Congratulations on your new baby! After nine months of weight gain, weird cravings, swollen feet, backaches and fatigue, you’ve given birth. And though many of your complaints and concerns during pregnancy have faded away, you might be dealing with a host of new problems. Check out these common post-pregnancy issues and find out what you can do to solve them.
Urinary incontinence — the loss of bladder control — can be an embarrassing problem during and after pregnancy, but it’s not uncommon.
“For most women, the symptoms of bladder leakage may first start during pregnancy where up to half of women may have temporary urinary leakage,” says Elizabeth R. Mueller, MD, MSME, FACS, Medical Director of Female Pelvic Medicine and Reconstructive Surgery at Loyola University Health System. “By three months after delivery, transient urine loss often drops off significantly (to 10-15 percent) as muscle and nerve recover function. Some women after their first delivery may have a significant amount of urine loss that requires them to seek treatment. Others may find that over time the urine loss continues to worsen. In addition to urinary leakage associated with childbirth, many women find that they are more likely to leak when they have a urinary tract infection. Treatment of the infection should restore the normal bladder function. For most women, exercise and a full bladder increase the amount of urine leakage a woman may experience.”
A number of skin issues are common during and after pregnancy, including melasma (the mask of pregnancy), dermatitis, acne and more. Melasma usually disappears on its own several month after giving birth; however, you can use microdermabrasion, chemical peels and other facial treatments to fade the skin discolorations. Dermatitis and acne can usually be managed with over-the-counter treatments. Consult a dermatologist if symptoms persist for several months or are severe.
Dark, puffy eyes
Dark, puffy, bloodshot eyes are common after childbirth. The fatigue associated with pregnancy and giving birth, as well as the extra bodily fluids that may still be retained, are the leading causes of those bags under your eyes. Fortunately, they will likely return to normal after just a few weeks. You can speed your recovery by applying cold compresses, chilled cucumbers or cold tea bags to your eyes several times a day. If nothing works, grab a pair of trendy oversized sunglasses to cover them up for now.
Discomfort during sex
Uncomfortable, even painful sex is common in many women for several months after giving birth. First of all, you should wait at least six weeks after childbirth (or even longer if your doctor recommends it) before having sex. If sex is painful, it’s oftentimes because of a lack of lubrication. Take it slow, include more foreplay, and use additional lubricants, if necessary. If the problem persists for more than three months after giving birth, talk to your doctor.
Low sex drive
During pregnancy, your sexual desire can be through the roof due to the change in hormones. However after giving birth, it’s not uncommon for things to change completely. Low libido can be due to a hormonal imbalance, which should right itself in a few months. There can also be a number of psychological and emotional factors. Oftentimes, women feel unattractive and self-conscious after giving birth, realizing they may never be able to return to their pre-pregnancy shape or weight. Patience, understanding and support from your partner will go a long way in terms of bringing back your sex drive. Exercise and meditation may also help. If the issue is a hormonal one, drugs may help to balance things out.
Early treatment is essential in treating stretch marks; however, many treatment options cannot be used during pregnancy because they may cause birth defects. Ask your doctor before applying any creams or lotions during pregnancy. Once you’ve had the baby, retinol is your best bet for treating stretch marks. Often found in face creams, retinol stimulates collagen production and helps restore your skin at the cellular level. It may take six weeks or more before you see any improvement, so be patient when it comes to stretch marks.
Hemorrhoids and constipation are common throughout pregnancy, as well as after giving birth. Fortunately, most of the time, these conditions can be treated with over-the-counter products you can purchase from the drugstore. Prune and pear juice are also natural treatments for constipation. For severe cases, talk to your doctor about how you can get some relief.
Many new moms find themselves losing more hair than normal after giving birth. Though this can be shocking, you shouldn’t panic. When your estrogen levels are high during pregnancy, you have fewer hairs in the resting stage and fewer strands falling out. That’s why so many women seem to have lustrous hair while pregnant. However, when your estrogen levels take a dive after giving birth, more hair follicles enter the resting stage and soon you’ll feel like you are shedding. Fortunately, everything should balance back out in about six months after giving birth.
For a month or so after giving birth, many women have vaginal discharged called lochia. This discharge consists of sloughed-off tissue from your uterine lining along with blood. In the first few days after childbirth, it may be very bloody and heavy, almost like a period. After about four days it will become more pink and watery. Within 10 to 14 days, it should be mostly white and very light, tapering off over the next few weeks to a month. If you still have unusual discharge six weeks after giving birth, talk to your doctor about causes and treatments.
Postpartum depression is very real and can be serious. Most often, it occurs within the first three months after childbirth, but it can also happen very soon after delivery, or even up to a year later. Changes in hormone levels, changes in your body, more stress, lack of sleep and anxiety about your ability as a mother may be causing your postpartum depression. Having the “baby blues” for a few weeks after giving birth is normal. However, if the feelings continue or are moderate to severe, you may be developing postpartum depression. Symptoms may include anxiety, irritability, feelings of worthlessness, loss of energy, negative feelings toward the newborn, insomnia, changes in appetite and thoughts of suicide. Reach out to your husband, family and friends to help with the baby. Don’t hide your feelings. If necessary, get help from a psychologist or other therapist.