For all the Ask Dr R queries about getting your self and your life back after childbirth…
- The beauty of motherhood and womanhood lies in the balance
– Losing Baby Weight
Many women look back at their pre-baby clothes convinced they will never wear them again, but there is hope, because most do regain a pre-baby contour within 3-6 months, and some as early as 6 weeks. Taking care of a newborn takes a lot of energy. Energy burns calories. Breast feeding also helps burn calories by revving up your metabolism to provide nourishment for the baby. Most women do just fine with a healthy diet and getting as much rest as possible. If you have a choice between making dinner and taking a nap, take the nap. Order take-out or let your spouse cook. Avoid bingeing on comfort foods-they will make you feel better but they also trigger fat production. Breast feeding moms are usually extremely careful about eating healthy so that the breast milk is the best it can be, and this healthy focus helps them lose the weight they gained with the pregnancy. Also, light weight-bearing exercise is good for new mothers, particularly exercises that strengthen your core back and abdominal muscles. I don’t advise aerobic exercise, which very likely will increase your fatigue. We’re talking weights, resistance training and flexibility work. Postpartum is a good time to do yoga, floor Pilates, or basic gym calesthenics. Even 15 minutes a day can help get your shape back.
– Loss of Libido
The big L. While some women feel more sensual after the baby is born, for many women the combination of physical and emotional fatigue, sleep deprivation and fluctuating hormones flip the “red hot mama” switch to the “off” position. Breastfeeding also suppresses hormones, putting lactating women into a mini-menopause type situation, with a resulting suppression of the menstrual cycle, transient vaginal dryness and a reduction in clitoral sensitivity. When these normal, healthy and temporary changes occur full blast, a woman may feel like her libido has been amputated. Believe it or not, this is nothing to worry about, because it all comes back in full as the baby starts to sleep through the night, weans from the breast, and menses resume.
– Time for Romance
– Welcome to motherhood. And fatherhood for that matter. Parenting is a two sided coin; taking care of the children and taking care of your relationship. Both you and your mate need to remember that your relationship a priority. Children like to see their parents happy, so don’t fall into the “everything we have, everything we do is for and with the children” trap. After the first few newborn months, get your life back into grown–up balance. Bring in a babysitter, get dressed and go out. Leave the kids with relatives and take a weekend for yourselves every 4-6 months. They won’t need psychotherapy if someone else changes their diaper or takes them to soccer practice once in a while. It’s like the oxygen mask instructions on airplanes- you can’t rescue the kids until you rescue yourself. Ignore the cranky-type fussing and crying, because you are teaching them one of the most important lessons they will need to be the best parents they can be for your grandchildren. Some of that fussing and crying is a test to see who’s really running the show in your home. Let there be no contest. Take each other as seriously as you take your parenting.
– Painful Sex
– Before you have a go at sexual intimacy, check with your clinician (doctor, midwife, physician assistant, nurse practitioner) taking care of you. If you had stitches, sex has to wait until all the sutures dissolve. If you didn’t have stitches, sex has to wait until the uterus is back to normal. Even if you had cesarean, hormonal changes may make the vaginal skin temporarily thin and dry with poor spontaneous lubrication. Breast feeding may delay the return of normal skin elasticity and lubrication even further. Sexual lubricants may be all you need to take care of pain caused by vaginal dryness. If that doesn’t work, talk to your clinician about using topical estrogen cream on the labia and clitoris until your menstrual cycle resumes. Estrogen cream, applied in small doses with your fingertip, can work magic on vaginal skin elasticity, spontaneous lubrication and clitoral sensitivity.
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