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Postpartum: First 6 Weeks After Childbirth - Health and Nutrition

It is easy to get too tired and overwhelmed during the first weeks after childbirth. Take it easy on yourself. Get rest whenever you can, accept help from others, and eat well and drink plenty of fluids.

Getting rest

Like pregnancy, the newborn period can be a time of excitement, joy, and exhaustion. You may look at your wondrous little baby and feel happy. You may also be overwhelmed by your new sleep hours and new responsibilities. Make time to rest.

  • Rest every day. Try to nap when your baby naps. Stay flexible so you can eat at odd hours and sleep when you need to.
  • Ask another adult to be with you for a few days after delivery.
  • Plan for child care if you have other children.
  • Plan small trips to get out of the house. Change can make you feel less tired.
  • Ask for help with housework, cooking, and shopping. Remind yourself that your job is to care for your baby.

Sexuality, fertility, and birth control

Your body needs at least 4 to 6 weeks to heal after the trauma of childbirth. Avoid sexual intercourse and putting anything in your vagina (including tampons) until you have stopped bleeding. Your doctor will let you when it's okay to have intercourse.

Your menstrual cycle—and your ability to become pregnant again—will return at your body's own pace. Remember that you can ovulate and get pregnant during the month before your first menstrual period, as early as 3 weeks after childbirth. If you don't want to become pregnant right away, use birth control even if you are breast-feeding.

  • If you don't breast-feed, your menstrual periods may begin within a month or two after delivery.
  • If you breast-feed full-time, your periods will probably not resume for a few months. The average among women who breast-feed exclusively is 8 months. But breast-feeding is not a dependable method of birth control. For more information, see Breast-Feeding as Birth Control.

Most methods of birth control are safe and effective after delivery. But in the first couple of weeks after delivery or if you are breast-feeding, it’s best to use a method that doesn’t contain estrogen. Talk to your doctor about which type is best for you. For more information, see the topic Birth Control.

Healthy eating

Eating a variety of healthy food is important to help you keep your energy and lose extra weight you gained during your pregnancy. Eat healthy foods so you have more energy, make good breast milk, and lose extra baby pounds.

  • Eat a variety of foods to help you get all the nutrients you need. Your body needs protein, carbohydrate, and fats for energy.
  • Eat a diet high in fiber. Include foods such as whole-grain breads and cereals, raw vegetables, raw and dried fruits, and beans.
  • Drink plenty of fluids, especially water.
  • Eat small snacks throughout the day to keep up your energy. Don't skip meals or go for long periods without eating.
  • If you're breast-feeding, a healthy diet also can help you make milk. For more information, see Nutrition While Breast-Feeding.
  • If you breast-feed, avoid alcohol and drugs. Stay smoke-free. If you quit during pregnancy, congratulations.

For more information on eating well, see the topic Healthy Eating.

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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: November 02, 2011
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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