By Ojus Patel
Most moms worry about their first week home with their new baby, but most of the worry surrounds baby's health and well-being. Sometimes, mom's health gets pushed to the back burner in favor of the baby's, as is natural, but it's important to consider the mental and physical health implications that mothers may face in the first few weeks postpartum. When you're home with that new baby, your own health and stability will ensure the best care for your little one and what your OB-GYN wants you to know about your first week as a new mom can make you feel a lot better.
Dr. Kenneth James, MD, OB-GYN, from Saddleback Medical Center in Laguna Hills, California, encourages all of his patients to try to be of healthy mind and body throughout pregnancy in order to ease the postpartum period that follows. "I tell all pregnant women," he says, "it is the baby that is the hard part, as compared to pregnancy and delivery, so stay healthy in mind and body and you will do amazingly well."
Physiologic changes and emotional changes occur immediately after birth and being healthy and well can help prepare for this, James continues. "Fluid balance — between releasing all excess fluid accumulated in pregnancy balanced with increased intake to satisfy breast milk production — is difficult on many women, but important."
Cultural, sociological, economic and personal biases come into play when new parents bring home a child, too, James tells Romper. "Many of us do not have family living close by to rely on," he says, "and I encourage all my patients to seek out either friends, family and/ or professional agencies to help. Postpartum doula services are readily available, as are baby nurse services and nanny services."
No one should be too proud to ask for help, James says. "I encourage my patients to seek out therapy in all forms: psychologists, psychiatrists, hypnotherapists, spiritual guides or any other form of alternative healing."
Dr. Yen H. Tran, DO, OB-GYN, from Orange Coast Medical Center in Fountain Valley, California agrees. "I highly recommend prenatal yoga to calm the mind during the pregnancy," Tran tells Romper. "This helps to prepare the new mom for upcoming nights that involve lack of sleep, dealing with a crying baby that needs to be fed around the clock (even in the middle of the night), and the constant worries whether the baby is sleeping and breathing OK."
It's also good to start forming a support system during pregnancy, Tran mentions. Whether this system is composed of other pregnant moms or understanding friends or family members, they can help you to deal with what can be a frustrating time.
On a similar note, Dr. Kameelah Phillips, MD, and founder of OBabymaternity.com, notes that you should regulate family and friend visits that suit your needs, not the baby or your partner's. "Have clear partner/family roles for helping with the baby, cooking, and cleaning," she tells Romper. This can help to alleviate a lot of stress and help you feel less overwhelmed. "Ask for help when you need it and cry as needed," Phillips continues. "It is OK to cry — having a new baby is hard work and exhausting and can initially feel overwhelming."
Dr. Adrienne Zertuche, MD, MPH, of Atlanta Women's Health Care, reminds us that for the first week at home, the focus should be on taking care of your baby and yourself; let your partner or others manage everything else around the house. "By the second week, you can increase your activity a little each day, or take short walks around the neighborhood. As you enter the third week, you can consider driving, shopping, and social activities, but only if you feel up to it," says Zertuche to Romper.
By week two, Phillips adds, try to have a plan to step out for a manicure, back massage, hair wash, or lunch with friend. "Just something quick, and for yourself, away from baby," Phillips says. A little outing alone can go a long way to refresh you.
Dr. Eva Martin, MD, and CEO and founder of Elm Tree Medical Inc., uses the airplane metaphor to acknowledge how vital self-care is in motherhood. "When you're on an airplane, the flight attendants always caution you to place your oxygen mask before helping others in the event of an emergency," Martin notes. "This principle is important in motherhood, too. Taking care of yourself enables you to best care for your newborn."
So remember to ask friends and family for help and make time for self-care and rest. It's especially hard with a newborn, Martin acknowledges, but also especially important.
Parenting is the most difficult, exhausting, wonderful thing you will likely ever do, but the only way you can do it well is if you are taking care of yourself, too. As your postpartum period sets in, and you're adjusting to life with a newborn, don't forget to put on your own oxygen mask first.