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The Postpartum Period

Mom holding baby at shoulder, skin to skin
The postpartum period is commonly defined as the six weeks after childbirth. This is a very important time for both you and your newborn baby as you adjust to each other and your expanded family. In the first few hours and days after childbirth, you will experience many changes, both physically and emotionally. Over the next six weeks or so, your reproductive tract will slowly return to the way it was before you became pregnant. If you had a caesarean section, your recovery will be different from that of a vaginal delivery.

Your breasts, which began enlarging during pregnancy, will be filled with a special clear fluid called colostrum for the first few days after childbirth. At first when your breasts fill with colostrum and then breast milk, your breasts may become enlarged, firm, and painful. This is called breast engorgement, and it should disappear after a few days. Try to persevere with breastfeeding during this time, as breast milk is the ideal food for your newborn baby.

Some new mothers develop physical problems after childbirth. These may include infections, difficulty urinating, constipation, hemorrhoids, or other conditions. Prompt and appropriate treatment can help to alleviate discomfort and treat the problem.

You might feel irritable, indecisive, anxious, and prone to sudden mood swings after childbirth. This is called the “baby blues” and it usually lasts just a few days. Some women experience a depression that is so pronounced and continuous that it disrupts their normal functioning. This is called major depression or postpartum depression, and if left untreated, it can last for months. Early diagnosis and treatment is very important to the well being of the mother.

Nicolette Caccia, MEd, MD, FRCSC

Rory Windrim, MB, MSc, FRCSC