Congratulations, you just had a baby! It’s fun, exciting, nerve-racking, a little scary, and oh my god why do I keep crying even if I’m not sad!? It’s okay, we’re here to help you navigate all of it!
Postpartum is broken up into three phases. The 1st phase is 6-12 hours after birth. During this phase, your doctor, midwife, or doula will continuously monitor you to be sure your bleeding is stopping and your uterus is contracting back to a smaller size. The 2nd phase lasts 2 to 6 weeks; your body is undergoing an immense amount of emotional and physical stress in order to begin the post-birth recovery. The third phase can last up to 6 months and is when your body undergoes and completes a majority of the major healing from pregnancy and birth. This is a difficult time for your body, and now you have a newborn baby, so make sure you are being kind and gentle with yourself every step of the way.
Anyone who gives birth needs to follow up with a physician within 2-3 weeks and then have a minimum of one more follow-up appointment within 12 weeks. Your provider may suggest a different schedule, especially if you had a c-section, so be sure to follow their recommendations. During these exams, you and your provider will discuss breastfeeding, contraceptives, and how you are healing physically and mentally. Even if you’d like more children soon, it is important that your body has ample time to heal between each birth – this is called birth spacing. The recommended period of time between each birth and new pregnancy is 18-24 months. This period of time allows for the body to fully heal and prevent complications in future pregnancies.
Postpartum Depression and Anxiety
There are many postpartum mood disorders and they are way more common than we might want to acknowledge. Intense hormonal changes, particularly within the first 6 weeks of pregnancy, can leave you with extreme mood swings many people call “the baby blues”. Over 80% of people who have given birth report experiencing intense mood swings for up to 6 weeks.
What if it has been more than 6 weeks and things just aren’t getting any better? That is when it is time to reach out for extra help. Around 15% of people who give birth will experience postpartum depression, around 9% experience postpartum anxiety, up to 5% will experience postpartum obsessive-compulsive disorder, and a small percentage will experience Postpartum Bipolar Disorder. This is completely fine, and you will be okay. But make sure to try to reach out to a mental health professional for help. You can get past this, but you cannot do it by yourself. You can get help today at www.psiga.org or by calling PSI’s 24-Hr Helpline: call 1.800.944.4773 or text 503.894.9453.
Be sure you are up to date on your vaccines in order to protect yourself and your newborn from the harmful infectious diseases. Additionally, make sure that your close family members and friends are up to date on their vaccinations if they will spending time around you and your newborn. Most importantly, be sure they are up to date on their Pertussis (Whooping Cough), MMR, and TDAP vaccinations. Are you unsure about newborn vaccinations or have more questions? Learn more here.
A newborn screening is a comprehensive exam that screens your baby for any life-threatening illness or disorders that will need treatment plans immediately. This test includes screening for diseases such as phenylketonuria (PKU), cystic fibrosis, hearing loss, sickle cell disease, blindness, and critical congenital heart disease. Once your child is born, they will receive the newborn screening test immediately if you have given birth in a hospital or birth center. If you have given birth at home, you and your pediatrician will decide when the earliest date your baby can be bought in to have their screening done will be.
If you are breastfeeding, remember that you still need to be avoiding drugs and alcohol. Alcohol and many other drugs can enter your breast milk and then be passed on to your infant. Breastfeeding can burn up to 1,000 calories a day, so be sure that you are eating regularly and getting enough vitamins & nutrients. Breast milk is where your baby gets their immune system for the first few months of life. So in order to keep your baby healthy, you must keep yourself healthy!
If you have questions about breastfeeding or would like more resources, you can find them here:
- Find a WIC location near you
- Find breastfeeding professionals, support groups and more at Zipmilk.org
- Call the Georgia Family Healthline for more breastfeeding support referrals at 1-800-300-9003, M-F, 9Am-5PM or by searching here.
Fitness & Nutrition
Your nutritional status is still very important even though you are no longer pregnant. Your body is still healing from childbirth, and if you are breastfeeding, your diet can affect your breast milk. Once you have clearance from your doctor, you can begin physical activity. Many new parents like to start slow – begin by taking a postpartum workout class, or take your new baby out on a daily walk.
Planning What’s Next!
Now is the time to decide what you want motherhood to look like! How many children do you want? Maybe this is it. Maybe you want three more. It is up to you, but you’ll want to keep birth spacing in mind. Your body needs time to heal, and it is suggested that there should be 18-24 months between each birth and new pregnancy. So sit down with yourself and ask what choices are best for you and your family. If you haven’t already, now is the time to talk to your doctor about birth control options so you can have your next baby (or not!) when you and your family are ready.