Postpartum Recovery for Working Moms

What to expect

Body Adjustments
During the six-week postpartum period, your body will be:
  • Losing from fifteen to twenty pounds in weight, including about four pounds of fluid
  • Decreasing blood volume by one-third
  • Normalizing hormone levels, urinary function, and intestinal function
  • Repairing tears, stitches, strained muscles, and stretched tissues
All of these changes will cause general body aches, leaking breasts, and heavy lochia flow. In addition, you may feel burning, pain, or itching from the episiotomy.

Warning Signs
After delivery, most women are very aware of their bodies. You'll notice the normal changes. But also be alert for abnormal changes. Call your doctor—don't wait for the six-week checkup—if any of the following occur:

  • Fever over 100 degrees
  • Painful or burning urination, urgency (sudden, strong desire to urinate), and unusual frequency
  • Heavier-than-normal bleeding
  • Vaginal discharge with peculiar color or odor
  • Pain, swelling, or tenderness in legs, chest, or lower abdomen
  • Chest pain and cough
  • Hot, tender, or bleeding breasts
  • Persistent perineal pain with increasing tenderness
What to Expect at Your Six-Week Checkup
It's routine for your doctor to examine you five or six weeks following the birth of your baby. Come prepared with all your questions; discuss anything that concerns you. The examination should include a check of the following:
  • Blood pressure and weight
  • Breasts and stomach
  • Urine
  • Size, shape, and location of uterus and bladder
  • Vagina and cervix
  • Episiotomy,lacerations, or Caesarean incision
  • Hemorrhoids and varicose veins
  • Pap test
Menstrual Period
Normally, your regular menstrual period will return in seven to nine weeks. If you're breast-feeding, it may not return for several months or until you've weaned your baby. There may be some irregularity in your cycle at first, but gradually it will return to normal. Be aware that your ovaries may begin to function before your regular period starts, whether you're breast-feeding or not.

If you do not want to conceive another child right away, begin contraception as soon as you resume intercourse. Ask your doctor to suggest a safe type of contraceptive for your needs. (If you don't want to have another baby, your partner may want to consider having a vasectomy. Nowadays, it's only a ten minute, non-evasive, relatively pain-free, out-patient procedure.)

Sex and the Working Mother
Decrease in sexual desire is a common complaint among new mothers. It's as though Nature makes sure that mothers will concentrate their energies on their newborns. On the other hand, your spouse may feel rejected if he doesn't understand this normal development. It's a potentially rocky period, which may be avoided by talking about feelings honestly and understanding that your lack of desire is only temporary.

Postnatal Health Tips
As you prepare to reenter the workforce, remember that the first rule of postnatal care is: be good to yourself. Whether there's a crisis at work or you've had a sleepless night—after the care of the baby—you come first. Follow these general rules, and you'll soon be feeling like your old self again:

  • Drink fluids—You need at least two quarts a day to replenish moisture loss through hormone imbalance and milk production.
  • Relax—When time permits, or during breaks, or at lunch time, sit in a comfortable chair, turn on soft music, and practice relaxation breathing.
  • Nurture yourself—Set aside time for yourself. Don't feel that every evening and weekend must be spent doing something practical and productive.

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© 2005 by Marla Schram Schwartz. Excerpted from The Working Woman's Baby Planner with permission of its publisher, Sourcebooks, Inc.

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