After the birth of a baby, your body goes through many physical and emotional changes. You may also have questions about breastfeeding or experience bladder problems. Sacred Heart is here to help you navigate the adjustment to life with your new baby.
Some postpartum conditions and concerns you may experience include:
Postpartum depression is a serious illness that can occur in the first few months after childbirth or after a miscarriage or stillbirth. During the first couple of weeks after childbirth, you may suffer from “baby blues” and feel very gloomy and hopeless, and you may have trouble taking care of and connecting with your new baby. With the blues, you may feel moody, teary, and overwhelmed but also simultaneously happy and content about your baby. While the “baby blues” normally last a couple of weeks, the symptoms of postpartum depression can last for months.
Postpartum depression is thought to be caused by changes in hormone levels that occur after pregnancy. Though any woman may develop postpartum depression, your risk increases if you have a:
- History of depression or postpartum depression
- Weak emotional support network of friends and family
- Sick or colicky baby
- Many other sources of stress in your life
Symptoms of postpartum depression may include:
- Fear of harming your baby
- Feelings of sadness, hopelessness, or emptiness
- Loss of enjoyment in everyday things
- Change in appetite and weight
- Trouble sleeping or sleeping too much
- Loss of concentration
In rare cases, women may develop a severe form of depression called postpartum psychosis. Women with postpartum psychosis may act strangely, see things that aren’t there, and be a danger to themselves and their babies. These women need immediate help due to the possible dangerous situations they could put themselves or their babies in.
If you experience any symptoms of postpartum depression or psychosis, it is important to talk to your doctor and get treatment as soon as possible. Treatment usually involves counseling and possibly antidepressant medications. All mothers who deliver at Sacred Heart Hospital will receive a follow-up phone call after they are discharged to determine if screening for postpartum depression may be needed.
If you have any questions about breastfeeding, lactation consultants are specialists who are available to help you overcome common obstacles to breastfeeding. If you have never breastfed before, need help using a breast pump, and/or are having problems getting your baby to breastfeed, please don’t hesitate to contact a lactation expert. They can guide you through the process and help the breastfeeding experience be a bonding one for you and your baby. Please contact The BirthPlace at 610-776-4756.
Urinary incontinence, or a decrease in bladder sensation, affects many women after pregnancy and labor. After giving birth, many women find that they experience a loss of bladder control when they stand up, lift heavy objects, laugh, sneeze, cough, or exercise. The loss of bladder control could be caused by weakened pelvic floor muscles or a stretching of the bladder during pregnancy and delivery. Normally, pregnancy-related urinary incontinence will go away over the next few weeks, but in the meantime, wear protective undergarments or sanitary pads. If urinary incontinence continues after several weeks, contact your doctor to decide on the best course of action.
Sometimes a seemingly healthy baby will inexplicably die while sleeping. Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) often happens when a parent or caregiver places the baby down to sleep and returns later to find the baby has died. Though many parents blame themselves, SIDS can happen even when everything is done right; there is no real explanation for its cause. No one is ever to blame. SIDS has no symptoms or warning signs. SIDS can affect babies that seem healthy, and the babies that are affected often show no signs of struggle and are often found in the same position as when they were placed in the bed.
Though rare, SIDS is one of the most common causes of death in babies between 1 and 12 months of age. Most babies who die of SIDS are 2-4 months old. More boys than girls die of SIDS and most deaths occur in the winter.
Though the causes of SIDS are unknown, it is more likely to occur in babies who are premature; who had low birth weight; who were part of a multiple pregnancy (twins, triplets, etc.); whose mothers didn’t get proper medical care during pregnancy; whose mothers smoked; and whose mothers are younger than 20 years of age.
Though there is no sure way to prevent SIDS, protect your baby by:
- Put your baby to sleep on his/her back rather than belly or side.
- Don’t smoke while you’re pregnant.
- Don’t expose your baby to secondhand smoke after he/she is born.
- For the first 6 months, have your baby sleep in a crib in the same room where you sleep.
- Use a firm mattress with a fitted sheet in the crib.
- Don’t put any blankets, stuffed toys, or pillows in the crib that a baby can pull over his/her head.
- Use thin, firm bumper pads that are attached tightly to the crib.
- Keep the room warm enough so that your baby can sleep in lightweight clothes without a blanket.
- Consider offering your baby a pacifier at naptime and bedtime. This may help prevent SIDS, though experts don’t know why. If you breastfeed, wait until your baby is about a month old before you start giving him/her a pacifier.
- Educate your baby’s caregivers about ways to prevent SIDS.
(Source: WebMD, 2006)
Sacred Heart Hospital offers childbirth education classes which cover topics such as prenatal care, labor and delivery, newborn care, and postpartum care. Additional educational opportunities may be available throughout the year. Please call 610-776-5101 for class registration or to inquire about availability.