Becoming a parent changes your life – suddenly every minute of your day becomes precious and there is less time to do the things you used to do before the birth, to relax with your partner and catch up with friends – some days you might feel like there is no time to eat and sleep! Giving birth is also a physically draining experience - if you don’t take good care of yourself you will end up run down and exhausted. That’s why it’s important to follow a healthy, balanced diet and do some exercise to raise your energy levels.
Having a baby changes your body, but luckily some are temporary and can be tackled if you are not comfortable with them. You can tone a saggy tummy with exercise and use a rich moisturiser for very dry skin, but if you have physical problems such as recurring infections and back pain. Other physical changes include:
- Sore breasts
- Painful stitches if you had an episiotomy, so you will feel discomfort when sitting down and walking for a while
- Hot and cold flushes
- Incontinence – do those pelvic floor exercises to raise your energy levels. to avoid long-term effects!
- Abdominal pains as your uterus contracts back to its original size
- Bleeding, which can last for several days
- Weight – you will still have a bump after giving birth because your uterus is still swollen and your body will have stored water and fat deposits to allow you to breastfeed
If you had a Caesarean section, it will take longer for your body to heal. Pain is stronger the day after the surgery and will gradually wane. Follow doctor’s orders and get help for housework and demanding tasks.
Emotionally, you will be on a rollercoaster because of hormones and chemical changes. If you find it hard to cope with motherhood and have extreme mood swings, you should also seek medical help, to rule out postnatal depression. There are things you can do to feel more like your old self:
- Sleep or rest whenever your baby takes a nap.
- Reserve a bit of time each day to relax with a book or listen to music
- Have a shower or bath
- Get plenty of fresh air – if you haven’t anyone who can babysit, push your baby out in the pram for a walk to the park or shops
- Try to find some time for you and your partner to talk, even if it’s only 10 minutes
- Enjoy your baby and encourage your partner to do so
- Lower your cleaning standards – provided you have fresh clothes to wear for the whole family and a clean food preparation area, the rest can wait a few days. Encourage your visitors to do small chores for you and if you feel the pressure to have a sparkling home for hosting, restrict visits and meet friends at a cafe or other convenient place. If friends are willing to help, draw a list, so when they offer their services you can assign them tasks (such as pick up your shopping or holding the baby while you have a shower)
- Talk to other new mums (perhaps from your antenatal class) or attend parents group so you can create a support network. If you are breastfeeding, go to a breastfeeding clinic to speak to like-minded mums.
You need to contact your healthcare professional if:
- Have a fever of over 38C or above
- Experience excessive bleeding
- Your incision (if you had a C-section) becomes red or swollen
- Have pain, tenderness and swelling in your legs
- Have hot, sore breasts or any cracks/bleeding from the nipples or areola (the latter can occur if you are breastfeeding and your baby has an incorrect latch but the former might also happen if you decide not to breastfeed or to stop breastfeeding abruptly)
- It’s painful to go to the toilet and you can’t control when you need to go
- Have lots of pain in the vagina area
- Have cough or chest pain, nausea or vomiting
- Become depressed and have negative thoughts that don’t allow you to lead a normal life.
If you are caring for twins or multiples, you are certainly going to be busy! You need as much support as you can get so your body can heal and you can enjoy your babies to the full. The Irish Multiple Birth Association offers information and support, visit www.imba.ie for more information.