The postpartum phase generally lasts for about six weeks. The recovery period would be different for moms who’ve had a caesarean and moms who’ve had vaginal birth. After a vaginal delivery, it would take 1-2 days to be able to go home from the hospital. However, after a c-section, it may take 4 days to get discharged. In both cases, mothers will take time to get back to their regular reproductive cycles. Postpartum blues can last for much longer if left untreated – up to six months even.
There are two main aspects of the postpartum phase – physical and physiological.
The physical aspect is about how long the mothers would take to recover healthwise. This would include going to the doctor for regular checkups regarding bleeding, frequent trips to the bathroom and menstrual irregularities. Infections could develop in the uterine, bladder and/or kidneys. Pain could develop in the area between the vagina and rectum – perineum pain – for mothers who have given birth naturally. Tears would have to be stitched up immediately.
Other common issues faced by mothers include constipation, haemorrhoids and infections. Haemorrhoids and constipation, which are aggravated by the pressure of the enlarged uterus and foetus on the lower abdomen, are quite common in both pregnant and postpartum women.
Excessive bleeding or postpartum haemorrhage usually occur after long labours, multiple births or when the uterus has become infected. After the baby is delivered and the placenta is out, the mother is checked for any excessive bleeding. If any bleeding occurs one or two weeks after birth, it could be because a part of the placenta is still inside the mother’s body. This tissue can be removed surgically.
Mothers must report any such cases of bleeding to their doctors. However, this bleeding is not to be confused with lochia – a bloody and heavy discharge from the vagina consisting of blood and remains of the placenta. This discharge would appear bright red initially and then lighten up over the first few weeks to pink and then a yellowish-white colour.
The physiological aspect involves the mental health of the mothers. Studies show that one in five new mothers experience various degrees of postpartum depression, which is experienced by mothers and some fathers as well. Drastic changes in hormonal balances combined with the new responsibilities can leave new moms feeling anxious or in despair.
It occurs in the first few days postpartum, usually starting from the third day, and can be treated with help from friends and family. Take their help in caring for your baby or simply share your thoughts and feelings with them. If that does not help, do join support groups and consider getting help from a counsellor.
Postpartum depression is more common in women who have been diagnosed with clinical depression earlier in their lives. If left untreated, it can last for six months or more.
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