Giving birth is one of the most exciting, beautiful, and difficult things many women will ever do. Taking care of yourself afterward may seem trivial in comparison with the demands of your new baby. However, postpartum care is a crucial part of recovering properly and getting yourself back into top physical health to provide the care your newborn requires.
What to Expect
- Vaginal Birth: You will experience soreness in your vaginal area, especially if you had a tear or episiotomy during the birth. You may feel afterpains, or mild contractions after giving birth. These will accompany several weeks of vaginal discharge called lochia, which presents itself as bright red and flows heavily during the first days after delivery, tapering off over the next few weeks. Bowel movements may be difficult and cause hemorrhoids.
- Caesarean Section: Caesarean sections require a longer hospital stay than a vaginal birth, usually around three to four days. After receiving pain medication, your doctors and nurses will encourage walking short distances to help with the buildup of gas within the abdomen. Many women find walking to be very difficult at first, but gets easier with time. You will also experience some vaginal bleeding in the days or weeks after delivery.
Postpartum care after a vaginal birth is different than caesarean section aftercare. After a vaginal delivery, sitting on a pillow or donut may help avoid pain from a tear or episiotomy. Drinking plenty of water and eating foods that are high in fiber can help keep stools soft if you have problems passing bowel movements. Your doctor can also prescribe stool softeners if necessary. Using an icepack or a frozen sanitary pad coated with witch hazel can help relieve discomfort and pain along with over-the-counter pain relievers.
Aftercare for a caesarean section begins during your hospital stay. Your doctor may administer narcotics like morphine to help with pain relief for the first day or two. After leaving the hospital, you will require as much help as possible. You may receive a prescription for pain relievers. Your incision will remain tender and sore for several weeks after delivery though it will heal gradually and feel better every day. Be sure to get plenty of rest and avoid lifting heavy items for at least eight weeks. Your scar will start out very obvious but shrink as you heal.
High-risk pregnancies occur when your health or that of your baby can be affected during the pregnancy or delivery. Are you concerned your pregnancy may be high-risk? Take a look at a few factors that can increase your risk.
If you're under age 17 or over 35, your pregnancy will be considered high risk, due to the increased likelihood of complications.
Preeclampsia, also called toxemia, occurs when you develop high blood pressure and a high level of protein in your urine. The condition can be dangerous for both you and your baby and usually develops after the 20th week of pregnancy. It can cause swelling in the hands, legs, and feet.
This form of diabetes develops around the 24th week of pregnancy and is usually detected during a routine screening. The problem occurs when your body can't use glucose efficiently. In most cases, you'll no longer have diabetes after your baby is born.
Complications, gestational diabetes, and premature labor are more likely if you're carrying more than one baby.
Your pregnancy will be considered high-risk if there's a developmental or genetic problem with your baby, or if a heart, lung or kidney problem is spotted during an ultrasound
Placenta previa occurs when the placenta partially or completely covers the cervix. If you have the condition, you may experience severe bleeding during your pregnancy. Because severe bleeding can also occur during birth, you may need a Cesarean section, particularly if the placenta completely covers the cervix. Bed rest is usually recommended for women who have placenta previa.
You or your baby may be more likely to experience complications if you have high blood pressure, cancer, epilepsy, asthma, diabetes, HIV or AIDS, lung disease, autoimmune disorders, kidney or heart problems, or sexually transmitted diseases.
Women who have had three or more miscarriages can benefit from more intense monitoring during pregnancy.
Most high-risk pregnancies have happy endings, thanks to the special care women receive during the pregnancies. If you have an issue that could raise your risk, it's important to talk to your ob/gyn about your concerns as soon as you become pregnant or notice a problem.
Due to the complexities of the female reproductive system, women have health concerns that require regular testing by an Ob/Gyn (obstetrician-gynecologist). The standard gynecological test administered to women in their reproductive years is called a pap smear. Find out why you shouldn't put off getting a pap smear if you're a woman over the age of 21.
What Is a Pap Smear?
A pap smear is an exam that allows your gynecologist to view a sample of cells on your cervix. A tool called a speculum is used to widen the vagina so that a swab of cells can be taken and the cervix can be examined visually. The entire procedure takes about 30 minutes. Women also often opt for STD testing at their pap smear appointments.
