Recovering from birth
After birth, you are of course focused on caring for your new baby. But new mothers must also take special care of themselves after giving birth and while breastfeeding. This will help you regain your energy and strength. When you take care of yourself, you are able to best care for and enjoy your baby.
After the birth of your baby, your doctor will talk to you about these and other things you will experience as your body starts to recover:
- You will have vaginal discharge called lochia. This is the tissue and blood that lined your uterus during pregnancy. It is heavy and bright red at first, but will become lighter in flow and color until it goes away after a few weeks.
- You might also have swelling in your legs and feet. You can reduce swelling by keeping your feet elevated whenever possible.
- You might feel constipated. Try to drink plenty of water and eat fresh fruits and vegetables.
Your doctor will check your recovery at your postpartum visit approximately 2-4 weeks after birth. Ask about resuming normal activities and any eating/fitness plans to help you return to a healthy weight. Also ask your doctor about having sex and birth control. Your period could return in six to eight weeks if you do not breastfeed. If you breastfeed, your period might not resume for many months. Using reliable birth control is the best way to prevent pregnancy until you want to have another baby.
After childbirth, you may feel sad, weepy, and overwhelmed for a few days. Many new mothers have the “baby blues” after giving birth. Changing hormones, anxiety about caring for the baby, and lack of sleep all affect your emotions. Be patient with yourself. These feelings are normal and usually go away quickly. But if sadness lasts more than two weeks, go see your doctor right away because you might have a serious but treatable condition called postpartum depression. Postpartum depression can happen any time within the first year after birth.
Signs of postpartum depression include:
- Feeling restless or irritable
- Feeling sad, depressed, or crying a lot
- Having no energy
- Having headaches, chest pains, heart palpitations (the heart being fast and feeling like it is skipping beats), numbness, or hyperventilation (fast and shallow breathing)
- Not being able to sleep and/or being very tired
- Not being able to eat and weight loss
- Overeating and weight gain
- Trouble focusing, remembering, or making decisions
- Being overly worried about the baby
- Not having any interest in the baby
- Feeling worthless and guilty
- Having no interest or getting no pleasure from activities like sex and socializing
- Thoughts of harming your baby or yourself
Some women don’t tell anyone about these symptoms because they feel embarrassed or guilty about having these feelings at a time when they think they should be happy. Don’t let this happen to you! Postpartum depression can make it hard to take care of your baby. Infants with mothers with postpartum depression can have delays in learning how to talk and can have problems with emotional bonding. Your doctor can help you feel better and enjoy your new baby through therapy and/or medicine. Get more details on postpartum depression from our Depression During and After Pregnancy fact sheet.
Emerging research suggests that 1 in 10 new fathers may experience depression during or after pregnancy. Although more research is needed, having depression may make it harder to be a good father and perhaps affect the baby’s development. Having depression may also be related to the mother’s depression. Expecting or new fathers with emotional problems or symptoms of depression should talk to their doctors. Depression is a treatable illness.