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Postpartum

As a woman with already thick hair I don’t look forward to those luscious locks bestowed on women during pregnancy. My already thick hair does not look pretty when it gets thicker, it just isn’t a good look for me. Not to mention the crazy growth spurt pregnant hair often goes through. By the end of nine months I has more than my fair share of hair, way more than my fair share. Then the postpartum hair loss started, yikes what a mess.

For women with thin hair, looking to add a little body, the changes that take place with your hair during pregnancy can be a blessing. Those longer, fuller locks can be beautiful. For those with already thick hair, not so much.

So what exactly causes those longer, fuller locks during pregnancy? A normal cycle for hair when you are not pregnant is to grow approximately 1/2 inch a month for 2-6 years at which point it enters the “resting” phase where it doesn’t grow for 2-3 months and then finally it falls out. Everyone loses hair continuously.  During pregnancy the rate of hair growth often increases and hair remains in the resting phase longer than normal. The rate at which a pregnant woman loses hair slows causing her hair to become thicker and since it is growing faster it also gets longer.

But, all good things must come to an end. Once the pregnancy is over the hair begins to return to a more normal cycle. The rate of growth slows and all that hair that was in the resting phase begins to fall out. Hence the large quantities of hair that fall out after you deliver the baby.  Most women will experience this increased hair loss immediately after giving birth.  You will continue to lose hair in large quantities for several months. Most women experience the most significant hair loss during the 3rd month postpartum. Some women do experience some thinning of the hair before their hair returns to it’s normal growth/fall out cycle.

My hair, as I mentioned is extremely thick at the best of times, and grows fairly quickly. However, during pregnancy it goes to a whole new level. My hair grew over 6 inches in 5 months and got so thick I could barely wrap a hair elastic around my ponytail twice! The quantity of hair that gathers in the bathtub when I have a shower is scary. It literally looks like I’ve killed a small animal, gross! I’ll be glad when the hair loss slows, although it can keep falling out all it wants since I still have way too much hair for my liking.

If you are at all concerned about how much hair your are losing or you are getting bald patches be sure to discuss your symptoms with your doctor. Hair loss is normal during postpartum, but if you are losing to much hair it could be sign that something else is going on.

 

Having a baby can be rough on your body, any woman who has been through labor and delivery (either vaginal or c-section) will agree with that.  Between the hormones, the tearing and inevitable stitches, hemorrhoids, and lack of sleep you will find it takes you a while to get back on your feet.  Taking the time to rest and recover is important.  However, being the mother to a helpless little newborn means spending a lot of time taking care of their needs and a lot of time forgetting about your own needs.  Even though there is something so much more important to think about remember to take the time to think about yourself, especially in those first few weeks postpartum.

Although, (thankfully) postpartum complications are rare they do occur.  Being on top of things and aware of what is going on with your body is important.  Knowing when things seem amiss and when you should be giving your doctor are a call will help make sure you don’t ignore a troublesome and potentially dangerous complication.  I experienced my own postpartum complication.  About a week after my daughter was born I hemorraged and at first I didn’t really think anything of the extra bleeding because I was too busy enjoying my daughter and taking care of her.  I eventually had to call my doctor in the wee hours of the morning when things got progressively worse.  I wish I had been paying closer attention and called earlier in the day, but luckily things worked out well anyway.

Here are some of the signs to look for.  You should give your doctor a call if:

  • Your bleeding does not slow down and stays bright red after the first few days.
  • Heavy bleeding begins again after slowing down.
  • You begin passing blood clots bigger than a quarter.
  • You develop a fever as it could be a sign that you have developed an infection.
  • Your afterpains get worse instead of better.
  • You have persistent pain anywhere in your abdomen or pelvis.
  • You have worsen pain, swelling, redness or discharge at your c-section incision site.
  • You have worsen pain, a foul-smelling odor, discharge, or swelling around your episiotomy.
  • You have severe or persistent headaches.
  • You have severe or persistent vomitting.
  • You are feeling extreme sadness or depression or have thoughts of harming your baby.

Postpartum complications are rare but they do occur.  If you are at all worried about something you are experiencing call your doctor.  Before you leave the hospital your doctor will talk to you about your specific situation and what to watch out for (if they don’t, ask).

Having a baby is a lot of work for your body and it takes time for things to return to normal and for your body to heal from the effects of labor and delivery.  Your doctor will want to check up on you again a few weeks after you deliver to make sure everything is OK.

