Ah, the week after birth. With the trials of pregnancy over, your body is returning to its former state of energy and vitality. If only it weren’t for those aching boobs and perineal pain. Yes, it’s sad but true. The aches and unexpected discomforts aren’t over yet, reveals Dr Sandisa Mafisa, a gynaecologist and obstetrician for The Birthing Team at Netcare Femina Hospital in Pretoria.
Here’s what you might be in for after birth:
“Postpartum bleeding can last for up to six weeks after giving birth,” Dr Mafisa reports. “As your uterus contracts, you will have a heavy period made up of leftover blood, tissue from your uterus and mucus,” he explains. Bleeding is heaviest for the first three to 10 days, but will taper off into a light-coloured discharge. Breastfeeding also causes your uterus to contract further, resulting in further cramps and bleeding. Remember that tampons are a no-go right now. Instead, you’ll have to rely on maternity pads.
This area undergoes much stress and change during pregnancy and delivery, regardless of whether you experienced a perineal tear or episiotomy during your vaginal delivery. You may also have some swelling, bruising or haematomas. “Keep the area clean, lie on your side when you sleep and wear loose clothing. Speak to your doctor if you need medication to manage the pain or discomfort,” Dr Mafisa advises.
Your breasts are likely to become very hard, large and sore when your milk comes in. The best way to manage this discomfort is by establishing a breastfeeding pattern and expressing milk regularly, as this will relieve some of the pressure. You may also experience clogged milk ducts, which cause redness, pain, swelling and lumps in the breast. These can be relieved by expressing until the breast is empty. Apply warm, moist packs to the sore area.
Remember how gorgeous your hair looked when you were pregnant? That’s because your body was producing higher levels of oestrogen, which prevented daily hair loss. Now that’s over, you’re going to lose that hair. Dr Mafisa’s advice is to eat a balanced diet, which includes plenty of protein, calcium, iron and other minerals and to minimise stress. This should keep your hormone levels under control.
Haemorrhoids and constipation
Oh, the glamour. The twin evils of haemorrhoids and constipation come about because the veins in the lower abdomen are often aggravated by the pressure of the uterus and foetus during pregnancy. “Drink fluids and eat fibre-rich foods to encourage regular bowel movements. Haemorrhoids can be eased using topical anaesthetics, suppositories and hot or cold compresses,” Dr Mafisa says.
More about the expert:
Dr Sandiso Mafisa is a gynacologist and obstetrician for The Birthing Team at Netcare Femina Hospital in Pretoria. Visit his website here to book an appointment.
In her 16 years as journalist, Lisa Witepski’s work has appeared in most of South Africa’s leading publications, including the Mail & Guardian, Sunday Times, Entrepreneur and Financial Mail. She has written for a number of women’s magazines, including Living & Loving, Essentials and many others, across topics from lifestyle to travel, wellness, business and finance. She is a former acting Johannesburg Bureau Chief for Cosmopolitan, and former Features Editor at Travel News Weekly, but, above all, a besotted mom to Leya and Jessica. Lisa blogs at whydoialwayscravecake.blogspot.com and lisa.witepski.blogspot.com, and tweets at @LisaWitepski.