After all those months of carrying that precious baby, and all those hours in labor, you have certainly earned that title… and all the snuggle time with your baby that you can imagine.
While gently rocking your little one and trying to master the art of motherhood, however, don't forget about your health.
Knowing the numerous late-night feeds and the sleep deprivation you will endure during the six weeks after giving birth, here are 10 questions to ask your obstetrician at your fist postpartum visit to help make sure that you don't miss any important details about keeping yourself in the best health possible.
1. Were there any issues with my delivery I should know about?
While it is likely your doctor or midwife would have gone over this at the time of your delivery, if you have any lingering questions, now is the time to ask. Feeling good about your birth experience is empowering. Also, if you had an unexpected C-section, now is a good time to ask your doctor if you would be a candidate to try for a vaginal birth next time around.
2. Is my bleeding normal?
It is normal to have some bleeding postpartum (remember the hospital underwear and those giant pads), but it usually starts to taper off a week or so after delivery. By six weeks out, most women just have some light spotting from time to time. If you are having heavy bleeding or large clots, be sure to let your doctor know. If you aren't breastfeeding, your periods may resume around six to eight weeks postpartum. If you are exclusively breastfeeding, your period may not return for six months or more.
3. What can I do for postpartum pain?
Sitting on an ice pack or using a frozen pad will do wonders to decrease the pain and swelling in your perineum. You may also find that taking an anti-inflammatory like ibuprofen is all the pain medication that you need. If you had a C-section, you may require some stronger medications for pain relief, which your provider will need to prescribe. If your pain is more than you expected or seems to be getting worse, please talk to your provider right away.
4. When can I start exercising again?
If you were exercising throughout your pregnancy, it is generally okay to start walking and doing some light upper body exercise as soon as you feel up to it. However, if you had a C-section or a more complicated vaginal repair, you should wait to get the green light from your doctor or midwife before starting an exercise regimen. For six weeks after a C-section you shouldn't lift more than 10 pounds (which is essentially the weight of your baby). Remember, it is important to listen to your body during this time; it just went through an incredible battle and is trying to heal. The motto I encourage my patients to use is: If it hurts, don't do it.
5. Is it OK for me to start having sex again?
You will most likely get the go-ahead to resume having sex at your six-week postpartum visit. Keep in mind that with postpartum hormone shifts, a lack of sleep and a changing/sore body, you may have a decreased sex drive. Hang in there. You and your partner will find your new groove.
6. How important is breastfeeding? Are these meds safe? Can I have some wine?
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the American Academy of Pediatricians both recommend exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life.
Breastmilk is the perfect balance of nutrients for your baby, plus it boosts their immune system lowers the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. Breastfeeding is also great for you—you burn 500 calories per day breastfeeding, making it easier to lose the baby weight.
If you have any questions about medications you are taking, talk with your OB-GYN or pediatrician right away.
While most over-the-counter meds are just fine, you should double-check any new prescription medications with your provider. It is absolutely fine to have a glass of wine; just wait two hours after your drink to breastfeed—there is no need to pump and dump.
7. What can I do to help my constipation?
Constipation is common after pregnancy, but there are many ways to help you go more naturally. Do not forget to talk to your provider about how to speed the return of normal bowel and bladder function. Stool softeners like Miralax and Colace are gentle and safe. You also may have noticed that you have some urinary incontinence. This may continue for up to 12 weeks postpartum.
8. What should I be doing for birth control?
There are many great options for birth control postpartum. You will want to discuss with your provider what your goals are for growing your family, so they can tailor their advice to best suit your wishes. Usually for the first six weeks, abstinence or a progesterone-only method is best to ensure your milk supply isn't affected. After six weeks, all options are fair game.
9. Am I crying too much?
The postpartum period is an intense roller coaster of emotions, and postpartum depression affects up to 20% of moms after delivery. Having a new baby is a huge life adjustment, and you will have changing hormone levels and be experiencing fatigue. You will cry for no reason. You will be overwhelmed. You will feel like superwoman, and five minutes later you will question your parenting abilities. Be reassured, this is all normal. However, if you start experiencing intense feelings of anxiety, sadness or despair that keep you from being able to perform your daily tasks, call your OB-GYN immediately.
10. Do I need any vaccines?
To keep you and your baby healthy, there may be some vaccines you should get postpartum that you were unable to get when you were pregnant. For example, the measles and chicken pox vaccines cannot be given during pregnancy, so be sure to check with your provider that you are up to date.
Finally, remember at your postpartum visit that no question is a dumb question. Your OB-GYN or midwife has been here before, and it is their job and great joy to walk alongside you during your pregnancy and postpartum journey.