Tips: How To Deal With Postpartum Challenges

The postpartum period can be a joyous time for many mothers but it’s also a period of adjustments and healing. Being a new mom comes with a variety of experiences which include fluctuating emotions, adaptation to changes, bonding with your baby and many other challenges. Some of them include:

Mental health issues after the birth a.k.a postpartum blues.

Some women find their mood doesn’t lift after the birth and they become anxious or depressed. This is what is called postpartum depression where the mother experiences emotional highs and lows, frequently cries, is fatigued, has guilt, and anxiety and may have trouble caring for their baby. This is a time when she needs all the support she can get.

Trouble with feeding the baby.

Most women complain that they do not produce enough milk to feed the baby and thus feel that the baby is not getting enough nutrients and not getting full. This can lead to a lot of frustration and feelings of inadequacy as a mother since most mothers want to be able to breastfeed their babies.

Sleep deprivation

During this time, new moms may not get enough sleep, the baby may stay up at night, affecting the new mom.

The pressure to snap back to the previous body.

Some women feel insecure in their new post-birth body. This can be due to birthing injuries or scars, or weight that didn’t quickly disappear after having their baby. This leaves the mother feeling down and depressed.

Relationship adaptations

Other women feeling anxious over not meeting their partner’s sexual needs after giving birth. They may not yet feel ready to have sex again. This is a time where they are regularly prioritizing their baby and their partner may feel neglected.

What you can do as a new mom

You don’t have to pressure yourself into getting back to shape immediately after having a baby as this is a time to focus on you and your baby. Applying a healthy diet can help you feel healthy and strong. Make sure to sleep when your baby sleeps, even during the day, this will help you be well rested.

Remember that everyone needs help from time to time and it’s okay to not feel okay. If you find it hard to manage and take care of your baby, reach out to friends and family who can lend a hand in helping you take care of you and your baby. Also consider joining online groups for new moms to share with other moms going through similar experiences.

If you or a friend need advice or help, you can contact me here on Ask Choma, send me a Facebook Message, an  Instagram message, a  Twitter DM, or a WhatsApp Message (071 172 3657).

Am I pregnant? Pregnancy signs and symptoms

If you’re sexually active, then you may have had this scare at least once in your life – a while after sex you get a panic and wonder “Am I pregnant?”

Here’s a few signs that you can look out for to help you figure things out. So if you think you’re going through any of these chomas, it might be time to see the doctor.

  1. Your period is either late or very light. Missing your period is usually the first sign of pregnancy. This is the point that most girls will start to wonder if they are pregnant or not. Remember chomas, there are other things that may affect your period besides pregnancy. This could be your diet, your stress levels, illness, medication or your hormones. So read on for other symptoms just in case.
  2. Breast tenderness. We all know that our breasts tend to feel tender when we are close to having our period. But this could also be a symptom of pregnancy, especially when you realise that you’ve missed your period. When you’re pregnant, your breasts tend to feel fuller and heavier. Your nipples tend to look darker and bigger. 
  3. Nausea/Vomiting In the early stages of pregnancy, you might feel like vomiting (even if you don’t). Vomiting often occurs when you’re a few weeks further into the pregnancy. Many people say that vomiting often occurs in the mornings, but it could happen at any time of the day. 
  4. Feeling dizzy Some girls get the feeling of being dizzy early in their pregnancy. So you might feel like fainting – and sometimes you might actually faint. If this is the only sign that you have so far, you should still go see a doctor. Fainting could also be associated with something else other than pregnancy. 
  5. Gaining weight. Have you suddenly gained a bit of weight recently? Are your jeans suddenly a bit tight and your sweaters feeling a bit small? This could be as a result of being pregnant. 
  6. Feeling tired You might find yourself not being able to control your tiredness. You feel like you want to sleep all the time and might even fall asleep at your desk. If you’re someone who is not used to experiencing this, then this might be a huge red flag for you (especially if you have the other symptoms). 

These are only a few signs of pregnancy chomas, others include having sudden cravings, needing to pee often and of course, your belly starting to swell. If you are experiencing all these symptoms then it might be time for you to see a doctor and perhaps also speak to a counsellor. It would be best to get someone you trust to help you through this.

If you realise that you’re not pregnant, it may still be a good idea to go the clinic. While children are a beautiful blessing, you should be able to choose when you start a family. Speak to a doctor or nurse about contraceptives and take the initiative to carry your own condoms. Don’t have unprotected sex – having safe sex is not just about avoiding pregnancy, but also avoiding infections, diseases and HIV.

Pregnancy: day-to-day tips

Hey Chomas, the first few months of pregnancy can be a roller coaster ride of note!

