If you develop problems and your doctor has given you specific instructions to follow, be sure to follow those instructions.
Feeling tired (fatigue)
Most women feel tired after labor and delivery. Caring for a new baby, loss of sleep, and the normal physical changes you experience as your body returns to its nonpregnant condition can add to your fatigue. It is important to focus on your healing and taking care of your baby for the first 6 weeks. Start other activities slowly as you feel stronger.
To help with fatigue in the first few weeks and months after delivery:
- Eat regularly. Do not skip meals or go for long periods without eating. Choose healthy foods.
- Exercise regularly. Get outside, take walks, or keep your blood moving with your favorite workout. If you do not have your usual energy, do not overdo it. If you had any problems during your pregnancy or during labor or delivery, your doctor may give you more specific instructions about activities.
- Try to take rest breaks often during the day.
- Do only as much as you need to, and do not take on extra activities or responsibilities.
- Spend time with family and friends and let them help you care for your baby.
- Sleep when your baby is sleeping or napping.
- Keep your naps as short as possible.
- Use your bed only for sleep.
- Try to have a regular feeding pattern if you are breastfeeding. If you are bottle-feeding, have others feed the baby sometimes so you can rest.
- Limit your caffeine, such as coffee, tea, cola drinks, and chocolate.
- Try relaxation methods such as meditation or guided imagery. For more information, see the topic Stress Management.
Nonprescription medicine to help relieve discomfort
Most women have some mild discomfort after delivery. You may have some cramping as your uterus returns to its nonpregnant size. If you had an episiotomy, you may have pain in your genital area. Women who have had a cesarean section (C-section) will have some pain at the incision site.
Most women can take acetaminophen (such as Tylenol) and ibuprofen (such as Advil) while breastfeeding to help relieve discomfort from some of these problems. But talk to your doctor before taking any medicine (prescription or nonprescription).
- Acetaminophen dosage: The usual dose is 650 mg; recommended doses may range from 500 mg to 1,000 mg. You can take 650 mg every 4 hours or 1,000 mg every 6 hours in a 24-hour period. Do not take more than the maximum adult dose of 4,000 mg in a 24-hour period.
Be sure to follow these nonprescription medicine precautions.
- Use, but do not take more than the maximum recommended doses.
- Carefully read and follow all labels on the medicine bottle and box.
Breast engorgement or mastitis
If you are breastfeeding, your breasts may be sore as they fill with milk. Place ice packs on your breasts for the pain and swelling. Be sure to put a cloth between your skin and the ice pack. Some women find a hot shower or warm towels on the breasts help the pain. You can also use acetaminophen, such as Tylenol.
Mastitis is an inflammation of the breast that is most commonly related to breastfeeding. This inflammation can be related to tissue injury, infection, or both. Mastitis while breastfeeding usually affects only one breast and starts as a painful area that is red or warm. Fever, chills, and flu-like symptoms or body aches can also develop. You can develop mastitis at any time while breastfeeding, but it most commonly occurs during the first 2 months after delivery, before your baby's feeding patterns become regular.
If you are not breastfeeding, do not stimulate your nipples or warm your breasts. Instead, apply cold packs, use medicine for pain and inflammation, and wear a supportive bra that fits well.
Many new mothers may feel "blue" after the birth of their baby. This may be caused by a change in hormones, not getting enough sleep, feeling too busy, or just worried about taking care of the baby.
Postpartum depression is a medical condition, not a sign of weakness. Be honest with yourself and those who care about you. Tell them about your struggle. You, your doctor, and your friends and family can team up to treat your symptoms.
- Plan activities and visit with friends and family, and ask them to call you regularly.
- Eat a nutritious diet. Eat small snacks throughout the day to keep up your energy.
- Get daily exercise, such as outdoor stroller walks. Exercise helps improve mood.
- Get as much sunlight as possible-keep your shades and curtains open, and get outside as much as you can.
- Ask for help with food preparation and other daily tasks. Family and friends are often happy to help a mother with newborn demands.
- Don't overdo it. Get as much rest and sleep as possible. Fatigue can increase depression.
- Do not use alcohol or caffeine.
- Join a support group of new mothers. No one can better understand and support the challenges of caring for a new baby than other postpartum women.
Constipation and hemorrhoids
- Eat a high-fiber diet with lots of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
- Drink plenty of fluids, especially water and fruit juices.
- Try a stool softener, such as Colace.
- Do not strain (push hard) during a bowel movement.
- Get more exercise every day.
- Keep the anus clean by wiping carefully after each bowel movement. Gently wipe from the front to the back. Baby wipes or hemorrhoid pads are usually more gentle than toilet paper. If you use toilet paper, use only soft, undyed, unscented toilet paper.
- Take warm soaks in a tub or a sitz bath. Warm water can help soothe hemorrhoids. Add baking soda to the water to relieve itching.
- Use cold packs.
- Do not sit for long periods, especially on hard chairs.
Let your doctor know if you are having problems with constipation or hemorrhoids. He or she may recommend a nonprescription or prescription medicine to treat your hemorrhoids.
If you had mild swelling from normal fluid buildup when you were pregnant, it may last for days or weeks after you deliver. You are most likely to notice this swelling in your face, hands, or feet. As your body changes back to how it was before you were pregnant, the swelling will go away.
Just as you slowly gained weight during your pregnancy, it may take some time to lose weight after your baby is born. Eat a nutritious diet and try to exercise daily. It may take 6 to 8 weeks for you to get back to your normal activities. As the body returns to its nonpregnant condition, many women feel they can manage their weight with healthy eating and exercise. If it is hard for you to lose weight from your pregnancy, talk to your doctor about your goals. If you are breastfeeding, it is important to get the right amount of calories and nutrients for your baby.
Symptoms to watch for during home treatment
Call your doctor if any of the following occur during home treatment:
- Abnormal or increased vaginal bleeding
- Pain in your lower belly
- Urinary problems
- Symptoms that become more severe or occur more often