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The Birth & the Hospital

Your big day is finally here! With so much to do and so little time to do them, we’ve put together some helpful checklists, must-haves and quintessential essentials to make your trip to and from the hospital as smooth as possible.

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What Makes A Delivery Go Well

See why these women’s birth days went so right—and pick from their tips to help make your own labor less...laborious.

Tune out. 

"When I delivered my twins, I brought an iPod loaded with my favorite songs, everything from indie rock to Johnny Cash hymns. Best decision ever. It was like bringing my best friends into the delivery room to comfort me like only they knew how."

—Angela V., mom of four, Los Angeles, CA

Take a breather—lots of them.

"I took prenatal yoga, and that allowed me to have a very successful delivery. I was skeptical at first but through relaxing and deep breathing I was able to work my way through each contraction without letting the pain make my body too tense to do its job. Using these techniques, I had three labors that were drug- and intervention-free."
—Jackie K., mom of three, Olivia, Minnesota

Cool off quick.

"Ask for an ice pack to put in your underwear immediately after delivery to reduce swelling and pain. I didn’t get to use this technique myself because I had a C-section, but I have prescribed it to thousands of patients, and it helps!"
—Dr. Jennifer Gunter, M.D., author of The Preemie Primer

Hit the shower.

"I tell everyone I know to take a warm shower during labor. I’ve done it myself through three natural deliveries. It helps you to relax and feels wonderful."

—Katie B., mom of three, Clarksville, Tennessee

Sit up.

"After I had an epidural, my nurses adjusted the bed so I was sitting completely upright with my legs down on a little stool. The nurses explained that this would allow gravity to help with the labor. I went from six centimeters to ‘We can see the head’ in about an hour and a half. I guess mom was right when she told me to sit up straight!"
—Mindy A., mom of two, New Orleans, Louisiana

Get to know the team.

"The practice I attended made sure to introduce me to everyone on the staff through the course of my pregnancy, down to the nurses. When I arrived for my delivery, the on-call nurse was one that I’d already met. That made it so much easier and more comforting. If your doctor’s office doesn’t do these meet and greets, ask them to."
—Darneisha C., mom of one, Washington D.C.

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Infant baby feet

Postpartum Care: What to Expect After a Vaginal Delivery

Pregnancy changes your body in more ways than you might have guessed, and it doesn't stop when the baby is born. After a vaginal delivery, taking good care of yourself is an essential part of postpartum care. Here's what to expect.

Vaginal soreness

If you had an episiotomy or vaginal tear during delivery, the wound might hurt for a few weeks. Extensive tears might take longer to heal. In the meantime, you can help promote healing:

Soothe the wound. Cool the wound with an ice pack, or place a chilled witch hazel pad - available in most pharmacies - between a sanitary napkin and the wound.

Take the sting out of urination. Pour warm water over your vulva as you're urinating. Press a clean pad firmly against the wound when you bear down for a bowel movement.

Keep the wound clean. Use a squirt bottle filled with water to rinse the tissue between the vaginal opening and anus (perineum) after using the toilet.

Sit down carefully. If sitting is uncomfortable, sit on a pillow or padded ring.

While you're healing, expect the discomfort to progressively improve. Contact your health care provider if the pain intensifies, the wound becomes hot, swollen and painful, or you notice a pus-like discharge.

Vaginal discharge

You'll have a vaginal discharge (lochia) for a number of weeks after delivery. Expect a bright red, heavy flow of blood for the first few days. If you've been sitting or lying down, you might notice a small gush when you stand up. The discharge will gradually taper off, changing from pink or brown to yellow or white. To reduce the risk of infection, use sanitary napkins rather than tampons. Don't be alarmed if you occasionally pass small blood clots. Contact your health care provider if:
  • You soak a sanitary pad within an hour while lying down
  • The discharge has a foul odor
  • You pass clots larger than a golf ball
  • You have a fever of 100.4 F (38 C) or higher

Contractions

You might feel contractions, sometimes called afterpains, during the first few days after delivery. These contractions - which often resemble menstrual cramps - help prevent excessive bleeding by compressing the blood vessels in the uterus. For reasons that aren't entirely clear, these contractions tend to be stronger with successive deliveries. Your health care provider might recommend an over-the-counter pain reliever if necessary. Contact your health care provider if you have a fever or if your abdomen is tender to the touch. These signs and symptoms could indicate a uterine infection.

