Your wellbeing after pregnancy
The first weeks at home can be an exciting, but anxious time as you get used to caring for your baby. If you’ve been in hospital or midwifery unit, you may feel apprehensive about being on your own. The more you handle your baby, the more confident you’ll become.
Looking after yourself
Although you might feel like your every waking hour is spent caring for your baby, it’s important to look after yourself as well.
Your community midwife, health visitor and GP are there to support you if you have any worries or problems.
Getting enough rest
While you are feeding your baby at night and your body is recovering from childbirth, it is essential to get as much rest as possible.
It’s tempting to use your baby’s sleep times to catch up on chores, but try to have a sleep or a proper rest, preferably in bed, at least once during the day.
Exercise for new mothers
Continue with any postnatal exercises you have been shown by your midwife.
You can also do this deep stomach exercise when you feel well enough:
- lie on your knees with your legs slightly bent
- let your tummy relax and breathe in gently
- as you breathe out, gently draw in the lower part of your stomach like a corset, narrowing your waistline
- squeeze your pelvic floor
- hold for a count of ten then gently release
- repeat ten times
- you should not move your back at any time
As well as exercises like this, try to take a walk with your baby every day. This can help you to lose weight and feel better.
It’s very important that you eat properly. If you want to lose weight, don’t rush it. A varied diet without too many fatty foods will help you lose weight gradually. Try to make time to sit down, relax and enjoy your food, so that you digest it properly.
A healthy diet is especially important if you are breastfeeding. Some of the fat you put on in pregnancy will be used to help produce milk, but the other nutrients will come from your diet. So, you may be hungrier than usual.
After you have a baby, your relationships can start to change. Many women turn to their own mother for help and support, but your mother may not be sure how involved she should get. Try to let her and others know what help and support you want from them.
Your relationship with your partner will also change. It’s very easy during the exhausting early weeks to leave things to sort themselves out. You might wake up six months later to find you have not spent an hour alone together and have lost the knack of easily talking your problems through.
You will both need time alone, without the baby, to recharge your batteries, and time together to keep in touch without the baby.
Your relationship with your baby may not be easy either, especially if you are not getting much sleep. Don’t feel guilty if you sometimes feel resentful at the demands your baby makes, or if your feelings are not what you expected them to be. Talk to your midwife or health visitor if you are upset or worried.
As the mother’s partner, you can get involved in caring for your baby from day one.
In the first weeks you can:
- help your partner to breastfeed by bringing the baby to her or helping to wind the baby
- change the baby’s nappy
- bathe and dress your baby
- cuddle and play with your baby
- get specialist help and information if the mother has any concerns
- provide emotional support and encouragement
- make nutritious meals and snacks for the mother
- doing the housework
You might feel quite nervous about handling the baby at first, but you will get more confident. Don’t be embarrassed to ask for help or advice.
Sex and contraception
There are no rules about when to start having sex again. It might be some time before you want to have sex. Until then, you might both feel happier finding other ways to be loving and close. If you or your partner have any worries, discuss them with your GP or health visitor.
It is possible to get pregnant even if you have not started having your periods again or if you are breastfeeding. It is therefore important to use contraceptives as soon as you start having sex again.
Your midwife or doctor should talk to you about contraception before you leave hospital and again when you go for your six-week postnatal check. Alternatively, you could talk to your midwife or health visitor when they visit you at home or go to your GP or family planning clinic.
Your mental health
During the first week after childbirth, many women experience the ‘baby blues’.
Symptoms can include:
- feeling emotional and irrational
- bursting into tears
- irritability or anxiety and depression
These symptoms are probably caused by the sudden hormonal changes after pregnancy. They are perfectly normal and usually last a few days.
Sometimes though, the baby blues will not go away. This is known as postnatal depression and it affects around on in ten women and up to four in ten teenage mothers.
Some women also experience post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), either on its own or alongside postnatal depression. This may be linked to feeling out of control or very afraid during the birth.
A small number of women, around one or two women in every thousand, are affected by postnatal psychosis. This is a serious psychiatric illness requiring urgent treatment.
Lots of new mothers feel lonely, especially after the birth of their first baby. You might feel cut off from old friends, but find it difficult to make new ones. Even if you have friends around you, it can be difficult to make time to see them.
Ask your health visitor for information about postnatal groups, mother and baby groups, carer and toddler groups and playgroups. You could also ask your health visitor to introduce you to other new mothers living nearby.