What a joy it is to see a small child come into the world and be welcomed into the family. A newborn baby needs special care... and so does the mother!
Pregnancy and childbirth are among the happiest stages in a woman's life. However, her body has to adapt to a number of physical and hormonal changes not only during pregnancy, but also during the postnatal period. Having felt this small being grow inside her body can sometimes leave a woman with the impression that she must somehow reclaim it after giving birth.
The postnatal period can also bring its share of small and big inconveniences—changes to the appearance of hair, skin and breasts, back pain, heaviness in the legs, hemorrhoids, etc. Many of these problems resolve themselves over time, but this doesn't make them less unpleasant. So, don’t hesitate to discuss these issues with a healthcare professional.
A new mother must eat well to avoid any deficiencies and to provide baby with all the necessary nutrients. Speak to a healthcare professional if you are concerned that your diet may not be providing all of the nutrients you need. A vitamin and mineral supplement may be considered, but will not replace the benefits of a quality diet.
If you have chosen not to breastfeed, a healthy and balanced diet is still important to help you maintain your health, vitality, sense of well-being, and of course, your body shape! Canada’s Food Guide is your best resource when it comes to nutrition.
It is a well-known fact that the best food for your newborn is breast milk. In addition to being a healthy option, breastfeeding can provide great satisfaction for both mother and child. It promotes relaxation and attachment. When all goes well, breastfeeding is often a very positive experience, but sometimes, difficulties occur.
Although breastfeeding is natural, it sometimes requires some learning. It is important to start this process by consulting a knowledgeable professional. When you experience difficulties (poor latch, pain, chapping, etc.), don't hesitate to ask for help. Most breastfeeding-related problems have simple and accessible solutions. Your pharmacist can help you.
Fatigue and mood
Fatigue and mood swings are completely normal following childbirth. Taking care of a newborn requires a lot of energy. Some women who have been required to carry out intense efforts in their lives will tell you that they never felt as tired and overwhelmed as they did after the arrival of their baby!
To maintain her energy and mood, it is important that the young mother be able to rest and feel supported.
Be alert for signs of postpartum depression such as sadness, anxiety, disinterest, and feelings of helplessness or guilt, especially if the mother has a history of depression. The disorder usually begins within six to eight weeks postpartum. Note that postpartum depression can affect all new mothers.
Sexual and urological health
Urological problems are common after childbirth, such as urinary incontinence resulting in involuntary loss of urine at rest or on exertion (laughter and sneezing can also cause them). Temporary use of absorbent protective products may be helpful. A wide range of products is available at the pharmacy.
Sexuality can sometimes be an issue after childbirth. Decreased libido, pain during intercourse, loss of vulvovaginal sensitivity or lubrication and postcoital bleeding are some examples of possible difficulties. It is advisable to discuss resumption of sexual intercourse or any other sexual concerns with your partner and a healthcare professional.
Ask a healthcare professional about perineal re-education to ensure your sexual and urological health.
Many women are concerned about losing the weight they gained during pregnancy. Weight loss must be done gradually, consistently, and without skipping steps. Most women—whether or not they are breastfeeding—lose about 10 to 14 pounds in the first month after childbirth. After that, non-breastfeeding mothers can expect to lose about one or two pounds a week and breastfeeding mothers can expect to lose two to four pounds.
You should not worry if you don’t follow this trend to the letter! With regular exercise and healthy eating, a new mother can gradually recover her body shape. Remember that a breastfeeding mother is feeding two people at the same time, so dieting may not be the best option.
Some advice for new mothers
Here are a few tips for new mothers who want to stay in top form during the postnatal period:
- Set aside some time to rest every day. Get adequate sleep. Take naps at the same time as your baby.
- Accept that nothing is perfect. Your well-being, health and that of your baby's are key. House cleaning and laundry can wait!
- To help you put your energy where it is really needed, encourage your spouse to help care for the baby and with day-to-day tasks.
- Ask your family and friends for help. A few minutes of babysitting, a prepared meal, or running a few errands can give you a boost and make you feel supported.
- If you notice signs that your health is deteriorating, see your doctor promptly. Sometimes, just sharing your concerns can make all the difference. Moreover, there may be solutions within your grasp.
- Participate in leisure activities to relax and get away from the daily routine (go shopping, visit friends, go on mother-baby movie dates, etc.).
Speak to your pharmacist for additional information about mother and baby health.