Urination problems

Swelling or bruising of the tissues surrounding the bladder and urethra can lead to difficulty urinating. Fearing the sting of urine on the tender perineal area can have the same effect. Difficulty urinating usually resolves on its own. In the meantime, it might help to pour water across your vulva while you're sitting on the toilet. Contact your health care provider if you have any symptoms of a urinary tract infection. For example:
  • It hurts to urinate
  • You don't think you're emptying your bladder fully
  • You have an unusually frequent urge to urinate
Pregnancy and birth stretch the connective tissue at the base of the bladder and can cause nerve and muscle damage to the bladder or urethra. You might leak urine when you cough, strain or laugh. Fortunately, this problem usually improves within three months. In the meantime, wear sanitary pads and do Kegel exercises to help tone your pelvic floor muscles. To do Kegels, tighten your pelvic muscles as if you're stopping your stream of urine. Try it for five seconds at a time, four or five times in a row. Work up to keeping the muscles contracted for 10 seconds at a time, relaxing for 10 seconds between contractions. Aim for at least three sets of 10 repetitions a day.

Hemorrhoids and bowel movements

If you notice pain during bowel movements and feel swelling near your anus, you might have hemorrhoids - stretched and swollen veins in the anus or lower rectum. To ease any discomfort while the hemorrhoids heal, soak in a warm tub and apply chilled witch hazel pads to the affected area. Your health care provider might recommend a topical hemorrhoid medication as well. If you find yourself avoiding bowel movements out of fear of hurting your perineum or aggravating the pain of hemorrhoids or your episiotomy wound, take steps to keep your stools soft and regular. Eat foods high in fiber - including fruits, vegetables and whole grains - and drink plenty of water. It's also helpful to remain as physically active as possible. Ask your health care provider about a stool softener or fiber laxative, if needed. Another potential problem for new moms is the inability to control bowel movements (fecal incontinence) - especially if you had an unusually long labor. Frequent Kegel exercises can help. If you have persistent trouble controlling bowel movements, consult your health care provider.

Sore breasts and leaking milk

Several days after delivery, your breasts might become heavy, swollen and tender. This is known as engorgement. To ease the discomfort, nurse your baby or use a breast pump to express milk. You might also want to apply cold washcloths or ice packs to your breasts. Over-the-counter pain relievers might help, too. To help prevent nipple pain, make sure that your baby latches on to your breast correctly. If you're unsure or every feeding is painful, ask a lactation consultation for help. If your breasts leak between feedings, wear nursing pads inside your bra to help keep your shirt dry. Change pads after each feeding and whenever they get wet. If you're not breast-feeding your baby, wear a firm, supportive bra. Compressing your breasts will help stop milk production. In the meantime, don't pump your breasts or express the milk. This only tells your breasts to produce more milk.

Hair loss and skin changes

During pregnancy, elevated hormone levels put normal hair loss on hold. The result is often an extra-lush head of hair - but now it's payback time. After delivery, your body sheds the excess hair all at once. Within six months, your hair will most likely be back to normal. In the meantime, shampoo only when necessary, and find a hairstyle that's easy to maintain. Avoid curling irons and harsh chemicals. Stretch marks won't disappear after delivery, but eventually they'll fade from reddish purple to silver or white. Expect any skin that darkened during pregnancy - such as the line down your abdomen (linea nigra) - to slowly fade as well.

Mood changes

Childbirth triggers a jumble of powerful emotions. Mood swings, irritability, sadness and anxiety are common. Many new moms experience a mild depression, sometimes called the baby blues. The baby blues typically subside within a week or two. In the meantime, take good care of yourself. Share your feelings, and ask your partner, loved ones or friends for help. If your depression deepens or you feel hopeless and sad most of the time, contact your health care provider. Prompt treatment is important.

