We understand that pregnancy and childbirth can be a challenging time for new mothers. In this blog, we discuss postpartum depression and self-care tips to promote your own well-being. We hope that this information helps you feel more confident and empowered as you navigate this new chapter in your life.
As a new mom, there is a lot going on after your baby arrives. You spend almost every waking moment caring for your newborn, which makes taking time for yourself difficult.
As hard as it might be at times, we encourage moms to make sure they at least schedule and make it to their postpartum checkups. These medical checkups are to make sure you’re recovering well from labor and delivery, and adjusting to all the changes a new baby brings. Even if you’re feeling fine, this is an important part of your overall pregnancy care.
Self-care for Postpartum Depression
Diet – It is important for new mothers to continue their well-balanced pregnancy diet, which should include whole grain breads, cereals, fresh fruit, vegetables, protein, and dairy products. Drinking 8-10 glasses of liquids a day is also recommended. If breastfeeding, it is advised to add one additional milk serving daily. It is best to limit drinks like coffee, teas, sodas, or other caffeinated drinks, and to avoid alcohol while breastfeeding.
Breast Care – Proper breast care is essential for nursing mothers. It is recommended to wash your hands before nursing and clean your breasts with only water. If you have sore nipples, make sure you have a proper positioning/latch. A little of your own breast milk or lanolin rubbed in after each feeding will help symptoms resolve. If you need additional assistance with breast care related to nursing, lactation professionals are available to help.
If you need additional assistance with nursing, TrueCare offers virtual breastfeeding support groups. If you are a WIC member, call our Breastfeeding Helpline at (888) 477-6333 (7:30am-4:30pm, Mon-Fri).
Cesarean Birth – If you have had a cesarean birth, you will see a clinician approximately one week after delivery. In the meantime, it is important to keep your incision clean and dry and avoid scrubbing it. Washing with soap and water is okay.
TrueCare’s Dr. Eimaneh Mostofian adds, “I highly recommend avoiding any type of cleaning products, soaps, hydrogen peroxide, alcohol on the skin to clean the incision. Effectively, leaving the incision alone and keeping it covered and supported by placing a peri-pad over the incision is sufficient. If you start to notice a separation, excessive moisture, a foul smell, or bleeding from the incision site, please call your provider.”
Bleeding – After giving birth, you will have a menstrual type bleeding called “lochia.” It is similar to a heavy period the first few days. The flow will become lighter, and its color will change from red/brown to light pink to yellow. It is recommended to rinse around your vagina every time you use the toilet. Do not put anything in your vagina, not even a tampon, until you have been seen for your postpartum exam.
Stitches – If you have stitches and they are uncomfortable, warm showers and baths are soothing. You may also take Tylenol or Motrin/Ibuprofen every 4-6 hours. If you experience severe or constant pelvic/abdominal pain, please call your provider.
Hemorrhoids – If hemorrhoids are bothering you, you may put Tucks pads on your hemorrhoids. Adequate fluid and fiber intake, as well as walking, will help you avoid constipation. If you have a bathtub, soaking in a hot bath can help too.
After Birth Pains – You may notice cramps as the uterus returns to normal size. If they are uncomfortable, taking Tylenol or Motrin/Ibuprofen every 4-6 hours will help with the pain. If you experience severe or constant pelvic/abdominal pain, please call your provider.
Emotional Changes – Many new mothers feel emotional and may feel like crying one minute and laughing the next. Physical changes and lack of sleep can make this more difficult. It is important to set aside some time for yourself and try to relax with a bath, reading, or meditation/journaling. Allowing friends and relatives to help you so that you can get plenty of rest is also recommended. If you feel your emotional changes are troublesome to you, or if you need to talk to someone, please call your provider.
Rest – It is important to rest whenever the baby rests. Getting help so someone else can do the housework, cooking, and shopping is recommended. After two (2) weeks, you may start walking 15-20 minutes a day for exercise. Do not pick up anything heavier than your baby until you have your six (6) week postpartum exam.
Bottle-Feeding Mothers – If you choose to bottle-feed your baby, avoid any stimulation to your breast and wear a properly fitted bra. Apply ice packs if breasts are full or engorged. You may also take Tylenol or Motrin/Ibuprofen every 4-6 hours for discomfort. It may take 3-5 days for your milk to dry up; but it is not unusual for it to take up to 10 days. Medication is not needed for milk to dry up. We do not encourage pumping if you choose to exclusively formula-feed your baby, as this will only cause you to produce more milk.
When to call your provider:
- If you develop a temperature of 100.4 or greater.
- If you are saturating two (2) pads in an hour.
- If you are having trouble urinating.
- If you are having difficulty breastfeeding or if you have painful red lumps in your breast.
- If you have strong abdominal pain that is not better after taking Ibuprofen.
- If you have foul smelling vaginal discharge or discharge from your stitches.
- If your cesarean incision appears red, has discharge and/or is getting more painful.
Is it the Baby Blues or Postpartum Depression?
The baby blues may start within a few days of giving birth and fade away after the first 2 weeks. New mothers may feel weepy, drained, anxious, irritable, and overwhelmed.
Up to 20% of new mothers may have feelings of hopelessness, inadequacy, irritability, sadness, and loneliness that last longer than a few weeks. They may also cry a lot, have trouble eating or sleeping, may not feel bonded to the baby, and may think about hurting themselves.
Many mothers may experience postpartum anxiety on its own or together with symptoms of depression. Mothers may feel nervous or have a constant worry about the baby. They may feel panicky or experience panic attacks that feel like they are losing control. They also may have repetitive thoughts of harming or harm coming to the baby. Some mothers may have had a traumatic pregnancy or birth experience that they keep re-experiencing in their mind.
Postpartum Psychosis is a rare condition often associated with an underlying mental health disorder and usually occurs within the first few weeks after birth. The mother may have severe mood swings, hallucinations, and irrational or delusional thoughts involving harming themselves or baby. Postpartum Psychosis is a serious condition that requires immediate medical attention.
Do you ever feel like this?
- Crying a lot
- Irritable, anxious, or overwhelmed
- Sleep or eating problems
- Feeling like something is just not right
If you experience any of the above symptoms, reach out for help.
TrueCare’s Women’s Health providers are here to ensure your prenatal care, labor, delivery are as healthy as they can be. That level of quality care continues after pregnancy too! Contact TrueCare for all your women’s health needs. Our providers are here for you!
Additional resource: The San Diego Postpartum Health Alliance operates a support and referral line: at (619) 254-0023 or visit PostpartumHealthAlliance.org for more information.
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