Your role in addressing the needs of young mothers during the postpartum period
Your primary goal should be to help the young mother successfully take on the role and responsibilities of mothering. She may need close monitoring to keep her focused on the wide range and seemingly endless tasks involved in caring for a baby. The following is a checklist of actions for you to ensure that you give full support to each young mother.
- The young mother should be observed for the first six hours after birth. Make sure she has someone reliable who will remain with her.
- You should schedule a home visit for follow-up for one and six weeks postpartum. i.e. you should make a home visit at the 7th and 42nd day after birth.
- During the first postpartum visit (made during the first week after birth), pay attention to the young mother's ability to cope with change and new responsibilities. Check whether she has experienced postpartum blues and whether she has overcome them or is still feeling 'down'. Observe the mother–baby interaction and breastfeeding (attachment, removal, positioning and style of feeding). Take a brief history focusing on progress in healing and involution; inspect her breasts, abdomen and perineum.
- During the sixth week visit take a complete history and make a thorough physical examination. Now is a good time to discuss future contraceptive needs with the young mother. Explore with her how she is coping with mothering and any physical, emotional and/or baby problems. Make sure the newborn gets its vaccination.
- You should be able to help her solve the common physical discomforts of postpartum recuperation and adjustment, such as increased perspiration, perineal pain, breast engorgement, constipation and haemorrhoids. Assure her that these are common problems and taking a soft diet will help; give her painkillers if she has pain.
- Make sure she is continuing her nutritional supplements, especially if breastfeeding.
- Give genuine praise for any and all accomplishments in caring for her baby.
- Encourage experienced caretakers (mother, grandmother, aunt) to work with the young mother, but they should not take over the direct care of the baby. Encourage supporters to remind the mother to drink fluids–something often forgotten by the new mother in her distraction and fatigue.
- Keep the lines of communication open and be available to the young mother as situations arise for which she will need your support or the support of other young mothers whom she may have met during her antenatal period.