Weight loss

After you give birth, you'll probably feel flabby and out of shape. You might even look like you're still pregnant. Don't worry. This is perfectly normal. Most women lose more than 10 pounds during birth, including the weight of the baby, placenta and amniotic fluid. In the days after delivery, you'll lose additional weight from leftover fluids. After that, a healthy diet and regular exercise can help you gradually return to your pre-pregnancy weight.

The postpartum checkup

About six weeks after delivery, your health care provider will check your vagina, cervix and uterus to make sure you're healing well. He or she might do a breast exam and check your weight and blood pressure, too. This is a great time to talk about birth control, breast-feeding and how you're adjusting to life with a new baby. You might also ask about Kegel exercises to help tone your pelvic floor muscles. Above all, share any concerns you might have about your physical or emotional health. Chances are, what you're feeling is entirely normal. Look to your health care provider for assurance as you enter this new phase of life.

Source: Mayo Clinic
Image: Getty Images

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women in a hospital room

Stages of Labor: It's Time!

By Mayo Clinic Staff, Mayo Clinic

Every woman's labor is unique, even from one pregnancy to the next. In some cases, labor is over in a matter of hours. In other cases, labor tests a mother's physical and emotional stamina.

You won't know how your labor will unfold until it happens. You can prepare, however, by understanding the typical sequence of events.

Stage 1: Early labor and active labor

The first stage of labor occurs when the cervix opens (dilates) and thins out (effaces) to allow the baby to move into the birth canal. This is the longest of the three stages of labor. It's actually divided into two phases of its own - early labor and active labor.

Early labor 
During early labor, your cervix will begin to dilate. You'll feel mild contractions during early labor. They will typically last 30 to 90 seconds and come at regular intervals. Near the end of early labor, your contractions will likely be less than five minutes apart.

As your cervix begins to open, you might notice a brown or blood-tinged discharge from your vagina. This is likely the mucus plug that blocks the cervical opening, also known as bloody show.

How long it lasts: Early labor is unpredictable. For first-time moms, the average length of early labor is six to 12 hours. It's often much shorter for subsequent deliveries.

What you can do: Until your contractions increase in frequency and intensity, it's up to you. For many women, early labor isn't particularly uncomfortable. You might feel like doing household chores, taking a walk or watching a movie - or you might simply continue your daily activities.

To promote comfort during early labor:

  • - Take a shower or bath
  • - Listen to relaxing music
  • - Have a gentle massage
  • - Try slow, deep breathing or relaxation techniques taught in childbirth class
  • - Change positions
  • - Drink fluids
  • - Eat light, healthy snacks
  • - Apply ice packs or heat to your lower back

Active labor 
Now it's time for the real work to begin. During active labor, your cervix will dilate to 10 centimeters (cm). Your contractions will become stronger, longer, closer together and regular. Your legs might cramp, and you might feel nauseous. You might feel your water break - if it hasn't already. You might feel increasing pressure in your back as well. If you haven't headed to your labor and delivery facility yet, now's the time.

Don't be surprised if your initial excitement wanes as your labor progresses and the pain intensifies. Don't feel that you're giving up if you ask for pain medication or anesthesia. Your health care team will partner with you to make the best choice for you and your baby. Remember, you're the only one who can judge your need for pain relief.

How long it lasts: Active labor often lasts up to eight hours. For some women, active labor lasts hours longer. For others - especially those who've had a previous vaginal delivery - active labor is much shorter.

What you can do: Look to your labor coach and health care team for encouragement and support. Try breathing and relaxation techniques to combat your growing discomfort. Use what you learned in childbirth class or ask your health care team for suggestions.

To promote comfort during active labor:

  • - Change positions
  • - Roll on a large rubber ball (birthing ball)
  • - Take a warm shower or bath
  • - Take a walk, stopping to breathe through contractions
  • - Have a gentle massage between contractions

The lst part of active labor - often referred to as transition - can be particularly intense. If you feel the urge to push but you're not fully dilated, your health care provider might ask you to hold back. Pushing too soon could cause your cervix to swell, which might delay delivery. Pant or blow your way through the contractions.

