Take Care of Yourself After Birth

Pay Attention to Your Body, and Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help

Take care of yourself after birth

"For a new mother, self-care should be as much of a priority as taking care of her baby,” says Michael Straker, MD, Chairman of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Clara Maass Medical Center (CMMC). “As a new mother, you have to be a strong advocate for your own health.” Here, he shares his best advice for new moms.

Eat Well and Stay Hydrated

After birth, your body has gone through many changes and needs good nutrition more than ever. That means a balanced diet with whole grains, vegetables, fruits, low-fat dairy products and lean protein such as that found in fish, beans, chicken breast and tofu. Drink extra fluids if you’re breastfeeding; keep a pitcher of water handy beside your breastfeeding chair or bed.

Have a Support System

Avoid isolation. Be sure to make time to talk to your friends and family via video chat or a phone call, Dr. Straker says.

What about having people over to help? “In your home, you get to set your own boundaries,” he advises. “If you’re not comfortable having Aunt Minnie come over, then Aunt Minnie has to respect that. However, if you know that someone has been adhering to all the best safety guidelines for COVID-19 and you would like that person to visit or to help you, that is your choice.”

Pay special attention to these symptoms:

  • Headaches that don’t go away with over-the-counter medicine, spots before the eyes, swelling of hands or face, or abnormal weight gain. These could be signs of preeclampsia, a serious blood pressure disorder
  • Abnormal bleeding. “If you need to change your sanitary napkin several times a night, or get up and have heavy vaginal bleeding, contact your doctor,” says Dr. Straker. Postpartum hemorrhage is uncommon, but it can lead to a dangerous drop in blood pressure.
  • Intense depression or anxiety, or a fear that you might harm the baby or yourself. Perinatal mood and anxiety disorders (PMAD), sometimes called postpartum depression, affect one in five new mothers, but they are temporary and treatable. CMMC offers virtual support groups for PMAD.
Michael Straker, MD
Michael Straker, MD

Speak Up and Take Action

“If you’re worried about the way you feel, do not let anyone dismiss your pain or other symptoms as insignificant or ‘typical’ for a new mother,” says Dr. Straker. “Nobody knows your body better than you.”

Don’t hesitate to call your OB/GYN with concerns, he advises. For non-urgent matters, CMMC offers a “Warm Line:” (973) 450-2868. You can leave a message and get a return call the next business day.

Searching online carries a risk of getting the wrong health information, but Dr. Straker says new parents can trust the patient FAQs material at the website of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (www.acog.org).

By all means, if you feel you need to go to the Emergency Department, go.

“Don’t put off going to the hospital because of fear of COVID-19,” says Dr. Straker. “CMMC has taken every precaution to ensure the safety of patients and staff.”

To learn more, visit Maternity Services at Clara Maass Medical Center.