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Common Problems of Early Motherhood

Most mothers-to-be focus on the birth of their child. It is only after the birth that you begin to realize that the birth was just the beginning.

Mental and emotional preparation is just as important as preparing the layette.


Delivering a baby has been compared to running a marathon. Combine that with the change in sleep habits that night feedings require and you can understand why new mothers are exhausted. Anxiety over being a new parent adds to the fatigue.

Hints for fatigue:

  • Expect to be tired, and don't be upset with yourself about it.
  • Nap when the baby naps.
  • Try to sleep at least 1 and 1/2 or 2 hours during the day for the first 2 to 3 weeks. Ask your husband, a friend, or relative to take care of the baby during this time.
  • You may want to nurse the baby in bed during night feedings.
  • If you are bottle feeding, share night feedings with your spouse.


As a new mother, don't expect miracles. It took you 9 months of pregnancy to gain weight, and it will take time to get your body back into shape. One of the biggest challenges of early motherhood may be just having the time and energy to brush your hair once a day!

Hints on appearance:

  • Get a haircut that is easy to care for.
  • Start exercising as soon as your health care provider gives the OK. Walk with your baby around your house, yard, or the neighborhood as often as you can. Being more physically active will help you lost weight, and walking can also help calm a fussy baby.
  • When you are physically ready, joining an exercise or aerobics class will get you out of the house and keep you motivated to exercise. If you go back to work, park as far away from entrances as you can and use stairs instead of elevators.
  • Buy some new clothes as a reward for a successful start in life as a mother and for starting regular exercise. But wait until your figure has shrunk a bit from the exercise!

Pain from a Cesarean Section

Cesarean birth complicates the healing process and requires more rest and recuperation.

Hints for recovering from a cesarean birth:

  • Use the time in the hospital to rest. You may need to control the number of phone calls and visitors.
  • Make sure there is some kind of help available when you come home for at least the first 2 weeks. The more rest you get during that time, the faster you will heal.
  • Until your incision heals, make sure you lift your baby slowly, keeping your arms close to your body, so that you put minimal strain on your stomach muscles.

Pain from an Episiotomy

An episiotomy is an incision often made during birth to give more room for the baby to pass through the birth canal. It usually heals within 7 to 10 days and with no complications.

Hints for recovering from an episiotomy:

  • Warm sitz baths and heat lamps (at a safe distance) can provide some comfort.
  • You can prevent some of the pain by tightening your buttocks before you sit down.
  • Avoid straining when you have a bowel movement.

Postpartum Depression

After childbirth, many mothers feel more emotional. The hormones your body produced when your were pregnant, a lack of sleep, pain from childbirth, disrupted eating habits and change in appearance can all lead to the baby blues. You may feel sad, afraid, or angry. For most women these baby blues are mild and go away within a week. Postpartum depression lasts longer and is more severe.

If you feel unable or unwilling to care for your baby, or have thoughts of hurting yourself or the baby, get help immediately. Do not try to overcome postpartum depression by yourself. It can be successfully treated with either therapy or antidepressant medicine or both.

Hints for dealing with post partum depression:

  • Find someone to trust to talk about how you are feeling.
  • Get someone to watch the baby and do something to pamper yourself. Get a massage, get a pedicure or just take a long nap. Taking time to focus on yourself (not just on the baby), can be just a boost your mood needs.
  • Try to return to some of the things you enjoyed doing before the baby was born. It's important to know that even though you're a mom now, you still have your own interests.
  • Try infant massage. Spending quiet time with your baby not only can relax your baby but can relax you as well.

Don't try to be supermom. Give yourself time to adjust to being a mother. Listen to your body and enjoy your new baby.

Written by Kate Capage.
Published by McKesson Provider Technologies.
Last modified: 2006-10-16
Last reviewed: 2006-10-16
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Copyright 2006 McKesson Corporation and/or one of its subsidiaries. All Rights Reserved.
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