Giving birth is one of the most exciting, beautiful, and difficult things many women will ever do. Taking care of yourself afterward may seem trivial in comparison with the demands of your new baby. However, postpartum care is a crucial part of recovering properly and getting yourself back into top physical health to provide the care your newborn requires.
What to Expect
- Vaginal Birth: You will experience soreness in your vaginal area, especially if you had a tear or episiotomy during the birth. You may feel afterpains, or mild contractions after giving birth. These will accompany several weeks of vaginal discharge called lochia, which presents itself as bright red and flows heavily during the first days after delivery, tapering off over the next few weeks. Bowel movements may be difficult and cause hemorrhoids.
- Caesarean Section: Caesarean sections require a longer hospital stay than a vaginal birth, usually around three to four days. After receiving pain medication, your doctors and nurses will encourage walking short distances to help with the buildup of gas within the abdomen. Many women find walking to be very difficult at first, but gets easier with time. You will also experience some vaginal bleeding in the days or weeks after delivery.
Postpartum care after a vaginal birth is different than caesarean section aftercare. After a vaginal delivery, sitting on a pillow or donut may help avoid pain from a tear or episiotomy. Drinking plenty of water and eating foods that are high in fiber can help keep stools soft if you have problems passing bowel movements. Your doctor can also prescribe stool softeners if necessary. Using an icepack or a frozen sanitary pad coated with witch hazel can help relieve discomfort and pain along with over-the-counter pain relievers.
Aftercare for a caesarean section begins during your hospital stay. Your doctor may administer narcotics like morphine to help with pain relief for the first day or two. After leaving the hospital, you will require as much help as possible. You may receive a prescription for pain relievers. Your incision will remain tender and sore for several weeks after delivery though it will heal gradually and feel better every day. Be sure to get plenty of rest and avoid lifting heavy items for at least eight weeks. Your scar will start out very obvious but shrink as you heal.
High-risk pregnancies occur when your health or that of your baby can be affected during the pregnancy or delivery. Are you concerned your pregnancy may be high-risk? Take a look at a few factors that can increase your risk.
If you're under age 17 or over 35, your pregnancy will be considered high risk, due to the increased likelihood of complications.
Preeclampsia, also called toxemia, occurs when you develop high blood pressure and a high level of protein in your urine. The condition can be dangerous for both you and your baby and usually develops after the 20th week of pregnancy. It can cause swelling in the hands, legs, and feet.
This form of diabetes develops around the 24th week of pregnancy and is usually detected during a routine screening. The problem occurs when your body can't use glucose efficiently. In most cases, you'll no longer have diabetes after your baby is born.
Complications, gestational diabetes, and premature labor are more likely if you're carrying more than one baby.
Your pregnancy will be considered high-risk if there's a developmental or genetic problem with your baby, or if a heart, lung or kidney problem is spotted during an ultrasound,
Placenta previa occurs when the placenta partially or completely covers the cervix. If you have the condition, you may experience severe bleeding during your pregnancy. Because severe bleeding can also occur during birth, you may need a Cesarean section, particularly if the placenta completely covers the cervix. Bed rest is usually recommended for women who have placenta previa.
You or your baby may be more likely to experience complications if you have high blood pressure, cancer, epilepsy, asthma, diabetes, HIV or AIDS, lung disease, autoimmune disorders, kidney or heart problems, or sexually transmitted diseases.
Women who have had three or more miscarriages can benefit from more intense monitoring during pregnancy.
Most high-risk pregnancies have happy endings, thanks to the special care women receive during the pregnancies. If you have an issue that could raise your risk, it's important to talk to your ob/gyn about your concerns as soon as you become pregnant or notice a problem.
1. Maintaining a normal pH balance is important for a healthy vaginal environment.
2. It is imperative to practice safe sex.
3. Vaginal hygiene is another important key to a healthy vagina.
4. Adequate vaginal lubrication is another important aspect of vaginal health.
5. Your overall health also plays a major role in your vaginal health.
Being proactive and preparing for pregnancy can really work in your favor. Here are 9 important items to consider when you're thinking about having a baby.
1. Start Prenatal Vitamins
I recommend all women start taking prenatal vitamins well before they start trying to conceive, and certainly once they stop using contraception. You never know how long it will take to get pregnant. So start the prenatal vitamin of your choice today!
