Concerns After Pregnancy
Breastfeeding: Women should seriously consider breast-feeding their babies, as breast milk is an ideal source of nutrients and can supply the newborn with antibodies to various infections. Breastfeeding also helps a woman’s uterus return to normal size after delivery. And the contact between mother and child provides a nurturing psychological bond.
Nevertheless, some women dislike the idea of breastfeeding or have a job that would make it very inconvenient to breastfeed. Also, some women should not breastfeed, including those taking certain medications that pass into breast milk or women with certain infections, such as HIV, chicken pox, or active tuberculosis. A woman who cannot or chooses not to breastfeed should not feel guilty, since babies do fine on formula.
If you decide to breastfeed, talk to your doctor about the care and preparation of your breasts. Even though breast-feeding is a natural process, many women can benefit from learning how to do it properly. Your doctor can instruct you or may refer you to a “lactation coach.” Some women develop sore, swollen breasts and/or cracked nipples; if this happens, see your doctor.
Also, talk to your doctor about when you can resume having sexual intercourse (generally at least three weeks after giving birth) and about any steps you want to take to avoid another pregnancy right away. (Breastfeeding does not prevent pregnancy.) You should also have a pelvic exam four to six weeks after the birth.
Postpartum depression: After a child is born, it is normal for the mother to experience a range of feelings. Joy and a sense of relief are part of this emotional spectrum, but it's also common for new mothers to feel inexplicably "blue" at times, which may stem from fatigue, hormonal changes, and shifting emotions. Such intermittent feelings often develop a few days after the baby is home and may persist for several weeks.
The support of family members in taking care of the baby usually helps diminish the blue feelings, and so does talking to other new mothers. It’s also important to avoid becoming too tired. If you feel overwhelmed, you should talk to your doctor, who may be able to help you work through your feelings or can recommend a counselor or support group to provide assistance.
Severe depression is rare, but a few women do become so depressed after childbirth that they cannot take care of themselves or their babies. Depression of this nature is usually evident within a month of the birth. If it develops, the mother and/or father or other family members should seek professional help right away.