You may have attended prenatal classes and highlighted countless pages from What to Expect When You’re Expecting, yet there are surprises you’ll need to gird your loins for that aren’t covered in the books and classes. Here’s a heads-up of what to expect at the “after party”.
“Right after I delivered Lukas, I start shaking uncontrollably,” recalls Jayanthi Ragu, 29, an admin assistant. “I was still able to hold him, but was worried until a midwife told me it was very normal.”
Explaining that this usually happens between 30 and 60 minutes after delivery, Dr Kelly Loi, an obstetrician and gynaecologist at Health & Fertility Centre for Women, notes that it’s probably due to the sudden hormonal changes and the release of endorphins, which gives you the euphoric feeling. While you’ll just have to ride out the shakes, the good news is that these usually disappear after an hour or so.
2) Vaginal stitches
If you delivered vaginally, your perineal area (the area between the vulva and anus) may have torn, either naturally or because your gynae had to perform an episiotomy (surgical incision) to enlarge the area and help bubba pass through.
Says Anna Pereira, mum to Emma, 8 months. “The pain lasted for weeks and it took me a while to get over my fear of pooping in case I tore
To boost recovery and prevent infection, use an antiseptic wash or regular salt baths after every toilet visit, Dr Loi recommends. The stitches should dissolve after two weeks.
“If there is still pain, swelling, bleeding or pus coming from the area, it’s probably infected and you should see your doctor at once,” adds SmartParents expert Dr Christopher Chong, an obstetrician, gynaecologist and urogynaecologist at Chris Chong Women and Urogynae Clinic.
“The C-section scar was smaller than I had expected but it hurt for about three weeks…”
3) C-section scar
Though Caesarean sections are way less invasive today, proper aftercare is still crucial. “The C-section scar was smaller than I had expected but it hurt for about three weeks, mostly when I tried to sit, lie down or make any sudden movements,” notes Kumari Revi, 35, mum to Dhilan, 1.
Keep the scar clean and dry and try regaining your mobility by the second day, so as to avoid deep-vein thrombosis by keeping the blood circulating. You can also use an abdominal binder to protect the wound and relieve pain.
Also mind the womb wound. Pain is often the most common symptom if it isn’t healing, but also look out for bleeding or a fever. “It can take up to three months to achieve more than 90 per cent of your womb strength back, so don’t put any strain on it during the first few months and slowly start building up activities after four weeks,” Dr Chong advises.
Postnatal bleeding or lochia — consisting of leftover blood, uterine tissue and mucus — can last up to six weeks after delivery. Dr Loi notes, “The bleeding should be light, like a very light menstrual period and you might have cramps.” However, see your doctor at once if you’re still bleeding heavily after eight weeks and it’s accompanied by clots, pain, fever and a smelly vaginal discharge.
Four more surprises that may be in store for you…
Those cramps you get after delivery are because your uterus is shrinking.
As big as a watermelon at full term, your uterus can take up to eight weeks to return to its pre-pregnancy size.
6) Mummy tummy
Bubba’s out but that big ole bulge doesn’t look like it’s vanishing anytime soon. Known as diastasis recti, your postpartum pooch is caused by weakened tummy muscles after your midline rectal muscles split.
“It will lessen in the months that follow. However, some degree of separation might remain up to a year after childbirth and beyond,” Dr Loi notes. Besides causing possible lower back pain, it may be difficult to lift objects or do other routine daily activities, so avoid straining yourself, which will worsen the condition.
To whittle your waist, Dr Chong suggests doing muscle-toning exercises and crunches AFTER four to six weeks. Surgery may be needed in extreme cases.
“[Pregnancy pooch] will lessen in the months that follow. However, some degree of separation might remain up to a year after childbirth and beyond.”
7) Mood swings or the baby blues
Some depressed feelings or mood swings are common just after you give birth as your hormones are out of whack and caring for a demanding newborn is no picnic. Corral help from family and friends to help you. But do see your doctor if it’s still persisting even after a few weeks.
8) Weak joints
The hormone relaxin helped to loosen joints and prep the body for a vaginal birth, but may also linger and wreak havoc on the knee, pelvic and ankle joints.
“After I gave birth, I had a lingering knee ache for almost two months,” recalls Janice Singh, 33, mum to Pinky, 18 months. “It made carrying my baby and getting around that much harder.”
The lack of oestrogen arising from non-ovulation during pregnancy may cause transient bone loss, explains Dr Chong. In addition, a pregnant woman may not have enough calcium if she isn’t taking adequate calcium supplements. In the worst case, dislocation or fractures may occur, although these are not common.
His advice, “Stay safe — take enough supplements and do regular weight-bearing and stretching exercises.”
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