 
Stage 2: The birth of your baby
It's time! You'll deliver your baby during the second stage of labor.

How long it lasts: It can take from a few minutes up to a few hours or more to push your baby into the world. It often takes longer for first-time moms and women who've had an epidural.

What you can do: Push! You might be encouraged to push with each contraction to speed the process. Or you might take it more slowly, letting nature do the work until you feel the urge to push.

When you push, don't hold tension in your face. Bear down and concentrate on pushing where it counts. Experiment with different positions until you find one that feels best. You can push while squatting, sitting, kneeling - even on your hands and knees.

At some point, you might be asked to push more gently - or not at all. Slowing down gives your vaginal tissues time to stretch rather than tear. To stay motivated, you might ask to feel the baby's head between your legs or see it in a mirror.

After your baby's head is delivered, his or her airway will be cleared and your health care provider will make sure the umbilical cord is free. The rest of your baby's body will follow shortly.


Stage 3: Delivery of the placenta

After your baby is born, you'll likely feel a great sense of relief. You might hold the baby in your arms or on your abdomen. Cherish the moment. But a lot is still happening. During the third stage of labor, your health care provider will deliver the placenta and make sure your bleeding is under control.

How long it lasts: The placenta is typically delivered in about five minutes. In some cases, it might take up to 30 minutes.

What you can do: Relax! By now your focus has likely shifted to your baby. You might be oblivious to what's going on around you. If you'd like, try breast-feeding your baby.

You'll continue to have mild contractions. You might also experience chills or shakiness. Your health care provider might massage your lower abdomen to encourage your uterus to contract and expel the placenta. You might be asked to push one more time to deliver the placenta, which usually comes out with a small gush of blood.

Your health care provider will examine the placenta to make sure it's intact. Any remaining fragments must be removed from the uterus to prevent bleeding and infection. If you're interested, ask to see the placenta.

Your health care provider will also determine whether you need stitches or other repair work. If you do, you'll receive an injection of local anesthetic in the area to be stitched if it's not numb already. You might also be given medication to encourage uterine contractions and minimize bleeding.


Now what?

Savor this special time with your baby. Your preparation, pain and effort have paid off. Revel in the miracle of birth.


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Dad's D-Day Duties

When D (delivery) day finally rolls around, Papa's main goals are to stay calm and help Mama.

We all know what a mom’s job is during labor and delivery, but a dad plays a crucial role as well. So how can you prepare for what’s bound to be a physically exhausting day for your partner and an emotional one for both of you? Check out these tips so you can proceed with patience and confidence.

Know your facts.

If you know going in that this might be a really long day, you’ll be better able to manage your (and your partner’s) expectations. So keep in mind that spending ten to 20-plus hours in labor is not unusual for first-time moms (though a recent study found that six and a half hours is typical). Here’s where you come in: Break out the board games, feed her as many ice chips as she wants, and walk with her if she’s up for it. Gently massage her head, back, or feet if she’ll let you, and hold her hand during those really rough contractions.

Keep smiling.

Prolonged intense pain can make even the sweetest woman swear like a sailor and the toughest woman come undone. Be prepared for either or both and try to ignore any negative comments your honey may hurl your way. She (probably) doesn't mean what she says.

Expect the unexpected.

No one — not even the most experienced obstetrician — can predict how your wife’s labor and delivery will go, so keep an open mind in case you need to adjust your birth plan. For example, you two may have discussed a delivery without medication, but things can change as labor progresses. For many women, the transition phase of labor (when dilation is around 8 cm) is the most painful part and an epidural may suddenly seem like a good idea.

Be her advocate.

During labor, your normally take-charge partner may not be able to speak up for herself, so be ready to be assertive on her behalf. Insist on speaking with the doctor if you or your wife is uneasy about what’s happening. Be a squeaky wheel if the anesthesiologist is AWOL. Be firm but respectful: Even in a critical medical situation (an emergency C-section, for example), you have the right to ask for at least a brief explanation of why an intervention is being made.

