Becoming a mother brings big changes in a woman’s life. Suddenly you have a child that needs regular attention and care. Added to the other responsibilities and pressures of everyday living, it’s common for mums to feel they have no time for self-care, and put their health last.
But it’s important to remain vigilant against common health problems women may face after childbirth. After all, a healthy mum is better equipped to look after her family.
With that in mind, our Brisbane based gynaecologists have created a list of common health issues that busy mums should not ignore. We’ve included symptoms to watch out for, so you can stay healthy for the benefit of your loved ones and yourself.
Body Image Issues
During pregnancy, it’s expected that your body will go through some pretty dramatic changes. You’re creating new life after all – it’s no small feat! Pregnant women often fall into the belief that they are ‘eating for two’ and put on a bit of weight.
But after you’ve had the baby, your body continues to change. For the majority of women, the baby weight doesn’t effortlessly drop off. Your belly and breasts might never be the same as they were before. Stretch marks may remain. But it’s important to not let body hang-ups effect your enjoyment of life with your new child.
Speak to a professional if you experience the following:
- Chronic, recurring negative thoughts about yourself
- Constantly feeling depressed and helpless about your body
- Binge eating or severe dieting that lasts more than a week
Be patient with yourself – just because a celebrity ‘bounces back’ to their pre-baby body 2 weeks after birth doesn’t mean you have to.
Breastfeeding issues are common especially in the first few days and weeks after delivery. As your body adjusts, you may experience the following symptoms:
- Painfully engorged breasts – Gently massage your breasts and express some milk to soften your nipple before breastfeeding. Try using cold packs in your bra after breastfeeding to reduce swelling.
- Sore or cracked nipples – Try rubbing a few drops of breast milk on your nipple and areola and letting it dry. Pure lanolin cream on your nipples may also offer relief.
- Blocked milk ducts – Milk plugs may cause a painful lump in your breast. Try gently massaging the area before and during breastfeeding to release the blockage.
- Mastitis – This infection causes red and painful breasts and sore nipples. If massage and warm packs don’t help, you may need antibiotics to heal the condition.
There’s no absolute rule as to when your period will return after you’ve given birth. Depending on your hormonal levels, and even whether or not you choose to breastfeed, your period may return as early as 6 to 10 weeks after childbirth or only after you stop breastfeeding.
When they do resume, it’s common for periods to be heavier than normal for a few months. Painful cramps often accompany your first post-baby period. Every woman’s body is different, so expect that it might take a while for things to settle down.
See your health professional if you notice:
- You’re soaking pads right through within an hour
- Blood clots that continue for over a week
- You feel fatigued after doing just small tasks
- The consistency of your periods is getting thicker
- Your cycle hasn’t stabilised after a few months
The birth of your baby may have stretched your pelvic floor muscles. When these muscles are traumatised by labour, muscle tone is weakened, which can lead to bladder control problems. The problems can continue for some time after childbirth, becoming quite uncomfortable and disruptive to your busy life.
Northside Gynaecology’s Brisbane based gynecologists recommend seeking medical advice for:
- Leaking urine when you cough, laugh, sneeze or lift objects
- Not being able to control passing wind
- Feeling an urgent need to empty your bladder regularly
- Leaking from the bladder or bowel after you’ve been to the toilet
- A sensation of dragging (commonly at the end of the day) in your vagina
After you’ve waited the customary 4-6 weeks after childbirth to have sex, you may feel a bit apprehensive about intercourse. This is perfectly normal – your body has gone through a huge change and is still healing. It’s also common to have a low libido due to exhaustion, soreness and perhaps a little bit of overwhelm at all your new responsibilities.
If you’re reluctant to resume your sex life, don’t push yourself to do it before you’re ready. Talk to your partner and let them know how you feel. You might both be feeling unsure, and benefit from some gentle intimate touching and kissing before full penetration again.
There is a chance that you will feel tenderness when you start having sex again. Experiment with different positions where you can control the depth of penetration, and have some lubricants on hand to reduce any discomfort due to vaginal dryness.
If you continue to feel pain or discomfort during sex, consider speaking to a women’s health professional.
The transition to becoming a mother is a significant and challenging one. As such, postnatal depression is a common, but debilitating condition affecting 1 in 7 women following the birth of their baby. The extra demands of your time and energy can sometimes make it hard to cope.
If you notice the following symptoms, it’s important to get help as early as you can:
- Feeling numb or emotionally detached
- Lacking interest in your baby or life in general
- Feeling helpless, worthless, or close to tears often
- Anger or resentment towards other mothers, your baby or your partner
- Feeling isolated, alone, and disconnected from others
- Having thoughts of harming yourself, your baby or other children
For new mums, we typically do not recommend resuming intercourse until you have had your postpartum check-up at six weeks. However, we do recommend that you discuss your contraception options with your doctor, as your ability to conceive can return as soon as a few weeks after birth.
What to do next
Put your health first. Contact Northside Gynaecology to find out more information about your gynaecological health. Call us on 1300 780 138 to book an appointment at one of our convenient Brisbane locations – Kedron, North Lakes, or Caboolture.