12 Ways To Practice Self-Care After Pregnancy - Physical and Emotional
Practicing self-care after pregnancy can seem like an afterthought when you have just given birth. That is because women are biologically wired to care for their newborns even after they have exhausted themselves. Between your new baby, housework, and caring for your other relationships - the relationship you have with yourself is the bottom of the to-do list. In actuality, self-care needs to be at the top of your to-do list. In this article, we discuss the different forms of self-care, some self-care ideas, and why self-care is so important in your postpartum journey.
Why Self-care after pregnancy is important
A big problem that many women face after giving birth is postpartum depression (PPD). According to one study, about 1 in 7 women experience postpartum depression, and about 70% of women experience the “baby blues.” Both of these conditions can cause you to become sad, and because it is so prevalent it is important that you do everything you can to try to prevent it. For some people, who are prone to depression, it is likely that they will experience some form of postpartum depression after giving birth. These self-care after pregnancy tips can help lessen the effects of these conditions - but you should always seek help from your primary care physician.
What is the “baby blues?”
The “baby blues” is a mild form of postpartum depression. Almost all women experience it in the first month or so after giving birth. The labor and delivery process is physically and emotionally taxing, and it wreaks havoc on your body and your mental health. Many women are surprised by the sudden feelings of sadness and moodiness that come after having a baby. They can’t understand why they are so sad, when they just brought a new life into the world. They are so happy, but so moody, tired, and sad at the same time.
These emotions are completely normal and natural - not only are your hormones adjusting to no longer being pregnant your whole life has changed. You are probably not getting enough sleep, your whole routine has changed, and you have a new life to care for. Just one of these can throw your mental health out of whack. That is why your self-care after pregnancy is so important.
What is postpartum depression?
Postpartum depression is a form of depression that comes after giving birth and can range in severity.
Postpartum depression symptoms include:
- Feeling sad/hopeless/overwhelmed
- Lack of appetite
- Feelings of guilt and worthlessness
- Withdrawing from others
- Lack of interest in things you used to enjoy
- No interest in your baby
- Thoughts of harming yourself or your baby
If you are experiencing any of the above symptoms it is important that you seek help.
Physical Self-Care after Pregnancy
Physical self-care after labor and delivery is incredibly important. Therefore, you need to take care of yourself so that you are healthy for your baby and for yourself. If you don’t feel physically good, it can influence your emotions as well.
Physical self-care includes:
- Going to your doctor’s appointments: By attending your scheduled doctor’s appointments you are more likely to catch any sort of depression that comes up and treat it as quickly as possible.
- Taking care down there: After giving birth your vagina is going to hurt - even if you had a C-section. You are going to want to take care of yourself and try to stay comfortable. Nothing will make you more irritable than being uncomfortable, tired, and overwhelmed.
- Eating healthy: A well-balanced and healthy diet is essential to your physical self-care after pregnancy. Some studies have shown a link between a lack of Omega-3s in the diet and an increase of postpartum depression. Make sure you are getting enough of this nutrient. You can even do this by continuing to take your prenatal vitamins for the first month after giving birth.
- Getting some exercise: You probably won’t feel ready to run a marathon any time soon, but getting outside and walking is a great way to get some exercise. Investing in a postpartum girdle can help you stabilize your core while you walk and ensure that your muscles heal faster and easier.
- Sleeping as much as possible: It can feel like you are never getting enough sleep and honestly, you probably aren’t. Your body needs sleep to recover from the emotional and physical stress of pregnancy/labor. Try to sleep when the baby is sleeping, or if that isn’t possible, ask someone to watch the baby while you sleep.
- Stay hydrated: Hydration is essential in order for your body to function properly.
Emotional Self-Care after Pregnancy
Perhaps just as important as physical self-care after pregnancy is emotional self-care after pregnancy. Physical self-care ensures that your body is functioning and healing properly. Emotional self-care ensures that you adjust well to your new life and don’t have too much stress.
Emotional self-care includes:
- Reach out for help: It takes a village to raise a child, so don’t expect it to be something you can handle all by yourself. If you are feeling overwhelmed, or in over your head reach out for help. Maybe a friend can come to do the dishes for you, or your partner can do a load of laundry, or a family member can watch the baby while you sleep. Don’t put too much weight on your own shoulders.
- Not expecting anything in particular: Many people are surprised by how much is involved with raising a baby, and they expect their maternity leave to go a certain way. Don’t hold any expectations of what will happen after your birth, just go with it and live in the moment.
- Doing things you enjoy/take time for yourself: You are going to become inundated with diapers, baby toys, games, and kids shows - make sure you have time for yourself to do the things you love. If that is simply taking a nice relaxing bath then do it. If that is reading a book, go outside and read. Set a little bit of time aside every day to do something you enjoy.
- Join a mommy support group: Joining a mommy support group gives you a place to connect with others who are going through the same thing as you. It helps you to know you are not alone and get more tips on how to deal with situations.
- Use a mantra: Some women find choosing a mantra to be helpful when they are going through a hard time. Something like “this will pass,” “one day at a time,” “I can do it,” or even “I am a wonder woman mama who is doing her best,” can make a situation feel much less intimidating.
- Socialize with friends: After you give birth suddenly every waking hour is consumed with baby stuff. It can be frustrating and annoying to only talk or think about your newborn. Make sure you have time to talk to friends or other adults about things besides your baby. It will help make you feel like an individual again.
Feeling moody or sad after giving birth is not as uncommon as many people think, and you are most likely going to experience it to some degree. Taking care of your mental and physical health can help to lessen the symptoms and stay encouraged in what can be a frightening time period. Eating well, exercising, staying hydrated, chatting with friends, and taking time for yourself will help you feel better about yourself and your new role as a mom.
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