Every mother and every motherhood is unique and it might not be an innate feeling for everyone but is a learning experience for all so, one myth to readily debunk is that “pregnancy is such a joyful time of life and that it protects folks against common mental health concerns”. That statement is clearly false since pregnancy is a unique period of time in anyone’s life and the experience varies from one mom to another.
There is no one right way to raise a child, it’s a learning curve, especially for mothers, where with time one learns about her child as well as about herself. A child’s healthy development depends on their parents, especially mothers who serve as their first source of support in becoming independent and leading healthy and successful lives hence, it is important for mothers to remember that they should not be too hard on themselves and sometimes should let things go if they are out of their control while making self-care and mental health their priority.
Giving birth at any age is a big challenge and change and if you are a new mommy, we got you sorted with 7 health tips from doctors who revealed a few things that every new mothers should be aware of.
1. Mental Health
In an interview with HT Lifestyle, Dr Prathima Reddy, Director and Lead Consultant, Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at SPARSH Hospital for Women and Children, shared, “One of the key things that can happen post delivery is that a woman may go through extreme emotional upheavals because of all the changes around her. Taking care of a newborn baby can be demanding. It needs attention, constantly requires feeding, changing of diapers and can sometimes cry for no reason. All these can take a toll on the mother’s mental health because these are completely new things for a first time mother and a first time parent.”
Highlighting that due to all this, a new mother’s mental health can be affected either temporarily or for longer periods of time, Dr Prathima Reddy said, “If the mother is feeling a bit depressed or low immediately after delivery, we call it postnatal blues. This is something that commonly happens after delivery and most often goes away on its own but there is another entity called Postnatal depression that lasts longer. It can continue for a few months. This condition is more serious and it requires attention from a psychologist and a psychiatrist. The good news is that there is treatment and counselling for this and it can be overcome by most patients.”
She added, “It is important for the woman, the family and the partner to recognize this condition and to be supportive and open to seeking help. Though the attitude towards mental health has changed in a big way in recent years, a lot of families still consider it a taboo to discuss it or seek help. Some of the symptoms, which could be both postnatal blues and postnatal depression include crying for no reason, feeling low or depressed, and an inability to take interest in the baby. If these symptoms continue beyond a week to ten days, then it could be part of postnatal depression. There have been a few instances where women have become either physically violent or suicidal. All this needs to be taken very seriously.”
2. Lactation and breastfeeding
Dr Vidya V Bhat, Medical Director at Radhakrishna Multispecialty Hospital, revealed, “For a first time mother, breastfeeding can be an overwhelming experience especially if they face certain issues such as lack of sufficient milk, leakage, heaviness, latching issues with the baby, etc. While breastfeeding is a natural process, it is not always easy. Sometimes there’s a mismatch between what the mother expects and what happens in reality. This can sometimes be overwhelming, stressful and have an emotional impact on the number.”
She advised, “Therefore, seek help from a professional who can guide you through the process of breastfeeding and counsel the woman on the various aspects of breastfeeding. Seek help from your doctor, a lactation consultant, elders in the family or nurse who can help overcome some of the challenges.”
Echoing the same, Dr Prathima Reddy said, “For most mothers, lactation and breastfeeding goes on without any issue but for some women there might be a few issues that they may face. Some of the issues that women may face with lactation are lack of adequate milk, cracked nipples, painful breasts and latching issues with the baby. All these can be addressed with the help of the nurses/midwives and a lactation consultant if available in the facility that you deliver in. They can guide the woman with various aspects of breastfeeding, for example- how to get the baby to latch better, the correct position to breastfeed in, and breast hygiene. In case of lack of adequate milk, we have medications that can help augment the production of mother’s milk.”
She asserted that women should remember that not being able to feed adequately is not something to be ashamed of or feel guilty about. Women who are unable to feed adequately should not be made to feel guilty either by the family or the doctors or the nurses.
3. Regular antenatal and postnatal check-up
According to Dr Vidya V Bhat, antenatal visits at regular intervals are crucial to protect the health of the mother as well as the unborn child. She said, “Post delivery, going for a postpartum check-up is vital to ensure that your body is coping with changes and it helps you clarify any questions that you have about your health as well as your baby’s. It’s always good to take professional help rather than listening to everyone.”
4. Bleeding post-delivery
Dr Prathima Reddy pointed out, “Once the mother has delivered the baby, there will be a certain amount of bleeding that happens from the uterus and this can go on for 6 to 8 weeks. This can happen on a daily basis or intermittently through this phase. This is normal and not a cause of concern. The only time that you would need to seek medical help is if the bleeding is extremely heavy, or if you’re running a fever with a heavy bleed. With regards to the resumption of periods, a lot of women do not have periods for almost six to eight months if they are breastfeeding exclusively.”
She added, “This is known as Lactational Amenorrhea. In some women, periods may return after about two months. Both these scenarios are quite normal. Women who had irregular periods before they fell pregnant, may go back to having irregular periods again. So this is something that you should not be surprised about if you have irregular periods after delivery.”
5. Protein and iron rich diet
Stressing that incorporating iron-rich and protein rich food is extremely important for new mothers for their own health and as well for the baby’s health, Dr Vidya V Bhat said, “Leafy vegetables, whole grains, pulses, fruits should be a part of the mother’s diet. A nutrient rich diet can help you keep up with the demands of a newborn baby.”
Claiming that contraception is very important in the post delivery period because it’s not advisable to fall pregnant without an adequate gap, Dr Prathima Reddy recommend a gap of at least two years before starting another pregnancy so that your body has enough time to cope with the changes of pregnancy and delivery and you have enough time to look after and bond with the current baby.
She explained, “When a woman is exclusively breastfeeding, she may not have periods for six to nine months, but this does not mean that one can’t fall pregnant. Although Lactational amenorrhea (when there are no periods) is a form of birth control, it cannot be relied upon entirely. During the post delivery period, various contraceptive methods are available to women and men. It’s best to seek advice from your doctor for appropriate birth control methods.”
7. Getting back to ‘normal Life’
One of the key concerns that women have after delivery is whether or not they will be able to get back to their ‘normal life’ with regards to exercise, weight loss, diet, medications that are safe during breastfeeding and intercourse. Dr Prathima Reddy said, “Women who have had a normal delivery can get back to doing routine light exercises soon after delivery after discussing this with their doctor. Women who have had a caesarean section can resume normal activities quite quickly, but they must adhere to a few restrictions.”
She added, “There are restrictions with regard to heavy weightlifting and tummy crunches for a specified period of time. You can start with walking and other simple exercises immediately after delivery. Your healthcare provider will guide you about it. Walking, climbing stairs, bending and picking up small objects, lifting the baby can all be done. During pregnancy, women usually put on about 10 to 12 kilos or sometimes even more than that. This would be the right time to lose it. With regard to diet, it’s important to follow a healthy diet which is healthy enough to allow you to feed your baby but also allows you to lose weight. With regard to intercourse, it depends on your comfort level and if you are ready for it mentally and physically.”