Women's Health - Postpartum Care
You can't help but be amazed at all the changes that your body has experienced over the past nine months. Now that the pregnancy is over, your body is going to go through more changes. After the birth of a baby, the body has to heal from childbirth, rebuild its strength, and get back the shape that it had before pregnancy.
The Postpartum Check-up
You will need to go to your doctor’s office for a postpartum exam about four to six weeks after your baby is born. Your doctor will make sure your body is healing the way it should. Your doctor will check your stitches and do a vaginal exam. You and your doctor should also discuss your physical and emotional health, family planning and any other concerns you may have. It is very important to keep this appointment, as this is one way of taking care of you!
Call your doctor if you experience any of the following:
- You have a temperature above 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit
- You have thoughts of harming yourself or your baby
- Increasing or persistent pain in the vaginal area
- You have itching, burning or a foul smelling discharge from your vagina
- Pain, swelling or tenderness in your legs
You have bright red bleeding from the vagina for more than five to seven days or the discharge has changed from pink or colorless back or red.
Common Postpartum Problems
Pain in the area between the vagina and rectum: This pain is quite common in women who deliver vaginally. This area can be stretched or torn during delivery. There may be more discomfort if you received an episiotomy (a cut made to keep the vagina from tearing). As your body heals, the discomfort will fade. Use sitz baths, cold packs or warm water to lessen the pain. You may also wish to buy a doughnut-shaped pillow to sit on, if sitting is uncomfortable.
Breasts: When milk comes in, about two to four days after delivery, your breasts will become very large, hard, and sore. These symptoms will ease once you begin breast-feeding regularly. If you’re not breastfeeding the pain should last no longer than three days after delivery. A well-fitting support bra and ice packs can help ease the pain.
Postpartum Blues: Most women experience a case of the "baby blues" about seven to 10 days after the birth of their child. Changes in hormone levels and the new responsibility of caring for a baby cause some new mothers to feel anxious, lonely and angry. This is normal. To send "baby blues" on their way, sleep when the baby sleeps, ask friends and family for help, make sure you eat and take some time for yourself! This moodiness and mild depression lasts only a couple of weeks. If the feelings do last for more than two weeks, or you have thoughts of harming your baby, call your doctor right away because you may have postpartum depression.
Medications can help ease the symptoms of postpartum depression. Treatment varies depending on the type and severity of symptoms. All of the symptoms, from the mild to the most severe, are temporary and treatable with skilled professional help and support. Medications are considered reasonably safe for nursing mothers.
HAP's Postpartum Care Project
We have developed a program to encourage more women to get screened and treated for postpartum depression. Women who’ve just given birth are sent a postpartum care packet with a letter encouraging them to schedule their postpartum visit with their obstetrical provider and educational material, as well as a follow-up mailing with a survey and reminder.
The purpose of the survey is to measure your emotional well-being. If you receive one of these packets, we encourage you to fill out and return the survey. You may indicate on the survey whether or not you desire a follow up phone call. If so, then a nurse will contact you with your results. If you are depressed, call your doctor or HAP's CBHM department to set up a visit with a mental health professional. The phone number to call is (800) 444-5755.