Welcoming a baby is a time of joy, but it can be a big adjustment. Oxford Women’s Health gynaecologist Richard Dover talks about the impacts of motherhood.
While antenatal classes prepare parents for the physical arrival of a baby, there’s a tsunami of unexpected changes that come for women after their first child is born.
“Your priorities shift to the baby, to the point that this new person becomes more important than yourself or your partner,” says gynaecologist Richard Dover. “There is a lot of re-evaluation of relationships.” Friends and family also need to adopt a new mindset and understand that for you, the needs of your new baby come before anything else.
But you also need to take some time to focus on your own wellbeing. From a health point of view, every woman’s pelvic floor is affected by pregnancy, even if you have a Caesarean. “You have nine months of extra weight pressing on your pelvic area. Whatever way you give birth, things aren’t going to be quite the same as they were.”
Pelvic floor exercises are very helpful and are highly recommended. “Any improvement you can make to your pelvic floor muscles will help, especially if you are planning on having more babies.”
But, Richard adds, “it’s not the time for crash diets”. If you are trying to get pregnant again, eating well, being active, getting a good night’s sleep and making sure you have the right vitamins and minerals on board will also make it easier to conceive.
While the impact of pregnancy on a woman’s body is typically seen in the light of varicose veins and stomachs that aren’t as taut as they once were, there are other changes after having a baby. For example, while periods are often heavier, they are generally much less painful. Breastfeeding helps protect against breast and ovarian cancers later in life.
Other issues that are commonly linked to pregnancy and childbirth, such as prolapse and stretch marks, are often influenced by other factors, including genetics. If you’re having a health problem you think is related to childbirth, you should always seek help. For example, painful sex is not a normal consequence of having a baby and the cause needs to be investigated.
The support of family and friends is important after having a baby
The support of family and friends is also important after having a baby. “It’s really good to have someone come in and give you a rest so you can feel like a normal human being. The chance to do something simple like drink a coffee while it’s still warm or go for a walk around the park can really revive you. Even an undisturbed shower or soak in the bath can be a real luxury.”