Please note: This information was current at the time of publication. But medical information is always changing, and some information given here may be out of date. For regularly updated information on a variety of health topics, please visit familydoctor.org, the AAFP patient education Web site.
Information from Your Family Doctor
Taking Care of Yourself After Having a Baby
Am Fam Physician. 2005 Dec 15;72(12):2497-2498.
See related article on the postpartum office visit.
What health problems might I have after having a baby?
Most healthy women do not have any serious medical problems after they have a baby (called the postpartum period). However, some women may be tired, have less interest in sex, and have vaginal pain. More serious concerns include problems with your thyroid (a gland in your neck that affects how you grow), loss of control when you go to the bathroom, or infections. Talk to your doctor if you think you have any of these problems.
How can I tell if I have postpartum depression?
If you feel sad most of the time; do not like to do the things that you used to; or have thoughts about hurting yourself, your baby, or others, you may be depressed. You should talk to your doctor right away. Treatment usually works, but the sooner you start it, the better.
What if I have trouble breastfeeding after I leave the hospital?
The doctor's office is a good place to find help with breastfeeding. Many hospitals also have breastfeeding specialists called lactation consultants. See the end of this handout for other places you can go for help.
What kinds of birth control can I use after having a baby? What if I am breastfeeding?
You should decide ahead of time what type of birth control you want to use after you have your baby. If you are not breastfeeding, you can use any kind of birth control, but diaphragms and cervical caps must be refitted. If you are breastfeeding, ask your doctor what kind of birth control is safe. Sometimes if you only breastfeed (no bottle feeding at all) you can reduce your chances of getting pregnant. However, this only works if your baby is younger than six months and if you have not had a period since having your baby. If you want to use breastfeeding to reduce the chance of pregnancy (called the lactational amenorrhea method), your doctor can tell you how to do it correctly.
Will I have problems with sex after having a baby?
You may not want to have sex as much, or you may find that sex is painful after having a baby. This can depend on your type of delivery (vaginal or cesarean delivery) and whether you are breastfeeding. Some women feel comfortable having sex as soon as two weeks after delivery. However, most women are not ready to have sex for at least six weeks. Talk to your doctor at your check-up (six weeks after having your baby) if you are having problems with sex. Do not forget to talk to your doctor about birth control when you are ready to start having sex again.
For more information:
La Leche League International
Web site: http://www.lalecheleague.org
National Women's Health Information Center
Web site: http://www.womenshealth.gov
Postpartum Support International
Web site: http://www.postpartum.net
Depression After Delivery, Inc.
Web site: http://www.depressionafterdelivery.com/
This handout is provided to you by your family doctor and the American Academy of Family Physicians. Other health-related information is available from the AAFP online at http://familydoctor.org.
This information provides a general overview and may not apply to everyone. Talk to your family doctor to find out if this information applies to you and to get more information on this subject.
Copyright © 2005 by the American Academy of Family Physicians.
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