During this stage, your body is adjusting to the hormonal changes and this can show itself in different ways. Some people get pimples, others get darker or lighter in complexion. Some people are always sleeping.

We all respond differently. I had severe morning sickness. I was always puking and as a result I was nicknamed the “Vomit Comet”! I found that drinking ginger beer helped me. Find what works for you. Sometimes you may even lose your appetite just because of the smell of a certain foodstuff. All of this is part of the journey and if the symptoms are unbearable go to your doctor or to the clinic for a check-up. Do not take any over-the-counter medication or herbal remedies because these could harm baby.

If you are still at school, and you have already informed your parents or caregivers that you are pregnant, you may want them to let the school authorities know. This is so that they can be more understanding if you cannot take part in sport, or if you need to go to the clinic for your check-ups.

What about your diet? Try to eat a varied diet which includes fruit, vegetables and water. Make sure you cut down on junk food and processed foods, and obviously you need to stay away from alcohol, cigarettes and recreational drugs. You must also make sure that you take your pregnancy supplements from the doctor or clinic. What about clothes? Practicality counts above all else! You do not have to get a whole new wardrobe. Invest in a few pieces that will accommodate your growing baby bump and then get some maternity wear towards the end of your pregnancy. This is what I did and it worked well.

The last point is around managing stress levels. Life does not always turn out the way that we want it to. You may not be happy about your situation but you have the choice to embrace it and be positive or to wallow in self-pity. I say embrace it! Stay positive! Surround yourself with people that will not judge you and enjoy the journey. All we want is a healthy baby and healthy babies come from healthy mothers.

Pregnancy – it is not a train smash

Sometimes life hands us lemons. Guess what you have to do? Make lemonade!

Falling pregnant when you have not planned it is not easy at all – regardless of your age or situation in life. But it is particularly difficult whilst you are still at school.

First thing you need to do is to tell an authority figure in your life. Note I did not say mother or father. It should be an authority figure you know you can trust with very personal information. It could be your favourite school teacher, it could be a crazy aunt, or even your friendly neighbor. Whoever it is – someone older than you are needs to know that you are pregnant.

From there, you can then decide on whether you are keeping the baby or not. If you are keeping the baby how and when you are going to tell your parents or caregivers that you are pregnant.

I find that the young ladies that get in touch with me after finding out that they are pregnant are usually very angry with the person that has impregnated them. You need to understand that as much as the news is shocking to you… it will also be shocking to your sexual partner. I always advise the young ladies to focus on what they can control – their own lives and circumstances. I know that it is difficult but you need to sort out your life first, and then thereafter deal with your partner.

There is also a great deal of shame that is felt when one is in this situation. Do not allow anyone to shame you into leaving school or becoming a recluse. Mistakes happen and you will get through this. Continue going to classes for as long as you can.

There is a life that has to continue after baby is born. If people make fun of you – so what! There is always something that people are laughing at – be it the zit on your nose or your new hairstyle! Be tough! Hold your head up high! Look after your health and that of your baby and remember that everything is going to be just fine!

Pregnancy – the first trimester

Pregnancy lasts about 40 weeks. This period is divided up into trimesters. The first trimester is up to 12 weeks, the second one up to 27 weeks, and the last one up to week 40. 

How is the due date calculated?

The due date is an estimate of when you will deliver. We start counting 40 weeks from the first day of your last normal period. I always say give or take two weeks from the date that the doctor or nurse clinician gives you. If you have no idea when your last period was then try and get a sonar done as early as possible and this should give a good estimate of your due date. 

Can I take any over-the-counter medication during the first trimester?

We discourage you from taking any medication that has not been prescribed by a doctor or nurse clinician – especially in the first trimester. This phase is very important for your baby and we do not want you to take anything that could harm baby. Always tell health workers that you are pregnant so that you can be treated accordingly. If you are currently on medication make sure that you tell your health worker so that we can make sure it is not harmful to baby. Make sure that you get a pregnancy supplement and that you take it daily. 

What about smoking and drinking? Recreational drugs?

Try to stop all the above. It is not always easy but you need to put the health of your baby above all else. 

What should I worry about during the first trimester?

Always look out for any spotting or bleeding – especially if it is accompanied by abdominal pain. It is always best to see a doctor or nurse clinician if you have experienced any bleeding. Rather safe than sorry. 

What about exercise and sport?

It is best to check with your doctor or nurse clinician before continuing with your usual exercise or sports routine. This is not to say that you must not continue but you need to make sure that it is safe to do so.

And sex? Should I continue to have sex or abstain?