Capture the moment, but don’t miss it.

When it comes to documenting your baby’s grand entrance, technology can be a blessing and a curse. If you get too caught up in filming or tweeting about the birth, you may not experience it for the incredible moment that it is. And one more word of caution about your delivery movie: Just because it’s possible to share it with everyone doesn't mean you have to.

Be a hero.

When it’s all over and you’re holding your brand-new baby, be conscious of what your wife has just accomplished. She deserves a little — no, a lot — of recognition for making it through labor and delivery, not to mention nine months of pregnancy. No need to break the bank with a blingy “push” present if that’s not your style: But taking the time to write a loving note of gratitude and/or a small gift will be really meaningful to her.

WhatToExpect.com

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5 Reasons I’m Much More Scared to Give Birth the Second Time

As I write this, I'm a few days shy from the due date of my second child, and I'm going to be honest: I'm terrified. I'm not scared of having a newborn like I was last time, as I'm obviously far more experienced with babies this time around. I'm not even freaked out about balancing two kids, which I'm sure won't be without its challenges. I'm scared of the actual act of giving birth.

The birth of my first child, my daughter, was by most standards relatively easy, and for lack of a better word, pleasant. She was born naturally after about 14 hours of labor, and I only pushed for an hour. I never felt scared or anxious during the experience, and the staff at the hospital where I delivered was incredibly nice and accommodating.

After my daughter was born, I obviously experienced a degree of uncomfort, but I never thought to myself, "Oh, my god, I could never do that again." So, I'm not 100 percent sure why I'm so freaked out this time. In fact, when I first found out I was pregnant for the second time, I said to my husband, "Weirdly, I'm actually kind of even looking forward to giving birth again."

But now that it could happen any day now? Not so much. In fact, not at all. I'm mostly chalking this fear up to the fact that I'm what feels like 14 months pregnant and my brain is marinating in a concoction of potent hormones, but I also think there are other factors playing in.

Here are five reasons (I think) I'm more freaked out about giving birth for the second time.

I know what to expect.

As I said, the birth of my daughter was by no means traumatizing. Still, I'm intimately familiar with what it's like to bring a human into this world -- and I wouldn't exactly say it "tickles." I keep telling myself that it's temporary pain for a lifetime of happiness, but the "ouch" factor is a little hard to overlook.

I have a child already.

Last time around, my water broke around 3 a.m. and my husband and I simply waltzed out of our apartment into the Brooklyn night. Before leaving, we turned lights on, gathered our things, talked at a normal volume, as there was no one else to be concerned with. Things are a little more complicated this time, being that we have a two-and-a-half-year-old. There's childcare to coordinate (and what if said childcare doesn't answer their phone?!); noises to stifle, should I go into labor at night again; and, of course, the worry that the people watching my daughter (her beloved babysitter and my sister) won't do things just so for her, and it'll be meltdown city.

Second babies come faster.

In theory, this sounds great. Less time spent in labor and pushing, but, as ridiculous as this sounds, I do have the low-grade worry in the back of my mind that I'm going to become a local news headline for delivering my baby in the car because we didn't make it to the hospital in time. I suppose there could be worse things, but, given the choice, I'd pass on that, thanks.

I'm scared something is going to go wrong.

This thought is something that never entered my mind my first pregnancy -- not even for a second. I was concerned about the pain but never once feared something would go (really) wrong. While I know that odds of something bad happening to my baby or myself are incredibly slim (particularly since this has been an uneventful pregnancy), every once in a while, when I'm lying awake in the middle of the night, the thought makes its way into my head, where it takes up residence for a few hours, and -- need I even say it? -- it's not fun. I chalk this up, again, to the fact that I already have a child, and there seems to be more at stake if something were to happen to me. Talk about an un-fun worry to have.

We've never left our daughter before.