If you had a normal vaginal or cesarean delivery you will likely see your doctor about six weeks postpartum.  This visit is necessary so your doctor can make sure that you are healing well, everything is returning to normal with your body, and emotionally you are doing OK.  When your doctor wants to see you back in his or her office may vary, particularly if you need stitches or staples removed or you had any complications with your delivery.  On average though you can expect to be back in the doctor’s office four to six weeks after your baby is born.

At this postpartum visit you can expect a few things.  Of course, just like with your prenatal visits, your doctor may do things a little differently or you may need something different because of a special circumstance either with your delivery or your postpartum recovery.  The typical postpartum follow up appointment will include:

  • Your doctor will ask you several questions about your postpartum recovery including:
    • how long after delivery you experienced vaginal bleeding
    • if you are still having any kind of vaginal discharge
    • if you are still experiencing any discomfort in you vaginal or rectum area (this can be particularly important if you had a tear or an episiotomy)
    • if you are feeling OK emotionally (he/she is checking for signs of postpartum depression)
    • determine if you have any questions about your postpartum recovery
  • Your doctor will examine you to ensure that your uterus is returning to its normal size and that your cervix has healed.  This will involve an internal examine.
  • If you had a tear or an episiotomy your doctor will examine that as well to make sure it is healing well.  If any stitches remain he/she may cut those out, they are designed to dissolve but if they aren’t buried well enough in the skin they may not.
  • Your doctor will examine your breasts to check for any signs of clogged milk ducts, infections, or other problems common in breastfeeding moms.
  • At this appointment your doctor will discuss with you whether it is OK to begin having sexual intercourse again or not.  If your tear/episiotomy is still healing you may need to wait a little while longer, but otherwise it is typically OK to begin having sex again after six weeks.  Your doctor will discuss what forms of birth control are OK at this point.
  • If you delivered by cesarean section your visit will be similar to that of a woman who delivered vaginally, of course the incision for your cesarean will be examined as well.

If you have questions or concerns about anything this is the time to talk to your doctor about them as it may be a while before you are back in his or her office.  If you are feeling sad or depressed don’t be afraid to say so.  Your doctor is there to help you and will be able to work with you to control any postpartum depression you may be suffering.  If you feel like you need to see your doctor sooner than planned call his or her office.

Recently I was contacted by the creator of a new blog, PPDConnect, who is trying to spread the word about this new site where women can share their stories about postpartum depression.  I checked out the site and think it is a fantastic idea.  Postpartum depression often makes moms feel isolated and they often feel like no one else feels like they do or is going through what they are going through.  Having a place to go to share their story and read other women’s stories will be both comforting and helpful to those women suffering from postpartum depression.  Sometimes having someone to talk to you who knows what you are going through can make all the difference.

Be sure to stop by and check out PPDConnect.  Even if you have never suffered from postpartum depression it is both interesting and helpful to read the stories.

One of the more annoying little common postpartum complaints is hemorrhoids.  Hemorrhoids occur when the blood vessels around your rectal area have become unusually swollen.  They can range in size from small raisins to large grapes.  Hemorrhoids are often itchy and can be very painful, especially in the first few days postpartum.  You may find some bleeding in the rectal area especially after a bowel movement, this is normal.  Postpartum hemorrhoids are annoying, but thankfully temporary.

Some women get hemorrhoids during pregnancy, they are especially common during the third trimester when there is added pressure on the blood vessels in the lower part of your body.  If you had hemorrhoids during pregnancy you are probably an old pro at dealing with them already.  If your first experience is postpartum, you’ll quickly learn how to deal with them and make yourself feel better until they go away.

Postpartum hemorrhoids are caused as a result of all the pushing during the delivery.  Also, the added progesterone in your body causes the walls of your veins to relax, making them more susceptible to swelling.  Often the harder and longer you have to push the worse your hemorrhoids will be.  Luckily the nursing staff with be well equipped with tips and tricks to make dealing with your hemorrhoids much easier.

A few of the things that I was told while I was in the hospital after my delivery were to use Tucks pads to sooth the hemorrhoids, avoid straining when having my first bowel movement postpartum, and to avoid sitting or standing for long periods of time.  The Tucks pads worked well (they are also used to ease the pain and swelling of your perinium as well).  The nurses provided me with stool softeners while I was in the hospital and directed me to continue taking them when I got home (again, a lot of help).

Luckily this annoying postpartum complaint will go away fairly quickly.  Usually within a couple of weeks you will find your hemorrhoids have disappeared.  Talk to your doctor if you are concerned about your hemorrhoids or if you have questions about how to deal with them.