Updated: May 18
Your bundle of joy is here! Finally, the weeks of excitement and anticipation coupled with bouts of “ I can’t do this anymore” and “please get here already” are brought to end and you are staring right into the eyes of pure love. Firstly, you are a superwoman just for making it this far, congratulations!
This next season is going to be filled with sleepless nights, diaper changes, breast and bottle feeding and once again, bouts of “ I don’t know if I can do this”. In-between all of the above you are at risk of neglecting the fact that it’s just as important to take care of yourself in this period. You will be receiving a lot of information on how to take care of yourself and baby in the postpartum period, which you might forget.
After the operation, your OBGYN will admit you to stay in the hospital for 3-4 days.
This is to :
give your body time to recover,
monitor you for bleeding and signs of infection,
for you to receive injections that prevent clots from developing in your lungs and legs.
You will have a nurse or doctor regularly checking the dressing over your wound and changing it before you are discharged.
So, let’s take a look at what to be aware of for once you get home.
Firstly, your body will need at least 6 weeks to recover after the op so strenuous exercise, lifting of heavy objects (anything heavier than baby), sexual intercourse and driving are generally not recommended during this period,
Eat regularly and keep hydrated,
Rest as much as you can but be careful not to stay in bed or on the couch all day as moving around will help improve blood circulation to your whole body- and subsequently help with healing and recovery, as well as prevent clot formation in the body.
Here’s what to look out for that should probe you to seek medical advice: Dizziness, fever, vomiting, shortness of breath, chest pain, coughing, severe abdominal pain and altered bowel or bladder habits.
Warm water with coarse salt is best to use for cleansing at least twice a day, although antiseptic is also acceptable.
Keep the area dry and monitor it for excessive tenderness, pain, itching or gaping of the wound.
CARING FOR YOUR STITCHES
You probably have absorbable stitches but it’s always a good idea just to double check with your OBGYN if there will be a need for them to be removed at a later stage. Maternity underwear is recommended to prevent excessive pain and pressure over the wound.
SHOULD I BE WORRIED ABOUT BLEEDING?
It's normal to have some vaginal bleeding post-delivery but heavy clots or an offensive odour should raise a concern. The volume will generally be less in breastfeeding moms as the suckling encourages the womb to contract- and as you may know- you may not see a normal period for a while if you are breastfeeding. Remember to use maternity sanitary pads and to change them regularly to prevent infection that may cause complications. Do not use tampons.
BREAST CARE, CONTRACEPTION AND CERVICAL SCREENING
Check your breasts and nipples for redness and tenderness regularly. Breastfeed on demand and express when needed, as excessive engorgement may predispose you to infection. Your local pharmacy will have some over-the-counter creams for nipple cracks. Remember to get contraceptive advice and to have a Pap smear 6 weeks after delivery if you are due for one.
We’ve all heard about “The Baby Blues”. Two of my colleagues ( Gynaecologists as well) were diagnosed with Postpartum Depression. I’m highlighting this to raise a point, that no one is immune. Constantly check on your mental and emotional state and reach out to those around you. This season can be overwhelming so you should use all the support systems you have in place.
You are a nurturer by nature but never neglect to look after yourself. Enjoy your motherhood journey.
Dr Kholofelo Madiba, for Perfect Not Perfect
| MBChB ( University of Pretoria), Specialist in Obs and Gynae (The University of Witwatersrand) Currently practicing as Registrar in Obs and Gynae at Sligo University Hospital in Ireland |