Over the summer, my husband and I took a quickie "babymoon" trip a few hours away for a night. We saw my daughter the morning before we left and again the next (early) afternoon when we returned. It isn't that we're staunchly against leaving our child, the opportunity just really never presented itself. So, now, in addition to worrying about giving birth, I'm worrying about worrying about my daughter while I'm giving birth since we've never left her before. (I never said I was laid-back, or, you know, "sane" right now.)

I'm hoping that when it's go-time, these fears and anxieties will magically melt away and I'll be "in the moment" (as I should be), and predominantly focused on meeting my sweet little baby.

But until then... help!

Were you more scared the first time or the second time you gave birth?

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Postpartum Symptoms and Solutions

After giving birth, your body will experience various symptoms in the first six weeks ranging from bleeding to soreness. Here’s how to soothe those aching body parts.

Now that you’ve put the long months of pregnancy behind you and you’ve given birth, you’re probably breathing a sigh of relief at the thought of waving goodbye to those frustrating pregnancy symptoms. But just as you get used to seeing your feet again, you’re likely to be hit by some postpartum side effects — some of them as weird as the pregnancy symptoms you just left behind.

Your First Six Weeks of Recovery

Your first six weeks after birth are what’s known as a postpartum recovery period — when your body recoups from the monumental task of making and then pushing a baby into the world. Most, if not all, symptoms will be temporary, gradually easing up within a week. Some symptoms (like backaches, sore nipples and possibly pain in the perineum) continue for weeks, while others (like leaky breasts or your achy back) may not get better until your baby is older.

The important thing to remember: While you’re focusing your care and attention on your new baby, remember that it’s essential to care for your own health. If you’re not well in mind and body, it’s that much harder to care for the little person you’ve brought into the world.

Common Postpartum Symptoms and Solutions

Your postpartum symptoms will depend on the type of delivery you had (easy or difficult, vaginal or cesarean) and other individual factors, such as the shape you were in when you were pregnant and whether this is your first baby. Below are 15 of the most common symptoms that you may experience as well as solutions for dealing with them.

Bleeding from your vagina

Solution: Be prepared with a pile of pads (not tampons) to absorb the flow, which may continue on and off for up to six weeks.

Abdominal cramps as your uterus contracts

Solution: Your uterus can take up to six weeks to shrink back to its normal size as well; in the meantime, try taking acetaminophen (Tylenol) for relief.

Perineal discomfort, pain or numbness

Solution: Keep the perineal area clean. Try using chilled witch hazel pads or a cold pack; take a warm sitz bath; use a local anesthetic spray, cream, ointment or pad; lie on your side when you sleep; wear loose clothing; and take acetaminophen. Kegel exercises can also help get the circulation going and speed the healing process.

Pain or numbness around C-section incision

Solution: Take prescribed pain relievers as directed. If pain continues for weeks, try over-the-counter pain relief medications and discuss dosages with your doctor. Also avoid heavy lifting for the first few weeks after surgery.

Difficulty urinating

Solution: You might find it difficult to pee for the first couple days after birth — so drink plenty of fluids and go for a stroll. Pour some warm water over your perineal area, take a sitz bath, or apply an ice pack to your perineal area to induce urgency. You can also simply try turning on a water faucet while you’re trying to urinate.

Constipation

Solution: Your first post-birth BM can be a bit slow-coming, so in the meantime don’t try to force things. Drink fluids and eat fiber-rich foods like whole grains, fresh fruits and veggies. Go for walks and do Kegel exercises, avoid straining and use stool softeners. Finally, give chewing gum a try, since it can help stimulate digestive reflexes.

Hemorrhoids

Solution: All of that pushing during labor can result in hemorrhoids — so take sitz baths or try using topical anesthetics, witch hazel pads, suppositories or hot or cold compresses.

Fatigue

Solution: Share the load with your partner, family, friends or even hired help. Don’t get too caught up in keeping your home immaculate, returning emails or writing thank you cards. For now, just focus on the most important stuff. If you need something from the store or you’re too tired to cook a meal, get it all delivered. Sleep when your baby sleeps. And don’t forget to eat regularly!

