From hair loss to soreness down there, we help you handle 7 common new-mom complaints. Plus our amazing fat-blasting ab workout.
YOU’VE FINALIZED EVERY DETAIL OF YOUR BIRTHING PLAN, from choosing which CDs will help you relax to deciding whether you want an epidural to ease your pain. But have you thought about how you’ll cope after your baby is born? “New moms often are surprised by how long it takes to heal and feel like themselves again,” says Judy Chang, M.D., an assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. “I know I was.” But knowledge is power: Knowing what to expect when you’re no longer pregnant and how to rev up your recovery will help you through this vulnerable__but mercifully temporary !–time. And once you’re feeling more like your old self, it may be time to look like her too. That’s where our gentle, progressive workout to strengthen and flatten your abdominal muscles comes in. Here’s our guide to handling some of the most common postpartum body shocks, and, as a bonus, our supper effective ab routine to begin when you’re ready.
By Jacqueline Stenson Workout by Ten Hanson Photography by Ted & Debbie
1) VAGINAL SORENESS
Why it happens During delivery, the birth canal stretches, then stretches some more. As the baby emerges, your peri-neumthe area between the vagina and the anusmay rear or be cut by the doctor (an episiotomy) to facilitate delivery.
Feel-better advice Apply ice packs to reduce inflammation and swelling, says Allay Murtha, M.D., an assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Duke University Hospital in Durham, N.C. Take a site bath (sit in a tub filled with a fesv inches of warm water) a few times a day, use refrigerated Tucks pads, and try anesthetic sprays containing a numbing agent such as benzocaine (often offered at the hospital and available at drugstores too). Taking pain relievers such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen also can ease discomfort. While urinating, squirt your perineum with warm water to lessen stinging. When sitting, using a “donut”– a round cushion with a hole in the middlecan take pressure off this sensitive area.
2) VAGINAL BLEEDING
Why it happens The uterine lining thickens enormously during pregnancy. After delivery, the lining is shed along with a bloody discharge, together known as lochia.
Feel-better advice Bleeding for several days to a few weeks is normal, explains Murtha, but it should stop by your six-week checkup. Wear pads, since tampons raise the risk of infection at this time Consult your doctor if you are soaking a pad or more an hour; this may be a sign of postpartum hemorrhage. Also seek medical attention if the bleeding slows down a few weeks after delivery and then suddenly increases.
What is a diastasis?
Diastasis is a separation of the abdominal muscles that some-times occurs during or after pregnancy. To check for it, lie on your back with your knees bent, feet flat on the floor. Place your fingers I to 2 inches above or below your belly button. Lift just your head off the floor, keeping your ab muscles relaxed, and if you feel a vertical separation the width of three fingers or more, that’s a diastasis. If you feel a large separation, don’t be alarmed. Just remember to draw your navel in toward your spine when doing any lifting or ab exercises; this will protect your lower back. Also, avoid any large listing movements, which can exacerbate the condition, until the separation has diminished.
0 percenfof new moms eitperience- :a .y.1 . early days “childbirth. “They feel like PMS symptomsm irritability, crying,” says Victoria Hendrick, M.D., an associate professor of psychiatry at the University of California, Los Angeles, Medical Center. This is norrnaL If symptoms are severe and persist for more than a couple of weeks, u may have postpartum depression, a more serious condition that s12 percent to 14 percent of new mothers. Red flags include loss of (west in daily activities, difficulty concentrating, inability to sleep, eating too little or too much, feeling worthless, and having little interest in the baby. Talk with your doctor immediately if you experience any of these symptoms. Treatments including antidepressant medication, psychotherapy and support groups can help Immensely.
3) CESAREAN-SECTION PAIN
Why it happens A C-section is major surgery that involves cutting through several layers of tissue in the abdomen and spreading the abdominal muscles apart.
Feel-better advice Take your prescribed pain medicine as directed at the first sign of discomfort it’s safe, even if you’re nursing. “It is so much easier to prevent pain than it is as catch up with it,” explains Chang. Minimizing discomfort also will encourage moving about, which can reduce your milk for developing blood clots and relieve post-surgery gas pains.
To get out of bed during the first couple of weeks:Place your legs over rile edge, allowing gravity to help out:wait a few seconds, then use your arms to push yourself up.(You’ll become familiar with this technique in your third trimister. ) While the incision heals, keep it clean and dry, and report bleeding, swelling or unusual redness to your doctor.
Why it happens The stress of pregnancy and pushing during delivery can weaken the pelvic floor, allowing urine to “leak”.
Feel-better advice Realize that incontinence is common. but also that it often resolves within six months to a year. If you leak a lot of urine, wear a pad. Avoid caffeine, and to keep your bladder from getting too full, head to the bathroom as soon as you feel the urge to go.
Kegel exercises can help prevent incontinence by strengthening the pelvic floor, notes certified Pilates instructor Jennifer Gianni, creator of the Fusion Pilaies Post-Pregnancy & C-section Recoray DVD (fusionpilates.com). Contract the muscles around the vagina as if you’re stopping the flow of urine; hold for 10 seconds, breathing normally, then slowly release. Aim to do 10 to 20 Kegels a few times a day. If incontinence lasts several months, consult your doctor.
WHAT IT IS,WHAT IS ISN’T
Up to 80 percent of new moms experience “baby blues” in he early days after childbirth. “They feel like PMS symptoms–moodiness,irritability,crying,” says Victoria Hendrick,M.D., an associate professor of psychiatry at the University of California,Los Angeles, Medical Center,This is normal. If symptoms are severe and persist for more than a couple of weeks, you may have postpartum depression, a more serious condition that affects 12 percent to l4 percent of new mothers. Red flags includes the loss of interest in daily activities,difficulty concetration,inability to sleep,eating too little or too much ,feeling worthless, and having interest in the baby, Talk to your doctor immediately if you experience any of these symptoms,Treatments including antidepressant medication,psychotherapy and support group can help immidiately.
Why it happens C-section surgery can temporarily slow the bowels, as can the use of narcotic pain relievers such as Vicodin. Women who’ve had vaginal deliveries may become constipated if they hold hack during bowel movements out of fear of pain.
Feel-better advice Eat a fiber-rich diet and drink eight 8- ounce glasses of water a day to keep bowel movements regular. You also can ask your OB-GYN to prescribe stool softeners.
6) HAIR LOSS
Why it happens When you’re pregnant, your body is in growth mode, and that includes your hair. But those thick tresses will start shedding by six to 16 weeks after childbirth as your hormone levels fluctuate, says Andrea Cambio, M.D., a New York City dermatologist and a spokeswoman for the American Academy of Dermatology.
Feel-better advice Rest assured that your hair won’t be clogging the shower drain forever: the shedding ends by six months after you give birth. In the meantime, adding layers or highlights can help your locks look fuller, Cambio says.
Why it happens During pregnancy. constipation and pressure from the uterus on the rectum can cause varicose veins here. So can pushing during delivery.
Feel-better advice Take a site or a tub bath to ease the itching and pain, advises Susan Harvey, M.D., an OB-GYN Swedish Medical Center in Seattle. Cold compresses soaked in witch hazel can help decrease swelling and discomfort, as can anti-inflammatory hemorrhoid creams. Try to avoid constipation, since straining also can lead to hemorrhoids.