Why Pap Smears Are Important
Regular pap smears are important because they allow for early detection of potential problems. One of the most common concerns that gynecologists have for sexually active women is cervical cancer caused by HPV (human papillomavirus). When abnormal cells are checked and caught early, they can be treated with simple procedures to avoid future problems. Cervical cancer is considered very rare now, mostly thanks to regular pap smears, and it is most effectively treated in its early stages. Other concerns, like Bacterial Vaginosis and yeast infections can be diagnosed by a pap smear, and treated with medication.
How Often Should You Schedule a Pap Smear Appointment?
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends that regardless of sexual activity, young women should schedule their first pap smear appointment at age 21. After that, pap smears should be scheduled every two years until age 30. After that, pap smear appointment can be scheduled every three years as long as there isn't a problem detected. Women who have abnormal pap smears should take their gynecologist's advice for how often to come in for checkups.
Call Your Ob/Gyn Today
Today is a good day to call your local Ob/Gyn to schedule a pap smear. Don't put off this relatively simple and quick checkup appointment for women as it is an important part of maintaining good gynecological health.
Preconception counseling is an important step in pregnancy planning. When you are ready to have become pregnant, it is a good idea to schedule an appointment with your obstetrician or gynecologist first. There are specific questions your doctor will ask that can help you determine if you are truly ready to get pregnant. If you decide that it is the right time to conceive, your doctor can advise you on what things you can do now to improve your chances of conceiving, as well as how to prepare for pregnancy.
Preconception counseling is an excellent time to discuss any specific concerns you have with your doctor. For instance, having certain health conditions, such as diabetes, can potentially impact your health and the baby’s during pregnancy. Being older when pregnant, particularly in your mid to late 30s or even 40s, poses additional risks as well. There are many factors to take into account when deciding to become pregnant. Your doctor can assess your specific situation and make recommendations to help you have the healthiest pregnancy possible.
During your preconception counseling appointment, your doctor will discuss a variety of concerns with you and your partner, if you have one. Topics of discussion can include:
- Hereditary conditions that might be inherited by the baby
- Health conditions and concerns of the mother-to-be
- Maintaining a balanced and healthy diet
- Safe exercises for pregnancy
- Cessation of tobacco products, alcohol and other drugs
- Important immunizations for both mother and child
- Ways for the partner to be supportive during pregnancy
- Any other concerns the patient, partner or doctor might have
Seeing a doctor regularly throughout pregnancy is always important. It is also just as important to schedule time with your doctor to discuss various concerns before becoming pregnant. Preconception counseling can help you achieve optimal health for you and your baby throughout your pregnancy.
When it comes to preventing pregnancy, there are many options available today. Common birth control methods for women include oral contraceptives, intrauterine devices and Depo-Provera injections. However, contraception isn’t one size fits all and, depending on your personal situation and family planning objectives, one birth control method might be better for you than another. Your OBGYN can help you decide which type of contraception is best for you.
Types of Contraception
Oral contraceptives, otherwise known as birth control pills, are a popular contraception choice among women of different ages. Many women prefer birth control pills because they are easy to use, as simple as taking one pill daily. Birth control pills also help regulate the menstrual cycle and can ease menstrual camps, both advantages appreciated by many women on the pill. Another advantage of birth control pills is that their effects are easily reversed when you are ready to try conceiving.
Birth control pills are a convenient option for many women. However, they are not a good fit for women who have or have had certain types of hormone positive cancers. Most birth control pills contain estrogen, progestin or both and are not suitable for women unable to use hormone treatments or therapies. This is particularly true for women who must avoid estrogen-based therapies.
Depo-Provera is another popular type of contraception. Depo-Provera is an injection that is administered every three months by a nurse or other healthcare professional. For women who worry about forgetting to take oral contraceptives daily, a tai-monthly injection like Depo-Provera offers a convenient and practical alternative. Injections like Depo-Provera typically contain the hormone progestin, but not estrogen, so it can be an option for women who avoiding contraception methods with estrogen.
A third type of contraception is the intrauterine device. This option is popular among women who do not want to worry about their contraception daily or even every few months and who do not plan on becoming pregnant for several years. The intrauterine device is placed in the uterus by your doctor and remains in place for anywhere from three to five years, during which time pregnancy is prevented. The device can only be removed by your doctor.
The different types of contraception available to women each has its own advantages and benefits. Discuss your needs and preferences with your gynecologist or OGBYN. Your doctor can help you choose the method of contraception that is right for you and your situation.
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