpartum? I have been asked this so many times that if you know the answer then you are ahead of the general public! Postpartum in the first six weeks after delivery, it refers to the mother and baby. Many people when they hear the word postpartum instantly think of postpartum depression. In the past years postpartum depression has been brought to the publics eye, which is a very good thing because it is a serious illness. Not every woman goes through postpartum depression, but every woman that has a baby goes though the postpartum period; it is not optional. Many hospitals refer to postpartum as the mother-baby phase. It is the postpartum period that I find most people are least educated about. The focus has been about getting the baby out and not on what happens after.

Here is an example of a surprised postpartum mother. She pushed for two hours, ended up with a beautiful 8 lb 10 oz baby and a midline episiotomy. She is able to pee two hours after delivery and moves to her postpartum room. After one hour she needs to pee again. Surprise number one: a nurse is in the bathroom with her. Surprise number two: her labia are swollen and look like a male body part. Surprise number three: her nurse gives her an ice diaper that feels like heaven. Once back in bed she admits that her friends never told her this part and she is feeling a little pissed at them. Surprise number four: women block this part out. Surprise number five: there is no comfortable position when your labia are swollen!

I am not telling this story to make fun of her and the things she did not know, but this happens all the time and I feel that if women were more prepared for this then it would not come as a surprise that after delivering the baby there is still pain!

This brings me to another postpartum example of a surprised mother. Her second baby came out much faster than the first and she feels awesome. That is until the cramping begins in her uterus. Let me tell you loud and clear, the cramping after having a baby is much worse when you are on your second + baby. Your uterus is normally the size of a pear, it has one goal after getting the baby out: to get back to that size. With subsequent pregnancies your uterus has stretched out more and it is more tired so it has to work harder to get back to that size, ie more cramping. So here are things that can help with that cramping. Go to the bathroom before breastfeeding. Breastfeeding releases a hormone in your body called oxytocin that makes your uterus cramp. If your bladder is full your uterus can not contract as well so it will keep cramping. Massage your uterus, the hard softball lump under your belly button (have your nurse show you) before you breastfeed because if your uterus is already contracted it will cramp less as you feed your baby. One of the simplest things is to be prepared for it, take Tylenol or Ibuprofen before or place a hot pack on the belly because NO you can not have another epidural!!

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