The birth of your baby may put an end to those many tormenting physical and emotional changes you have patiently endured for the last nine months. But, just like everything else in life, it is also the beginning of another series of changes that you will have to go through for the next several weeks and months. Your body will begin to heal from childbirth, rebuild its strength, regain its pre-pregnancy normal physiologic functions, and at the same time prepare for the physical, emotional, and psychological demands of parenting.

Most of the changes that come postpartum are problems and discomforts, which differ in severity among women. Some of the common postpartum problems involved are:

Vaginal Discharge (Lochia). Few days after delivery, vaginal discharge is seen, which consist of blood and remains of the placenta is common. Initially the color of the discharge or lochia is bright red. It will eventually lighten into pink, then white or yellow before stopping altogether.

Breast Discomfort. About 2 to 4 days after delivery, your breast will start to engorge and become sore as milk production increases. If you are breastfeeding, such discomfort can be relieved by expressing small amounts of milk, either manually or using a breast pump. However, if you decide not to breastfeed your baby, avoid milk expression and hot showers. These will only confuse your body into producing more milk when it is not necessary. Other remedies include wearing well-fitting support bra, applying ice packs to the breast, and taking oral pain relievers.

Clogged Milk Ducts. If your breast is red, painful, swollen, and you note a lump or bump, not accompanied with flu-like symptoms, your milk ducts might be clogged. Home treatment may usually solve the problem such as breast massage, application of moist pack to the sore area, and frequent breast feeding. But, if the condition persists, consult your doctor.

Perineal Pain. Perineum is the area between the anus and the vagina. This is quite painful in women who delivered vaginally due to some tissues that may have been stretched or torn during labor. This can be also be aggravated by episiotomy. Though this discomfort should lessen as your body heals, the following can be done to avoid infection and ease tenderness: Sitz bath; wiping your perineum from front to back after every bowel movement; and oral pain reliever. If you want, you can use a doughnut-shape pillow if sitting is uncomfortable.

Stretch marks. These red striations may never disappear completely, but some will fade significantly over time, regardless of whether or not special creams or lotions are applied on it.

Constipation. Most of the time, a diet rich in fiber and an increase in fluid intake can usually solve the problem. If your had episiotomy and repair during delivery, laxatives and suppositories should not be used without consulting your doctor.

Hair Loss. While pregnant, soaring level of hormones prevents the normal daily hair loss. Few months after delivery when the same hormones are brought back to the pre-pregnancy levels, a woman’s normal daily hair loss resumes. The number of hair loss is not significant and should not cause a concern.

Postpartum Blues, Depression, and Psychosis. Due to changing hormone levels plus the apprehensions regarding the responsibility of caring a newborn, postpartum women can temporarily suffer from moodiness and mild depression called “postpartum blues.” A longer lasting and more severe type of depression is called “postpartum depression.” Treatments include support from family and close friends, and if necessary, anti-depressant medications will be prescribed by the doctor. The most serious condition is called “postpartum psychosis”, wherein the woman’s depression is combined with suicidal and violent thought, abnormal behavior like wanting to hurt the baby, and hallucinations. In this case, immediate medical attention is necessary.

Discomfort During Sex. It is best to postpone intercourse 4-6 weeks after a vaginal birth, or less if you didn’t have a perineal stitch (episiotomy). For cesarean birth, it is advised to wait 6 weeks.

Losing Post-pregnancy Weight. Unless you have had difficult delivery, cesarean section, and other complications which your doctor might have pointed out to you, you can resume exercise once you feel you are ready for it. But remember to take it slow. You accumulated that extra weight for nine long months, it’s impossible for you to loose it fast. Swimming and brisk walking are good exercise but swimming should be avoided for the first three weeks after vaginal delivery because of the potential risk for the bacteria to enter the healing tissue of the vagina.

Although rare, serious postpartum problems can occur and should not be self-remedied at home. You need to call your physician at once if you experience any of the following symptoms.

• Heavy vaginal bleeding or hemorrhage
• Flu-like symptoms accompanied with fever, painful uterus, foul-smelling discharge
• Infected cesarean section incision
• Painful urination, increased urinary frequency, low back pain, and fever
• Painful breast with reddened area, associated with fever, chills, fatigue, headache, and/or nausea and vomiting

So when your pregnancy is almost over, you should be aware of what lies ahead after delivery. The earlier you know what to expect, the more prepared you are, and the better you will be able to cope with these new emotional and physical challenges that come post pregnancy.