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7 questions about postpartum recovery

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Giving birth is wonderful, but it also means big changes when you get home with that baby and you’re wearing enormous pads, you’re bleeding, your baby is crying, you’re crying, and everybody is running around. In this Facebook Live event, supported by Music Together, I try to give answers to some common questions about the postpartum recovery period. My main takeaway? Be gentle and patient with yourself, and if you ever feel uncomfortable and experience pain, seek out help. That’s what we’re here for!

How can I manage pain after birth?

When it comes to pain, it’s normal to feel some discomfort or pain after giving birth, and this may be worse for moms who are breastfeeding. When your baby latches onto your breast, it causes the release of hormones that can increase bleeding and cramping in your uterus. There’s actually an evolutionary reason for this. This reaction to breastfeeding is designed to stop you from hemorrhaging or bleeding—it was especially helpful back when women weren’t giving birth in hospitals. If you’re experiencing discomfort or pain, ibuprofen can be your best friend, but I wouldn’t recommend anything stronger without talking to your doctor first. Also, if you’re experiencing more serious pain, contact your doctor.

I feel guilty because my birth didn’t go as I wanted, and I can’t help feeling like it was a disaster. What can I do?

It sounds like you’re experiencing a trauma reaction to giving birth. Birth trauma is anything related to the birth that caused trauma. It can be different for every woman. For some women, it’s a forceps delivery. For others, it can be what we’d consider a “normal birth” but she didn’t feel the exams were conducted professionally, or that a newborn baby was put on her for skin-to-skin contact and she has a history of sexual abuse. Women who experience birth trauma are at a higher risk of developing postpartum depression and more likely to have issues in future pregnancies. It can be really hard for women to deal with because some women feel like they shouldn’t be complaining and feel guilty. We need to do a better job of counseling women on this, so if you feel like something didn’t go right with your birth, please talk about it or find a birth trauma group through your hospital or doctor.

Should I join a mom’s group?

Sometimes new parent’s groups or mom’s groups can be a great way to meet new parents, but they can also be not-so-great. If you are at a mom’s group and you feel shamed or that it’s too exclusive, it’s not really a support to you. If you feel you’re being judged, you should leave that group. You can start your own. This is a place you should be able to show up and just be yourself and not be shamed.

When can I have sex again?

One of the biggest questions I hear either from new moms or their partners is, “When can I have sex again?” or they say, “You’re saying I can have sex again, but I don’t want to.” My standard advice is to wait about 6 weeks before having sex again, and that’s true for vaginal or C-section delivery. It could be a little longer if you had complications, or shorter if you’re feeling fine. You need to feel psychological and mentally prepared and comfortable, and it can be scary the first time after you’ve had a baby. It’s important to set expectations for that first time. A humorous mindset can be good, like, “Let’s see how this is going to go,” and not have any expectations. Vaginal dryness is also an issue, especially with breastfeeding women, so a lubricant can be helpful.

When can I exercise again?

Again, 6 weeks is our standard, but you can and you should be getting out and walking right when you get home. Even just walking is great recovery, whether you’ve had a vaginal delivery or a C-section. If you’ve had a C-section, you might have to go a little bit easier. I tell these women not to lift anything heavier than their babies for the first 6 weeks. But if you were active before your pregnancy, you can be active again. Just be careful.

Will exercise affect my milk supply?

Unless you’re doing something like elite marathon training, it really shouldn’t. And it won’t affect the taste of your milk.

How fast will I lose the weight?

Weight loss after pregnancy should be sustainable. That weight shouldn’t just fall off, and you shouldn’t go on a crash diet. It’s about diet and exercise and making good food choices. If you’re breastfeeding, it’s OK to go on a diet, as long as it’s a healthy, sustained weight loss. Don’t go on any extreme diets.

Music Together is music and movement classes for babies, toddlers, preschoolers, and the grownups who love them. You’ll learn lots of ways to interact musically with your baby, and as you sing, laugh, and learn together, you’ll bond with your child and other new parents. Watch your baby’s eyes light up during a free Music Together class near you!

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