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Your Recovery After Childbirth

Your body will take several weeks to recover from pregnancy and delivery. You should feel back to “normal” about 6 - 8 weeks after delivery, when you will need to see your clinician for a follow up visit.

Getting back to “you” may feel like it takes a little longer, especially if this is your first baby. Lack of sleep, mood swings and overwhelming changes can take their toll on your emotions and your relationship, so be sure to take things slow and steady.

  • Resuming intimacy

    After delivery, most health care professionals recommend that you do not have intercourse for 6-8 weeks or until after your postpartum visit with your OB/GYN. This is to allow time for you to fully heal. Beyond that initial timeframe, sexual intercourse can usually begin again. Check with your clinician to see if there are any specific indications to avoid intercourse for a longer period of time.

    Remember you can get pregnant during this time even if you are breastfeeding, so you should consider using some convenient form of birth control

    Getting the spark back

    You may hear comments that your sex life decreases after having a baby. Many things can get in the way of intimacy — a crying baby, different schedules, fatigue, concern over your body image and the stress of parenthood. It is normal for new parents to have less sex in the first months after a child is born.

    Here are some helpful hints to keep your private and romantic lives going:

    • Talk — Although you are the same couple, the birth of a baby represents significant changes in your relationship. Taking the time to talk keeps the communication lines open and your emotional connections intact, both of which are key to maintaining intimacy and preventing feelings of “distance” and sexual disinterest.
    • Touch – Never underestimate the power of touch. Massage can reduce stress and enhance intimacy. Touching is a way to establish the intimate roots you had before your baby arrived.
    • Time — make time in your day for you as a couple. Let chores that are not a priority slide so you can be together. Take advantage of the offers for babysitting, even if you step out for a brief dinner or walk.
    Tips for breastfeeding women
    • You may experience decreased vaginal lubrication, even if you are fully aroused. This is a result of hormones, not mood. Try a water-soluble lubricant sold over the counter in most drug stores.
    • You may also find that with orgasm, if your breasts are full, your breast milk may spray. This response is due to the release of oxytocin, a hormone that is released during orgasm that also causes your milk to eject. If you want to avoid this, nurse or pump before you become intimate.
  • Getting in shape

    Like most new mothers, you may be anxious to return to your pre-pregnancy shape and weight. Recognize that your body has been through a lot; it took more than nine months to get where you are so returning to “normal” also will take awhile. You and your partner need to be patient and realistic about expectations. A simple program of keeping to a balanced diet with moderate exercise will help you achieve your goal.

    Diet

    It is important to eat healthy foods that are low in fat, and high in protein, fiber, vitamins and whole grains. Drinking plenty of water helps with metabolism and digestion. Good nutrition also will help you regain your strength and endurance.

    Exercise

    Try to gradually introduce exercise into your routine. A brisk walk with your baby, and/or stretching and toning are fine activities to begin. Check with your clinician as to when you can begin a more rigorous exercise routine.

  • Understanding your emotions
    One of the first things you may feel following labor and delivery is energy and excitement! Your birth experience will keep running through your mind. You tell everyone all about it. You examine every detail of your baby. You call everyone you know. You will be both elated and exhausted! This mix of emotions is very common and is in part, due to hormone changes, pain, fatigue, your childbirth experience and the support you have. These emotions, although strong and complex, are very normal.

    During the first few weeks, you may experience feelings of being overwhelmed by being a mother that also could include feelings of stress, fatigue and anxiety. These feelings are often called the “Baby Blues.”

    Researchers suspect that rapid shifts in the hormones estrogen, progesterone and thyroid and their relationship with the brain’s neurotransmitters are the basis for the baby blues. Combined with the fatigue and stress of new motherhood, this adjustment period may be difficult.

    Beating the Baby Blues

    Give yourself time to adjust. Taking good physical care of yourself is important. Eating a well balanced diet and getting some exercise does help your well being. It may help to talk to friends and family who have experienced the same feelings. Having someone with whom you can be open and honest will help to keep your feelings in perspective. As your hormone levels stabilize, and you become more secure in your abilities, you will settle into a new routine and these feelings will fade.

    For a very few women, the baby blues are more intense and constant, lasting well beyond the first few post partum weeks. These prolonged feelings may be symptoms of post partum depression. If you have these intense feelings that seem to go beyond the baby blues, take them seriously. Call your health care provider for further evaluation.

    Symptoms of post partum depression

    How do you know if you might have post partum depression?

    The common symptoms include:

    • A persistent sad, anxious, or "empty" mood
    • A loss of interest or pleasure in activities, including sex
    • Restlessness, irritability, or excessive crying
    • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, helplessness, hopelessness, pessimism
    • Sleeping too much or too little, early-morning awakening
    • Appetite and/or weight loss, or overeating and weight gain
    • Decreased energy, fatigue, feeling "slowed down"
    • Difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions
    • Persistent physical symptoms that do not respond to treatment, such as headaches, digestive disorders, and chronic pain
    • Thoughts of death or suicide, or suicide attempts

    If you feel like you may have post partum depression, there is help. Talk with your clinician about how you’re feeling.

    Treatments for post partum depression

    The most commonly used treatments for depression are counseling, medication, and sometimes a combination of the two. In mild or moderate depression, one or both of these treatment options may be useful, while in severe or incapacitating depression, medication generally is recommended as the first step of treatment. In combined treatment, medication can relieve physical symptoms quickly, while psychotherapy allows the opportunity to learn more effective ways of handling problems.

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