Your Life as a Parent: An Emotional Rollercoaster!

After giving birth, you might feel a mixture of happiness, pain, and exhaustion. Your emotions may be heightened by stress and hormonal changes. You’re also getting used to some new routines: feeding, changing diapers, and putting your baby to sleep. Plus, you may be getting much less sleep now than you’re used to. Know that you’re not the first or last parent to feel overwhelmed at this time, and it can be natural to cry. However, if you feel severe feelings of sadness, emptiness, apathy, or despair, you may have postpartum depression. Let your healthcare provider know how you are feeling, because there is help available.

Physical recovery after giving birth — whether vaginally or via a cesarean section — takes time. Here are some of the physical effects to expect around this time:

Bleeding. You’ll shed the blood and tissues that lined the uterus (this vaginal discharge is known as lochia). Initially the bleeding may be heavy, but it will lighten over the next few weeks. Contact your healthcare provider if you bleed through two pads in an hour, for two hours in a row.

Uterine contractions. For about 10 days after giving birth, you may experience afterbirth pains as your uterus shrinks back to its normal size.

Perineal pain. When you give birth vaginally, the skin between your vagina and anus — the area known as the perineum — stretches so that your baby’s head can fit through. Sometimes this skin tears and will either heal on its own or require stitches. To help ease the swelling and pain, you can apply cold packs to the area; you can also try sitting on a soft pillow.

Stretched abdomen. In the days after you give birth, your tummy may still look pregnant, as the abdominal muscles don’t snap back right away. Give your body plenty of time to recover, and always ask your healthcare provider before starting to exercise.

Constipation. It may be tricky to have a bowel movement in the first few days after giving birth. You might be afraid of the pain or have sluggish bowels due to pain medication or simply because you didn’t eat during labor. Ask your healthcare provider for advice on what to do. Drinking more water and eating high-fiber foods might help.

Feeling tired. This is probably no surprise given the huge job you’ve done both physically and emotionally. You’ll need some time for your energy levels to recover. In the meantime, ask for help with any household chores or tasks, limit visitors, and sleep when your baby sleeps.

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