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New mum survival guide

WebMD Medical Reference
Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks

What you need to know about being a new mum

Negotiating the first few weeks of parenthood can be tricky. From breastfeeding to bonding, it’s a steep learning curve on precious little sleep. Read our tips on how to get through it.

Your physical recovery in the first days after the birth

In the first few days after the birth you may experience ‘after pains’ or period-like cramps, which are caused by your uterus contracting back to its previous size. It’s perfectly natural and nothing to worry about. For the first two to six weeks after the birth, you will bleed, not unlike a period. This is called ‘lochia’ and occurs when the womb sheds tissue. It can be dealt with easily by wearing sanitary towels.

Minor cuts and grazes to your perineum or vagina usually heal quickly, but stitches cause pain for up to a few weeks. Your midwife can advise you on how to soothe the area. If you’ve had a Caesarean, you may find ordinary things like getting up and walking around painful. It’s hardly surprising as you’ve undergone a major operation, and it can take up to six months to recover fully. In the meantime, avoid driving and lifting heavy objects for six weeks and do any exercises as recommended. Most of all, take it easy and don’t do too much.


Dealing with the baby blues

There’s also the emotional side to life after the birth. Most new mums experience the ‘ baby blues’ to some degree with symptoms of mild depression, tearfulness and anxiety, lasting anything from a few hours to a few days. It’s caused by hormonal changes, but if you feel weepy and down try to rest as much as you can and find someone sympathetic to talk to.

For some women, these negative feelings can linger. These women may feel unable to cope with the baby, feel anxious and irritable, lack energy and struggle to concentrate. If you or your partner notices these signs, you may be suffering from postnatal depression and require treatment. See your doctor who may recommend treatment to help you feel better.

Talking about your problems can also be a great help, which is where other new mums come in. The first few weeks can be isolating, even lonely at times. Make an effort to get out and meet new mums. Look for mum and baby classes, like baby massage, or arrange a coffee morning at your house for your antenatal group. Leaving the house every day, even though it may feel like scaling Mount Everest, can really help lift your mood.


How to make life easier for you

Sleep as much as you can by learning to work around your baby’s sleep patterns. As she only sleeps in blocks of two to four hours, so will you. Try to go to bed as early as you can in the evening so you’ve had some shuteye before she wakes up in the night. During the day, nap when she does, and take heart - as she grows, your baby will sleep for longer periods.

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