Some very important nutrients, particularly folic acid, need to be up to par during the first few weeks of your pregnancy, and even before you get the positive pregnancy test. If you wait until you find out that you're pregnant, you may miss the window of time where the extra nutrients are the most beneficial.
2. Stop Contraception
In general, there is not a large delay to conception after you stop taking birth control. But the return to normal ovulatory function is not the same for all birth control methods. The exception may be a few months longer delay after stopping Depo-Provera injections (the birth control shot).
3. Quit Smoking
Smoking leads to an increased risk of miscarriage and a variety of pregnancy complications. Pregnancy, if nothing else, should be motivation enough to give up this noxious habit.
4. Get Screening Tests and Vaccines
Have your doctor check your blood work to see if you are immune to rubella. If you are not, get vaccinated. In addition, if you have not received a tetanus vaccine in the last 5 years, I recommend you get one. The new vaccine covers tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis (whooping cough). By getting vaccinated for whopping cough before having a baby, you can decrease the chances of transmitting this awful disease to your baby when he or she is born.
Also, there are a variety of genetic diseases that can be detected in potential parents prior to conception. Ask your provider what tests, if any, can be performed before you conceive.
5. Manage Chronic Diseases
If you have a chronic disease -- including hypertension, diabetes, lupus, asthma, thyroid disease, seizures, or any psychiatric disorders -- you should be diligent about achieving optimum control prior to getting pregnant. Be sure to see your primary care doctor or specialists and let them know you are planning to have a baby. They can work with you to ensure you optimal health.
6. Get Pregnancy-Safe Medications
If you take any medications on a daily basis, consult with your provider to ensure they are safe to take during pregnancy.Also be sure to check with your doctor before taking any over-the-counter medicines while trying or after conception.
7. Limit Your Alcohol Intake
Social alcohol intake is considered OK while trying to conceive. But once you find out you are pregnant, I recommend that you avoid all alcohol intake during the course of your pregnancy.
8. Practice Weight Control
If a mother is obese during pregnancy, she runs a higher risk of miscarriage, gestational diabetes, pregnancy-induced hypertension, the need for cesarean delivery, and other adverse outcomes for her baby. There is no better time than now -- before or while you're trying -- to start a healthy diet and exercise regimen. If you are markedly obese, I recommend delaying childbearing until you're able to reach a more healthy weight.
9. Seek Financial Stability
Pregnancy care and delivery are very expensive, even for insured patients. However, this is nothing compared to the cost of raising your child and paying for childcare if needed. You want to be comfortable in your ability to financially care for a child. And if you are not, I recommend taking the necessary steps to achieve that level of comfort before conceiving.
Due to the complexities of the female reproductive system, women have health concerns that require regular testing by an Ob/Gyn (obstetrician-gynecologist). The standard gynecological test administered to women in their reproductive years is called a pap smear. Find out why you shouldn't put off getting a pap smear if you're a woman over the age of 21.
What Is a Pap Smear?
A pap smear is an exam that allows your gynecologist to view a sample of cells on your cervix. A tool called a speculum is used to widen the vagina so that a swab of cells can be taken and the cervix can be examined visually. The entire procedure takes about 30 minutes. Women also often opt for STD testing at their pap smear appointments.
Why Pap Smears Are Important
Regular pap smears are important because they allow for early detection of potential problems. One of the most common concerns that gynecologists have for sexually active women is cervical cancer caused by HPV (human papillomavirus). When abnormal cells are checked and caught early, they can be treated with simple procedures to avoid future problems. Cervical cancer is considered very rare now, mostly thanks to regular pap smears, and it is most effectively treated in its early stages. Other concerns, like Bacterial Vaginosis and yeast infections can be diagnosed by a pap smear, and treated with medication.
How Often Should You Schedule a Pap Smear Appointment?
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends that regardless of sexual activity, young women should schedule their first pap smear appointment at age 21. After that, pap smears should be scheduled every two years until age 30. After that, pap smear appointment can be scheduled every three years as long as there isn't a problem detected. Women who have abnormal pap smears should take their gynecologist's advice for how often to come in for checkups.
Call Your Ob/Gyn Today
Today is a good day to call your local Ob/Gyn to schedule a pap smear. Don't put off this relatively simple and quick checkup appointment for women as it is an important part of maintaining good gynecological health.
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