Overall achiness, especially if you did a lot of pushing

Solution: Take acetaminophen and ease sore muscles with hot baths, showers or a heating pad. If you’ve never had a massage before, there’s never been a better time to book one.

Bloodshot (or puffy) eyes

Solution: Apply cold compresses to your eyes for 10 minutes a few times a day.

Night sweats

Solution: Cover your pillow with an absorbent towel and drink plenty of fluids to help compensate for the water you’re losing.

Breast discomfort

Solution: Wet a washcloth with warm water and place it on your areolas, or lean into a bowl of warm water. You can also gently massage your breasts or use ice packs. And make sure you’re wearing a well-fitting nursing bra.

Sore or cracked nipples from breastfeeding

Solution: Make sure your breasts are positioned the right way, and vary your nursing positions. Expose your nipples to air briefly after breastfeeding, keep them dry, and protect them from any undergarments or fabrics that may irritate them. Let your breast milk dry on your nipples to help heal them, try applying ultra-purified medical grade lanolin to your nipples (avoid petroleum-based products) or wet regular tea bags with cool water and place them on your nipples. Taking acetaminophen before nursing may also help ease soreness.

An achy back

Solution: Try focusing on bending from your knees when you lift your baby, and use a footrest to elevate your feet when breastfeeding or sitting.

Leaking breasts

Solution: Invest in nursing pads and opt for dark patterned tops that will help hide any wet spots.

Postpartum depression

Solution: The first weeks postpartum come with their own set of emotions: Bringing a baby into the world and learning to care for her are no small feats — and many women experience jitters, mood swings and even depression. Postpartum depression is common, affecting up to one in seven women. It typically starts two to three days after giving birth, though it can begin later. The good news is that it often gets better within a couple of weeks on its own. Until then, take care of yourself. Allow friends or your partner to make a meal or to clean up your kitchen so you can focus on resting and bonding with your baby. And if symptoms persists for longer than a couple of weeks, talk to your doctor. Many moms have been there before, and with help they got past their depression to truly enjoy parenting. It’s crucial to your future and your family’s that you speak up.

Your 6-Week Postpartum Checkup

Near the end of the first six weeks after you’ve had your baby, your doctor will want to see you for your first postpartum checkup. During this visit, your doctor will check your:
  • Blood pressure
  • Weight
  • Vagina, cervix and uterus
  • Breasts
  • Site of episiotomy or perineal laceration, if you had either
  • Cesarean incision, if you had one
  • Hemorrhoids or varicose veins
  • Emotional health
This is a good opportunity to talk to your practitioner about any questions or concerns you may have, including when you can start having sex again, what birth control options are available, what you can do to start losing some of the pregnancy weight you gained, and where to get help breastfeeding. It can be helpful to jot down a list of the things you’d like to discuss before you go, so you’re prepared and don’t forget anything in the moment. And don’t be afraid to speak up: Your doctor has been there, heard it all before and is there to help you — but only if you tell her what’s on your mind!

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Packing For The Hospital

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baby clothes on a white bed with a stuffed bunny

5 Things You Need to Pack in Your Hospital Bag

From Everyday Family

"I've had my hospital bag packed for months!" my patient proudly exclaims to me.

It's almost a badge of honor and the stuff of movies - packing the perfect hospital bag and having it waiting and ready by the door.

So what exactly should you pack in the hospital bag? Here are my labor and delivery nurse recommendations for packing the perfect hospital bag:

Laptop or tablet. If you are a first-time mom, labor can take some time. As in, 14-16 hours time. And if you are being induced or plan on an epidural, your labor may be extended even longer. Some women actually find the early stages of labor, while uncomfortable, tolerable in terms of pain and find that they are actually a bit, well, bored. You might want to pass some time catching up on your favorite show or keeping your blog readers updated on your labor.

