As a resident doctor on the obstetric ward, one of my main duties is to see all postpartum women every morning, counsel them, examine them and prepare them for discharge. These are the commonest things women worry so much about and my usual responses:
1. WHEN WILL MY TUMMY BECOME FLAT AGAIN?
My dear, your body has gone through a whole lot of changes in the past 9 months and you don’t expect it to bounce back immediately. Your womb will still look as if you were 20weeks pregnant. Your tummy will be flabby and weak. You should allow up to 6 weeks for your tummy to go back to normal but don’t expect a perfectly toned tummy. Understand that, the womb and the tummy are two different things. The womb is inside the tummy. The womb will go back to its normal size irrespective of what you do. The tummy consists mainly of fat and muscles. To get your tummy back in shape, you should:
-eat healthy foods
-cut down your portions
-exercise regularly (especially muscle-toning exercises)
-breastfeed your baby
But then, do not expect a perfect tummy after childbirth. Embrace your new body while you enjoy the sweetness of motherhood!
2. WHEN WILL THE ABDOMINAL CRAMPS STOP?
You are having these “afterpains” because your womb is still contracting – the same way it was contracting while you were in labour. This contraction is necessary because it helps to control the amount of postpartum bleeding and ensures that the womb goes back to its original size. The pain can become a bit more intense if: 1. you have received an extra dose of oxytocin during or after delivery or 2. you are breastfeeding. But don’t worry, you can take some painkillers to numb the pain or do a hot water massage (be careful to avoid burns).
3. WHEN WILL MY VAGINA BECOME TIGHT AGAIN?
Your birth canal stretches to a maximum level to accommodate the head of your baby during delivery. That does not mean that it will remain stretched forever. The muscles in that area are capable of regaining their strength even after all the stretching. Again, you need to calm down and wait for up to 6 weeks for the natural healing to occur. Your vagina will go back to a “new normal” not as perfect as it was before now. While you’re waiting, you should do regular sitz bath, maintain a high level of hygiene down there, avoid constipation and do Kegel exercises to promote good healing. I have explained these in details in my book #WholesomeMotherhood.
4. WHEN WILL MY BREAST MILK START TO COME IN?
You will produce only a small amount of yellowish fluid on the first 2 – 3 days. This is called colostrum and it packs loads of nutrients and antibodies. With regular suckling and continuous motivation, the mature milk will start coming. Make sure you get enough rest, eat well, relax and continue to put your baby to your breast. Still having trouble? Find out more in my book #NaturesSuperfood
5. WHO WILL TAKE CARE OF MY CHILDREN/HUSBAND AT HOME?
Dear woman, you have just succeeded in bringing another human into the world. You have survived several hours of labour and you need to take good care of yourself first. Invite relatives, friends and neighbours to help you with the older children and house chores. Tell your husband what you need and how he can help. Stop worrying about others while you’re still in pain. You can’t pour anything out of an empty cup!