Sex is safe unless your doctor or nurse clinician recommends otherwise. 

When will I start showing that I am pregnant?

Most women start showing in the second trimester of pregnancy. Your breasts may however grow bigger in the first trimester.

Pregnancy – the third trimester

This is the final stretch of pregnancy taking you from week 28 to week 40. This is when baby is going to grow a lot! 

Why am I walking like a duck?

The ligaments in your hips and pelvic bones are starting to stretch as they prepare for childbirth. Sometimes you get sharp joint pains especially when getting up from a sitting position. You need to hang in there! 

I think I have piles (haemorrhoids)

This is common in pregnancy and can be uncomfortable. If you do get piles do go and get suppositories from your clinic or doctor to ease the discomfort. They should disappear once baby is born. 

What are Braxton-Hicks contractions?

These are very mild contractions. Your belly will tighten and harden and then relax after some moments. Your body is practicing for the day that you go into labour. 

I keep getting heartburn. What is causing it?

Your uterus is growing and pushing your stomach upwards. This is why you are more prone to heartburn. Try to eat smaller meals and avoid lying down shortly after eating. 

How often will I see my doctor or nurse clinician?

In the last trimester you will be seen more frequently than before especially in the last month of pregnancy. We need to make sure that your body is ready for labour and that baby is fine. 

Which is the best mode of delivery?

Your doctor or nurse clinician will assess you and make a decision on whether you should go for a natural birth or for a C-section. There is no right or wrong. The most important thing is what is the most beneficial option for you and for baby. Whatever is chosen make sure you ask as many questions as you can. The more you know, the better prepared you shall be. 

Breastfeeding or formula feeding?

Again this is a personal decision. South Africa is a breastfeeding country so we do encourage mothers to breastfeed. However everyone’s situation is different. You may need to go back to school or work shortly after giving birth. Make the decision that works best for you and for baby. Whatever you do, remember that baby must get breast milk only OR formula only for six months. We do not give babies solids or water or anything else before six months of age. You run the risk of exposing baby to allergens if you do that. We also do not encourage you to use over-the-counter baby remedies such as gripe water. It is better to consult a doctor or nurse clinician if you have any concerns.

Is he ready to be a father?

Have you ever heard someone say “I just really want to have a baby” or “I know if I have a baby with him it would bring us closer”? Or maybe you’ve felt that way recently. You may think you’re ready to have a baby, but what about the person that you’d like to have a baby with – are they ready?

Why having a child is a big deal

Having a baby because you think it would make someone fall in love with you or stay with you is not a good enough reason to have a baby, Choma. Children are a big responsibility so the decision to have one should not be taken lightly.

Falling pregnant just to save a relationship could actually cause more heartbreak in the long run. When a girl or woman falls pregnant, she has the right to do what she wants with her body. So her pregnancy is ultimately her choice. But once she has the baby, her partner does have the right to be a part of that child’s life.

Why you shouldn’t force bae to be a daddy

If a guy feels “forced” into parenthood, there’s a chance that he could actually become resentful and this could result in the relationship being even worse than before. This is not an ideal situation to raise a baby in. There’s also the risk of the guy refusing to be a part of the child’s life entirely, forcing the child to grow up without a father.

On the other hand, what if the father does stay and is a part of the child’s life, but is not a good father to the child? This could affect the child in the long run.

Remember Choma, once a child is in the picture, it’s no longer just about you and the person you’re having a baby with. Making sure that you make decisions that will be good for the child is very important, and knowing whether someone is ready to be a father forms part of those decisions.

If your relationship is not going well with a baby out of the picture, there’s no guarantee that it will be better with a baby. The baby could end up being your sole responsibility making life difficult for both you and your child.

Why it’s important for both of you to be ready

Children deserve to be raised in healthy environments by parents who are financially and emotionally ready to raise them. Always consider the fact that the baby you intend to have is not an object, but an actual human being.

If you’re still growing and figuring life out, it’s probably best to have a baby when you’re more mature and sure that you’re with the right person who you can raise a baby with.

What you can do in the meantime

Instead of having a baby with someone who isn’t invested in you or your relationship, focus on building relationships that are good for you.

And until you’re sure that you’re with someone you can build a family with, remember to protect yourself and use contraceptives. Using condoms and other contraceptives such as “the pill” is a good way to prevent unplanned pregnancies.

Condoms also protect you from contracting HIV and STIs so remember to stay protected.

Remember if you or a friend need advice or help, you can contact me here on Ask Choma, send me a Facebook Messagea Twitter DM, or a WhatsApp Message (071 172 3657).