Snacks for your partner. While you most likely will not be eating during labor, your partner will need to stay nourished and hydrated in order to provide you the best possible support. He or she may be too concerned to leave you to forage for food while you're in labor, so be sure to throw a few portable snacks into that bag
- a granola or protein bar and some juice or Gatorade should do the trick. I've seen one too many dads just about hit the floor, so prevention is key! If you're anything like me, feel free to sneak a few treats for yourself in there for after the baby is born. Chocolate covered raisins, anyone?

Shampoo and conditioner. Just last week at work, I was helping a new mother up to the shower and asked her if she had brought any shampoo or conditioner she wanted me to set up for her. She looked at me blankly. "Oh," she said. "I didn't even think to bring that stuff - I was just thinking I was going to a hotel!" Unfortunately, a hospital is not a hotel. And while the nursing staff often chips in and provides their own shampoo and conditioner to patients, toiletry items aren't usually part of the package - and if they are, they come at a price. Hospitals will bill you for every last thing you use, so if you have some extra hotel shampoos lying around, toss them into your bag, just in case.

Baby clothes and blankets. This one might sound like a no-brainer, but a lot of people think that you can take the baby clothes and blankets that the hospital provides you with home. While I can't speak for every institution of course, I know that in our hospital, linens are not provided at discharge. Our hospital washes and reuses all the baby onesies and blankets, so it might get kind of difficult to replace them after each and every delivery. Plus, and I say this with all due respect for my profession, but you don't want to take hospital linens home
- yours are much nicer.

A touch of home. After I had my third child, my sister came to visit me in the hospital and brought me my very favorite scented lotion. I can't explain it, but slathering myself in that familiar and comfortable scent made me so happy. It was a small bit of pampering after a rather rough pregnancy and I will never forget how comforting it was to have a small touch of home with me in those whirlwind first few hours. When I think back to my son's newborn days, they are intermingled with the lovely scent of Moonlight Path. I encourage you to pack something small, whether it be your favorite pillow or blanket, or a scented lotion, to bring touch of home to your hospital stay. 

Did I miss anything? What would you recommend to pack for the hospital?

Image: Getty Images

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Was There Someone Not Able to Make It to Your Birth

By Jeana Lee Tahnk

All of my pregnancies and birth experiences hold such happy memories for me. But my most vivid memories are of my first (nearly a decade later), due most likely to the fact that every experience was brand new - getting that belly bump, feeling the baby kick, the ultrasounds. Not to mention the fact that this was my parents' first grandchild, which made each milestone that much more celebrated.

For my parents, that celebration also included incessant worrying. Which meant daily phone calls to me "checking in" - making sure I was eating well, resting enough and taking care of myself. I understood where they were coming from and thought it was cute. I know I'll be the same way when/if my kids have kids.

We were living a few states away from my parents at the time and, because we didn't have the technology we have now, our correspondence occurred primarily over the phone. As I got closer to my due date, we started to talk about when they'd visit. We all decided they would come meet their grandchild after my husband returned to work - it would give my husband and me the time to bond with the baby, and it would also be of great help when my husband's paternity leave was over.

There was part of me that was sad they wouldn't be there until two weeks after the birth, but I didn't want them making the long drive back and forth several times.

After our son was born, our first call was to my parents to let them know they had a grandson. I will never forget talking to my parents from that hospital bed, hearing them crying on the other end of the phone with such joy and emotion at becoming grandparents for the very first time.

We didn't have the luxury of instant photos, FaceTime or Skype back then, so I described over the phone his every gorgeous feature, his full head of black hair, his perfect little fingers and how serene he was. My parents hung onto my every word and were beyond ecstatic to meet him.

The next day, sitting in my hospital bed, there was a knock at the door. Expecting it to be one of the nurses, you can imagine my surprise when the door opened and there were my parents, who had woken up at the crack of dawn to make the five-hour drive down to see us. In between tears, my mom said, "How could I not come see you and meet our first grandchild?" It's a moment I will never forget.

So even though my parents weren't there right after the birth, that surprise visit meant even more. And I wouldn't have wanted it any other way.


Read More by Jeana Lee Tahnk

Balancing Act: Being a Mom, a Partner and Yourself

Keeping Up with an Active Baby



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