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Postpartum Care

Healing and Restrictions | Problems that May Arise | Postpartum Depression

Following childbirth, most women will not be able to fully return to normal activity for four to six weeks. Women should also not expect an immediate return to their pre-pregnancy body and should not overdo it on activity during the first several weeks following birth. Physicians recommend that women spend about half their waking hours resting while healing. Speak with your physician about postpartum care and restrictions, as well as problems that may arise.

Postpartum Healing and Restrictions

As you heal, it is normal to experience some vaginal bleeding. Although the bleeding will steadily decrease, activity and breastfeeding can cause a temporary increase. Bleeding during this time does not necessarily mean that there has been a return to regular monthly menstrual cycles. For women who are breastfeeding, there is a delay of about four to six weeks if not longer, although partners should not depend on this as a method of birth control.

Restrictions on activity during postpartum healing include:

  • Resting during half of your waking hours
  • No baths for the first two weeks, although showers are fine
  • No tampons for the first six weeks
  • No sexual intercourse for the first six weeks
  • Limit exercise to light walking, no heavy aerobic exercise
  • No driving for two weeks

One to two weeks following delivery, women who have had a cesarean section should be seen for a wound check to make sure there are no signs of infection or separation. Those who gave birth vaginally, as well as those who gave birth through cesarean section, will need to have a six week postpartum visit. At this time, the physician will check to make sure healing has gone well and will usually lift postpartum restrictions.

Problems that May Arise

Although it is completely normal to have some soreness during postpartum healing, you should be aware of more severe symptoms that may require a trip to see your physician.

  • Bleeding – For the first several weeks following delivery, it is normal for women to experience some vaginal bleeding that will steadily decrease over time. If you see an increase in bleeding or begin passing heavy clots of blood, call your physician.
  • Fever – A fever following delivery can have a couple of different sources, such as breastfeeding. Although if the temperature is greater than 100.4, your physician may recommend an antibiotic. You should not stop breastfeeding if you have a fever, as it will not harm your baby in any way.
  • Belly Pain – Severe belly pain can be a sign of infection. Call your physician to see if you should be prescribed an antibiotic.
  • Swelling – A temporary increase in swelling following delivery is very normal and should start to resolve. However, if you have swelling in the lower extremities with dizziness and/or shortness of breath, have your blood pressure checked by your physician.
  • Clogged duct – A clogged duct in the breast will often become tender, swollen, painful and hard. Taking ibuprofen, massaging toward the nipple, applying a warm compress and breastfeeding can all help relieve the clogged duct.

Postpartum Depression

While it is completely normal for parents to feel overwhelmed and exhausted following the birth of a new baby, it is important to recognize the difference between new parent fatigue and a more serious form of depression. If you are feeling consistently overwhelmed, depressed, or have thought about hurting yourself or the baby, you may be experiencing postpartum depression.

Symptoms of postpartum depression include:

  • Appetite changes - usually loss of appetite with weight loss
  • Being sad or anxious for more than a couple of weeks
  • Crying a lot for no reason
  • Decreased concentration or ability to make decisions
  • Fatigue, decreased energy
  • Feeling agitated
  • Feelings of worthlessness or excessive or inappropriate guilt
  • Feeling overwhelmed and not being able to cope
  • Loss of pleasure or interest in activities
  • Thoughts of death or suicide
  • Unable to sleep, even when you have the chance to sleep, or sleeping too much

One in eight women is affected by postpartum depression. If you are suffering from depression or anxiety, remember that you are not alone, not to blame, and that there is help and treatment available. Psychotherapy, medication, support groups, and diet and exercise modifications have all been shown to be effective in treating postpartum depression

We offer a free, confidential crisis hotline, staffed by licensed mental health professionals, at 866.364.MOMS (6667).

For More Information

For more information or to schedule an appointment, please call 847.733.5707.