Celebrating Post Partum

Little Hilary squirmed out of his mother’s barrel (you’ve got to allow me a little literary license here) a fortnight ago and the joy he brought was ecstatic. It was magical to say the least. He was my little poppet. My adorable little prince. Our invaluable gift from God. Nwa eji aga mba!

When I arrived where little Hilary was, I met him sleeping soundly and somehow blinking his shut eyes as slowly as he could, voila! I did what I had never done in a while. There. And. Then. I. Danced.

The momentary shoki display, even though it was nothing close to what you see on TV, was extraordinary (see me blowing my own trumpet!). Honestly, I am not a good dancer but I hope to learn and maybe get a pair of dancing shoes in a few years time- when I would have taken a few punches and have a resemblance of my humble self jump out. Lol...

Little Hilary was my aunt’s child. What were you even thinking?

In the heat of the celebration, I noticed mama Hilary smiling through pains. She was strong and healthy, make no mistakes about that, but every woman who had passed through this stage would agree with me that post-partum phase is no beans. It is a period of physical and emotional transformation which could be traumatic.

Let’s take a clean swipe at some of the things every intending mother should expect during the post-partum phase.

What to Expect

 In the 9-month period you would carry your small one, your body would go through some rigorous adjustments to enable it comfortably accommodate it and after the 9 months are over and your baby comes, you would experience some of the following:

Enlarged/Painful Breasts- your breasts would grow hard and swollen due to the build-up of milk and the breasts may sometimes be painful but you don’t have to fidget because as soon as you start breastfeeding your child the painful swelling would subside. Some mothers have attested to the soothing effects of massaging the breasts with a towel dipped in hot water. You can try this out or you see your caregiver to prescribe analgesic that would kill the pain if you cannot bear it while it last.

Exhaustion- every woman who had been delivered of a child would be completely tired after delivery. This is normal and it is because she had lost blood during delivery.  You would experience the same thing but do not lose any sleep over it, with time and the right diet, you will regain your strength.

Haemorrhoids- this is also known as piles and it refers to the inflammation of tissues in the anus or lower rectum which may bleed during bowel movement. Haemorrhoids may be painful and irritating but they are not usually life threatening. This may last for a few weeks following delivery but with the frequent intake of high-fibre diet like whole grains, fruits and vegetables, it would die down. Also drinking plenty of water, Sitz baths (scroll down) would help a great deal. There are also haemorrhoidal creams that can help ease the pains and itching but ensure you consult with your doctor before using any, okay?

Episiotomy or tear during childbirth- during delivery, the tissues between the anus and the vagina- called perineum- may tear spontaneously or be cut by the healthcare provider for ease of delivery especially for first-time moms having natural birth. When this happens, it may take the mom-to-be some weeks for the stitches to completely heal and during the period of healing, walking or sitting would be painful. Sometimes too, sneezing, laughing or coughing becomes painful.

Constipation- for the first few days following delivery you might have difficulties emptying your bowel but to alleviate this you should consistently eat fruits, salads, cereals, whole grains, vegetables and also drink at least 8 glasses of fluid every day. Consult your healthcare provider if this persists.

Urinary/Faecal Incontinence- this has to do with the leaking of a few drops of urine or stool/gas in that order following birth. Bladder and bowel movement control becomes troublesome. This is common among mothers who have delivered naturally and it happens because childbirth through the birth canal weakens the pelvic floor muscles and nerves. After about 6 weeks it is expected that this would stop but in a situation where it persists, consult your healthcare provider because it could be as a result of an underlying factor.

Mood swings- due to hormonal changes, a mom would experience momentary mood changes. This minute she is happy and the other minute she is sad and moody. This would pass as soon as she acclimatizes herself to motherhood. If this persist for more than it is necessary it is best to talk to a caregiver.

When to have sex again- this is a question I am sure you would want to ask. Well, to answer that mildly, don’t do it just yet. Your body needs a little time to completely get back to shape and you have to be careful because, medically speaking, a woman could get pregnant 14days following childbirth. This is so because it’s likely she would start producing eggs (ovulating) even before she begins to see her period again. Meet with your doctor to know when and how best to have sex with your husband when the time comes so as to avoid unplanned pregnancy. Family planning is of utmost importance this period.

Your diet- the place of balanced diet cannot be over-flogged. What you eat after delivery will not only affect you but your baby also. Your baby could become jittery, irritant or cry excessively as a result of what you eat while you breastfeed. Ensure an appropriate incorporation of protein foods, fruits, and veggies in your diet. Drink plenty of fluids (milk, water or juice) - at least 8 glasses a day would do.

Where I come from, a mother who had just been delivered of a child is advised to eat more of poundo and white soup (ofe nsala), yam pepper soup (ji mmiri oku), because, hypothetically speaking, it gives her strength and cushions the tummy as the uterus involutes in that order.  Spicy foods like Uda (Xylopia aethiopica) and Utazi (Gangronema latifolium) cleanses the uterus of any left lochia after birth and increases milk production, Uziza (Pipernigrum guineense) - helps to stabilize the womb after birth and Nchanwu (scent leaf) - remedies constipation.

What to avoid

It has been scientifically proven that fishes like swordfish, king mackerel, tilefish and shark contain so much of methyl mercury which may cause abnormal reflexes, visual problems and convulsion in newborns. Avoid them. Eat more of fresh catfish, salmon, shrimp because they essentially contain omega-3 fatty acids which are beneficial for your health and bodily adjustment.

Your child would be predisposed to harm if you smoke or drink while breastfeeding. It’s best to keep away from them until you have stopped breastfeeding.

Sitz Bath

Also called hip bath, Sitz bath is an essential remedy for haemorrhoids, constipation and episiotomy. It works by keeping the anal area clean and ensuring a fine supply of blood around it.

To do this, fill a bowl with either cool or warm water (not the type that would burn your skin). You can add salt to the water and sit in it for at least 15-20minutes. Have this done 3-4 times each day.

When should you Exercise

Yeah, you find your new body depressing and you can’t wait to hit the gym to have that shape back but hey! Hold on.  Your body is too delicate at this stage and if you resort to strenuous activity just to have your tummy flat as it were you might disrupt the repairing process. 

Consult with your doctor to determine when is best for you to start working out or engage in activities to help get back your shape.

When to immunize your child

The place of immunization in your child’s health and wellness cannot be out-placed here. It is in fact the best way to protect your child against incapacitating diseases like polio and the likes. See your doctor for the recommended immunization schedule.

How do you know when your Baby is ready For Solid Foods?

Yeah, as your baby attains physical and mental maturity you might want to try out something different from the normal breast milk or the baby foods but how do you know when to give this a shot. The following tips would help you:

  1. When your baby begins crawling
  2. When your baby increase considerably in weight
  3.   When (S)he begins to mimic every word you say
  4. When (s)he indicates interest in what you are eating
  5. When (s)he can move food from the front of the mouth to the back

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