Postpartum Issues During First Six Weeks

Reviewed on : 20 September 2016

Bringing a new life into the world is certainly no walk in the park and women have to undergo excruciating pain and stress to give birth. The happiness of motherhood however makes it all worthwhile. After the 9-month roller coaster of bodily changes, new mothers might feel after delivery that they are finally headed for their happy place. Unfortunately this may not be completely true as several women face postpartum issues that can extend the challenges of pregnancy a bit longer.

Common postpartum problems include haemorrhoids, constipation, vaginal and perineal problems, soreness, contractions, breast engorgement and vaginal bleeding.

Haemorrhoids

When blood vessels swell up in the rectal area, they are called haemorrhoids. This is a common postpartum issue which can be quite unsettling. The size of the haemorrhoids varies from that of a raisin to that of a grape. Haemorrhoids usually itch, but in some cases they cause discomfort and pain too. In severe cases, they can lead to rectal bleeding while excreting.

Haemorrhoids are a form of varicose veins and it is well known that pregnancy leaves one susceptible to varicose veins, which may be caused due to the pressure exerted on the pelvic veins from the expanding uterus. During pregnancy, the level of a hormone called progesterone also increases which relaxes the walls of the veins and makes it easier for them to swell up.

Usually, haemorrhoids go away with time, but in cases where they do not, the new mother can bring down the swelling by using an ice pack several times in a day. The cold treatment can be followed by a warm soak. One should try to avoid using dry toilet paper after a bowel movement.

A new mother can also try and reduce the physical pressure on the rectum by lying down whenever she can. Sitting or standing for long duration can put extra pressure on the affected area. Their doctor may also advise OTC painkillers for temporary relief.

Constipation

Constipation is another common problem experienced by postpartum women. One can be susceptible to constipation after the pregnancy even if one did not experience the same before or during the pregnancy. Constipation is a condition in which emptying the bowels becomes difficult and the frequency of bowel movements also decreases.

Constipation can occur when a woman goes through a long labour without any food or if she has already emptied her bowels during labour. Certain drugs administered to decrease the pain during labour might also cause constipation. It can also be caused if the rectal area is sore owing to haemorrhoids or if the mother has had an episiotomy.

Excreting regularly prevents the stool from hardening. So one should try to pass stools everyday whenever one gets the urge. Regular walking can also help avoid constipation. High fibre foods, like beans, breads, fresh fruits and vegetables, brown rice or whole-grain cereals, are known to help in case of constipation and hence should be consumed everyday. A new mother should also increase her water intake and consume a high fiber diet including fruits and vegetables.

If the stool remains hard, a doctor might prescribe a stool softener.

Vaginal and Perineal Problems

After delivering a baby, it is very common for the vagina and the anus to be sore. This soreness can be more severe if the mother has had an episiotomy. Applying an ice pack at the affected area can be quite beneficial. Submerging the pelvic area in warm water can bring relief from the soreness as well.

Other common problems faced by women during the first six weeks after their delivery include uterine contractions, sore muscles, breast engorgement and vaginal bleeding. It might come as a surprise that even after delivery, contractions may take place. These contractions are called afterpains and occur as the uterus shrinks back to its original size. They generally go away within 6 to 8 weeks after the delivery.

The immense pressure the body experiences during labour and delivery leaves the muscles sore. The muscles in the arms, jaw and neck become especially sore but it usually lasts only a couple of days.

The third and fourth days after delivery can cause a mother discomfort in the breasts as they begin to fill with milk. It can lead to some swelling which can be managed with the help of an ice pack, a hot shower or a warm compress to make the mother comfortable.

Vaginal bleeding can occur postpartum and usually lasts for 4 to 6 weeks. A mother should avoid using tampons and opt for pads during the postpartum period. If the bleeding is heavy, foul smelling or continues for more than 4 to 6 weeks, a doctor should be consulted. Also if the postpartum mother has fever, severe or persistent pain in abdomen or headache/vomiting, then she should seek medical attention immediately.

Doctors have provided some recommendations that should be kept in mind while dealing with postpartum issues. Sexual intercourse should be avoided till the new mother is completely healed as sex can make the vagina sore. Travelling with the baby is also advised against as sitting for long duration can worsen some problems. If travel is unavoidable, then one must take frequent stops to stretch and walk. In case of a C-section, the new mother should avoid jogging, weight lifting, bicycle riding and aerobic exercises for at least six weeks.

Postpartum issues may cause problems in one’s sex life but the couple should bear in mind that the phase shall pass. Since the vaginal muscles have experienced immense amount of pressure, sex might not feel the same. The couple needs to stay strong and work together to get through this phase of postpartum troubles.

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