The nursery is sorted, you’ve bought huge amounts of adorable baby clothes and soaked up all the information about childbirth you can get your hands on.
But, what about the reality of what happens to you and your body after birth?
In a recent survey conducted by Multi-Gyn and Multi-Mam, 61% of women said they wish someone had told them more about the physical and emotional trauma they could experience post-birth. The reality for many first-time mums is that a lack of education, support and conversation about what is often called ‘the fourth trimester’ leaves many women unprepared for what can happen post-partum.
You may know about the sleepless nights, but you might not know about sore, cracked nipples, low moods and a sore perineum (who knew that existed before labour?). Your feet might be bigger than before, you’re changing the baby’s nappies but also your own and your baby bump hasn’t yet disappeared, but childbirth is one of the biggest changes a woman’s body can go through and it won’t ‘bounce back’ straight away. The biggest thing to remember throughout this new chapter is that although you may feel lost, you are not alone. Of the women surveyed about their experiences post-partum, 49% of women experienced low moods, 37% had cracked or sore nipples and 28% had a sore perineum.
Putting the physical changes aside, first-time mums also experience a lot of new things emotionally. Having a baby, no matter how much you’ve prepared for it in the lead up to labour, turns your world upside down. You might find you’re feeling on top of the world one minute and bursting into tears the next. It is not unusual to feel anxious or tense, lacking in confidence or worried. Becoming a parent, whether it’s for the first, second or even fifth time, can feel like an overwhelming responsibility and it is easy to compare yourself to other parents who seem to be coping better.
To help new mums navigate the post-partum period here’s some tips on what to do, what to buy and what to expect when you’ve stopped expecting:
- Lean on the right people for help
It’s okay not to be okay. The balance of being a new parent and having a life of your own can be incredibly confusing and overwhelming. Talk to your partner, your mum friends or your family if you’re feeling the pressure, chances are they’ve been or are going through something similar. Alternatively, you can talk to your midwife, health visitor or doctor. If you want advice, opinion or just some reassurance it’s good to talk to a healthcare professional.
Doing regular exercise can be a very effective way of lifting low moods and often promotes feelings of wellbeing. It is important to get out of the house even just to go for a walk to get a refreshed change of scene and moderate exercise. If you’re feeling confident to do more, it’s a good idea to get sign off and clearance from your GP first!
- Find like-minded people
Whether it’s online or in-person talking to people in a similar situation or with the same interests is a great way of getting some time for yourself! Mother and baby groups can be a great way to meet other mothers, exchange information and build up confidence about skills like baby care and breastfeeding. If you want some time for just you then you can join groups online, find local classes that interest you or listen to interesting podcasts to give yourself some much needed ‘me-time’.
- Sleep when you can
It may sound obvious, but new mums need sleep. Babies don’t settle into a routine straight away and even if they did, they’d keep you up at all hours. Try to sleep when your baby sleeps, or ask your partner, friend or family member to look after your baby while you try and get some rest.
- Take care of your body
A woman’s body goes through a lot during childbirth and just because you have a baby doesn’t mean you should forget about helping it heal.
Chances are, you may try breastfeeding for the first few days or weeks at home. If you have trouble getting a good latch the result can be cracked, bleeding and sore nipples. Make sure to gently wash your nipples after each feed and use a warm compress to unclog ducts. Invest in some nipple balm and breastfeeding compresses to help reduce swelling and inflammation and promote healing.
Post-birth it can be useful to invest in some maternity compresses to help relieve discomfort. Many women (51%) were reliant on warm baths and 39% were reliant on paracetamol to help with a sore, painful and inflamed perineum post labour – so it’s worth stocking up just in case!
Most importantly, give yourself time. There should be no pressure on how long it takes you to begin feeling normal post-birth; focus on eating properly, dispelling discomforts and spending time getting to know your new baby.
 Karo Pharma, February 2020
 Multi-Mam Breastfeeding compresses available at Boots, Amazon and online pharamcies.
 Multi-Gyn Maternity Compresses available at Boots, Amazon and online pharmacies.
 Karo Pharma, February 2020