During pregnancy most women tend to ask family members and those close to them who have children on what to expect after giving birth, but the truth is not all people have the same experience.
Some of the changes that women experince might seem alarming especially for first time mothers. There are things that once they occur they need quick medical attention but others can be overcomed with time.
What to expect
Speaking to Your Health, Dr Emmanuel Mduma, a medical doctor at Arusha Lutheran Medical Centre (ALMC) said there are changes that occurs during the first six weeks after giving birth, which are very common and that a new mother should not be worried.
According to him, for a woman who has just given birth, one thing to expect is vaginal discharge, commonly known as ‘lochia’ which contains blood mucus and uterine tissue.
“During the first few days the discharge is normally redish and as days pass it gets thinner and becomes brownish or pinkish and finally at the end it turns to yellowish white, this is perfectly normal and should be expected.
Another thing Dr Mduma explains is vaginal soreness and sometime a tear, which might either require stitches or if very minimal, left alone to heal with time, adding that antibiotic will be provided for those with stitches.
“Most women tend to use ice or warm water to reduce soreness but those with stiches should avoid this. The most important thing is to maintain cleanliness to avoid bacterial infections,” he said.
Afterbirth or adnominal pain should also be expected because after carrying the baby for nine month the uterus will need to contract and return to its normal size.
Tenderness of the breasts and painful nipples are something the first time mother will have to expect and bear.
In addition, Dr Mduma further explained that for those women who experience hormonal changes during pregnancy that cause dark spots, they tend to disappear during the postpartum period.
Some women also experience urine incontinence. This urine leakage occurs when one sneezes, laughs or jumps and this happens during child birth when pushing the baby, which weakens the pelvic floor muscle due to the use of force.
“The pelvic floor muscles tends to strengthen with time and give a better bladder control. Kegel exercises should be done to give the muscle better strength,” explained Dr Mduma.
Kegel exercises, according to Mayo Clinic, can help you prevent or control urinary incontinence and other pelvic floor problems. These exercises strengthen the pelvic floor muscles, which support the uterus, bladder, small intestine and rectum.
To identify your pelvic floor muscles, stop urination in midstream. If you succeed, you’ve got the right muscles. Tighten your pelvic floor muscles, hold the contraction for five seconds, and then relax for five seconds.
Try it four or five times in a row. Work up to keeping the muscles contracted for 10 seconds at a time, relaxing for 10 seconds between contractions.
What not to overlook
One of the issues that is overlooked is postpartum depression or mood change causing a woman to be emotional, depressed and anxious.
Dr Mduma says, “Mothers suffering from postpartum depression need a lot of support from family members and those close to them to help them not to feel isolated”.
This all should be expected by any women after birth, says Dr Mduma.
But there are things that once they occur, immediate medical attention is normally required.
“One major cause of concern is postpartum haemorrhage, which is an excessive loss of blood within the 24 hours after delivering, as well as puss discharge for those with stitches and caesarian section,”,he said.
Furthermore he also cautioned of postpartum preeclampsia a pregnancy complication characterised by high blood pressure and signs of damage to another organ system, most often the liver and kidneys, the signs for this are severe headache, pressure as well as dizziness.
“If not treated earlier it develops to postpartum eclampsia and seizures which can permanently damage the brain, eyes, kidney and liver,” Dr Mduma cautions.
The right nutrition
Postpartum care does not only involve body and mind, but also healthy eating habits should be adapted.
Doreen Kasubi a nutritionist based in Dar es Salaam tells Your Health that the most important thing after giving birth is eating a balanced diet to regain nutrients as well as being able to produce enough milk for the baby.
“Whatever the mother eats determines what the baby will be receiving in his milk, failure to eat enough food, the mother will not be able to produce enough milk to sustain the baby,” says Doreen.
Lack of balanced diet can cause the mother to have low blood count and hence lowers the immunity making the mother prone to diseases.
“During this period, a large consumption of sugar and fats should be avoided, but light exercise should be encouraged to strengthen the body,” she said.
Speaking of exercises, Buneventure Prosperia, a fitness and nutrition consultant based in Dar es Salaam says during the 40 first days after giving birth, heavy lifting should be avoided and the body should be allowed to rest.
“The body requires rest because it has undergone stress. All that needs to be done are light exercise sand progress as the days go on to tighten the body,” Prosperia advises.