Needs of young women during the postpartum period

What is the postpartum period?

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The period of six weeks following birth is called the postpartum period.

Woman lying down with a baby

This period of six weeks following birth is a period of dramatic change and tremendous adjustment that affects the young mother physically and emotionally. The demands of mothering are high, and the young mother will need support from those closest to her so that she does not feel overwhelmed and tempted to give up. It is a critical time for learning and guidance, yet this must be given in a way that does not make the young mother feel incompetent. You should help and guide her to carry out such tasks as she is able within the limits of safety; praise her efforts; and offer corrections as 'tips' for doing something. For example, if you say: 'Your baby is attaching to the breast well but her nose is obstructed so you must move her face like this' it sounds like a correction, Whereas if you say, 'Your baby is attaching to the breast well and if you move her face like this she will be able to feed even better because her nose is not obstructed' it sounds like praise followed by a 'tip'.

Young mothers now have the compound challenge of continuing to establish their own identity while they adjust to the role of being a mother. Immediately after the birth keep the mother and baby together as much as possible, particularly for the first hour. Suggest that she should touch the baby's head, feel molding, and count the fingers and toes.

Later you should assist the mother to breastfeed successfully with correct attachment. Show her how to take the baby off the breast, how to keep the baby's nose unobstructed and how to establish comfortable positions for feeding. Check the newborn gets the first BCG and polio vaccines.

Before you leave make sure both the mother and those who are supporting her understand how to recognise the signs of postpartum complications and when to return to the health facility.

As the young mother tries to cope with the demands of infant care (e.g. sleep deprivation, physical discomfort), the psychological shift into a role of greater responsibility, and rapidly altering hormone levels, dramatic mood swings characteristic of postpartum blues may occur.

What does the term postpartum blues mean?

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Postpartum blues range from being easily upset and having mild feelings of being 'down' and weepy with unexplained sadness to more profound depression with frequent bouts of crying for no obvious reasons.

Postpartum blues usually occur around the third to fifth day after birth. It is normal for all women to experience a sense of loss after birth, but it may be more acute for young mothers. If she and those who support her are aware that this is normal behaviour it may help her to overcome these difficulties quickly.

Last modified: Tuesday, 1 July 2014, 1:51 PM