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Becoming a mum

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The weeks and months after the birth of your baby will bring many challenges, physical and emotional, writes Kate Kelly 

You may be somewhat focused on what you experienced during labor and delivery and less on your baby.

This is perfectly normal.

Having a baby is a monumental event in your life, and there is a transition period.

Don’t be afraid to share your feelings with others or write about your experience in a journal.

As you adapt to your role as a mother, you may find yourself feeling stressed or anxious.

You might question whether or not you will be a good mother, and you are probably feeling a bit exhausted and overwhelmed.

Possibly, you even feel a little let down or blue.

If you understand what is happening to your body and emotions, you will be much more likely to face the challenging first few months of motherhood.

Take care of yourself

Taking good care of your physical health is vital right now.

Schedule time to eat meals, exercise (even if its just a walk around the block), and rest.

Your body has worked hard through the pregnancy, labor, and delivery, and it will take another 40 weeks or more for things to return to normal.

Immediately after delivery, your uterus will begin rapidly decreasing in size.

Within several weeks, it will have returned to normal size.

As well, you can expect to have vaginal bleeding, called lochia, for a couple of weeks while your uterus sheds its lining.

If you are not breastfeeding, you will probably have a menstrual period within 6 to 8 weeks after giving birth.

If you are breastfeeding, it may be many months before menstruation returns.

You can expect that you will be experiencing some postnatal pains and discomforts for a few days and possibly weeks, especially if you had a cesarean birth or an episiotomy.

Common complaints 

Don’t try to overexert yourself until you are feeling, for the most part, pain-free.

Other common complaints of women after giving birth include:

Constipation

Urinary incontinence

Sweating

Swollen, painful breasts (from breastfeeding)

Overall fatigue

If, however, you feel that there may be a complication or problem, such as excessive bleeding, unexplained pain, or fever, don’t hesitate to call your doctor.

It is also very important to take care of your emotional well-being during this transition period. Many new mothers are surprised by how drained, sad, or fragile they feel after giving birth.

These feelings are normal, and it is frequently referred to as the baby blues.

It is estimated that about 7 in 10 women develop some degree of the baby blues, and it is thought to be caused by both a drop in hormone levels and dealing with the stresses of taking care of a newborn.

While these feelings may be confusing or even scary, they will fade quickly.

When you are feeling down, remind yourself that you have taken on a huge responsibility being a mother.

Feeling sad, angry, or anxious occasionally doesnt mean that you are a failure as a mother, and it doesnt mean that you are mentally ill.

What it does mean is that your body is adjusting to the changes that follow giving birth.

Do I have postnatal depression?

For a small percentage of women, new motherhood brings feelings of despair, hopelessness, or severe anxiety.

This is referred to as postpnatal depression.

Women who have mood disorders prior to pregnancy or who have a family history of mood disorders are more likely to develop this condition.

If you are prone to depression, you may want to discuss this with your doctor or midwife before the baby arrives.

There are many good treatments and counselors who can help relieve postnatal depression.

When to seek help

Make sure to talk to a medical professional right away if you experience any of the following signs or symptoms:

Baby blues that last for more than a couple of weeks

Unexplained anger or depression that develops one or two months after delivery

Feelings of hopelessness or sadness that seem to be getting worse each day

Inability to sleep, even when tired

Sleeping most of the time, even when the baby is awake

Decrease in appetite

Lack of feelings for your baby

Panic attacks

Thoughts of harming yourself or your baby

 

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