Everything you need to know about postnatal care

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The World Health Organisation (WHO) statistic on postnatal care shows that in 2012, there were 2.9 million cases of newborn deaths. Half of these deaths occurred in babies who would have benefitted from a good postnatal care plan. This high number goes to show that adequate care is crucial for the survival of both the mother and the baby in the weeks following childbirth.

postnatal care

Prenatal care

Pregnancy care involves both prenatal and postpartum care. Prenatal care is the preventive healthcare given to women throughout the course of their pregnancy to increase the chances of a safe delivery. During the course of the pregnancy journey, regular antenatal visits will help the doctor or midwife in monitoring the pregnancy to prevent or identify complications and put measures in place to manage or resolve the problem.

Prenatal care can make the difference between surviving childbirth or not making it through, especially in places with high maternal mortality rate like Nigeria. According to Healthline.com, women who don’t receive prenatal care are at risk of giving birth to babies with low birth weight, and babies with low birth weight are more likely to die than children born with normal birth weight.

Antenatal care usually involves:

• Routine blood tests and screenings to check for high blood pressure, anemia, HIV, etc.
• Checking the baby’s development
• Creating a custom birth plan
• Preventing or managing pregnancy complications for the mother and her baby
• Checking and managing baby’s position or presentation while preparing for delivery
• Most of all, prenatal care offers special classes to prepare you for life after childbirth

What is postnatal care?

Postnatal care is the continuation of prenatal care. It deals with the wellbeing of the mother and her newborn in the first few weeks after delivery. In postnatal care, the aim is to create a safe and supportive environment. This usually happens with the help of the medical team and the family at large.

During this time, the woman gets the needed empowerment to care for herself and her baby. Also, these checks allow for proper intervention should health challenges arise.

postnatal care

What does postnatal care involve?

The first 6 – 8 weeks post-childbirth are crucial, so most doctors will schedule the mother’s postnatal care to alongside the baby’s 6 – 8 week check. The doctor will ask questions and conduct some tests to find out about:

• The mother’s mental health state to determine if there’s a threat of postnatal depression
• Blood pressure to see if there have been significant changes
• You will be asked about after-birth bleeding and vaginal discharge
• If you had an episiotomy or cesarean section, the doctor will examine your stitches to make sure you are healing well
• Overweight mums will get diet and exercise advice to bring their BMIs within the normal range

What you need to do during after childbirth

1. Rest
Rest is important for all new moms. You will need to find the time to rest, possibly when the baby is also asleep. Family and friends can bottle feed the baby while you sleep.

2. Take care of your vagina
If you had a vaginal birth, vaginal care is a top priority. This is because of the wear and tear it has gone through.
To make sure that your vagina is in good shape post-delivery, you should see a doctor about 6 weeks after childbirth. Also, abstinence is necessary, as staying away from sex will give it time to heal.

Report these cases to your doctor:

• Soreness, especially if there was a tear during delivery
• Continuous contractions after delivery
• Abnormal vaginal discharge that may or may not contain blood clots
• Urinary incontinence, meaning you leak urine
• If you frequently soil yourself with faeces

3. Eat right
You may have had to adopt a healthier diet and lifestyle during pregnancy, and if that was the case, then you need to continue eating right.

To make sure you are not overeating during breastfeeding, you should only eat when you are hungry. Your diet should contain fruits and vegetables, healthy carbs, healthy fats, proteins, and lots of fluids. Eating right will make the pregnancy weight fall off with very little effort.

Postnatal care is the follow-up care given in the weeks immediately after childbirth. It provides the necessary support for a new mom to adjust to her new status.

Resources: World Health Organisation

Read Also: The reality of a mum's post-partum body

Written by

Julie Adeboye