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The five most common postpartum health worries

After birth, a number of complications can crop up and lead to a feeling of general malaise. We look at five of the most common postpartum worries and offer advice on coping with, or curing them.

1. Episiotomy worries

5 postpartum health worries
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Applying ice packs on this area for 5 minutes can bring relief for episiotomy pain. You could also use ice cubes wrapped in a cloth.

Episiotomy stitches: You need to wash the wound twice a day, with a sterile, weak saline solution. It is useless to wash the area any more than this and you will actually be soaking the wound. The same way, washing this area every time you go to the toilet is also unhelpful: you just need to dab it and keep it dry. Dry off very well afterwards, exerting a slight pressure using a compress, or just some toilet paper. Finally, let the air get to the scar for a moment so that it will dry naturally. For compresses, use products that are 100% cotton.

The stitches will fall out by themselves after around 10 or 15 days. In the meantime it’s normal to feel them ‘pull’ a little when drying. Another thing that often happens is that the scar might become more painful. The presence of bruising in this area where the stitches have been made is also a common occurrence after episiotomy.

When you sit down, do it slowly and to the side, resting on the part of your body furthest away from the scar. You can also, for comfort’s sake, use a really soft pillow, but never use anything that’s really firm as the stitches can be so tight that the scar could open up.

2. Breast worries

When the milk first comes down, you only produce colostrum, but around two days after the birth your breasts will enlarge to spectacular proportions. They will be warmer and ache a little. This shows that you are producing milk, stimulated by the birth and also sucking.  If you get a fever as sometimes happens, you can take paracetamol, which will also relieve the pain.

Prepare for problems like cracks in your skin and chaps: During the last few weeks of pregnancy, rub your nipples energetically with a tissue. This will toughen up the skin. Once the baby is born you can rub a little olive oil or some drops of your breast milk into each nipple. If you have already been suffering from this cracked nipple problem before giving birth, when you come to breastfeed, put on a little pomade or specially formulated scar cream after each feed.  Ask your midwife for advice.

3. Discharge worries

In the hours after giving birth, when the uterus is returning to its ordinary size, the mucus that has been surrounding the baby detaches and is expelled from the body along with the blood that escapes from the wound where the placenta has come away. This is called lochia and this discharge lasts between 30 and 40 days. In the first few days, you will notice quite a lot of this, but it gets less and less, gradually turning into a light, yellowish coloured discharge.

Precautions: During the ‘quarantine’ period (also known as after birth pains), you will not be able to use tampons, take baths or go to swimming pools, or have sex. One of the main reasons for this is that the cervix has not closed back down to its normal size, which means you are at risk of getting different types of infection.

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Posted 06.07.2011

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