Three Things No-One Tells You About Being A New Mum (And What To Do About Them)!
We read the books and speak to friends and relatives but there are some things about being a new parent that no-one seems to tell us. So take a look at this run-down of three things and my down-to-earth advice and ... relax!
In just a few minutes you will:
1. UNDERSTAND why your vulva might look a bit different after having a baby.
2. Feel REASSURED that your first major visit to the loo after birth needn’t be a major trauma.
3. KNOW why it’s important to leave your baby’s first skin to shed off.
1. “My vulva looks different after birth and I think I haven’t been stitched properly!”
Let’s be honest, your mates might’ve told you that they had stitches after birth but I bet they didn’t say that, when they grabbed a mirror to check out the damage, it all looked a bit ... a bit … well, a bit tattier than they remembered and they didn’t know who to ask about it!
Immediately after birth, whether or not you have needed stitches, the vaginal opening looks quite loose and when you grab a mirror and look for yourself you might also see small skin tags around and just inside the entrance to the vagina that give a sort of “frilly” look. Almost all women worry that these but, in almost all cases, these little bits of flesh, (they look a little like teeny bits of earlobe), are ‘hymen tags’. All midwives know about these but, for some reason, they don’t tell women about them!
Now most women think their hymen is extremely thin but, in fact, it’s quite thick and it doesn’t all tear back when we lose our virginity - there is a bit left which tears away with the birth of our first baby leaving these small bits of hymen. The little tags are left to heal and it is these that give us that slightly different look just inside the entrance to our vagina.
Wait a few days to let the swelling go down and then ask your midwife to check your perineum and vulva with you. She can point out any hymen tags etc and reassure you. Look after your stitches and bruised perineum (that's the area between your clitoris and anus) after birth by pouring warm water over your perineum as you pee and then dab dry with a clean, soft towel.
Your amazing body is beautifully evolved to birth a baby and then heal just fine with just a little bit of care and attention.
2. “I need to poo but am frightened I’ll pop my stitches!”
Don’t panic! Every woman (including me) who has given birth faces this fear. We tend to have a good “clear-out” during the last couple of days before birth through the first ‘warm-up’ stage of our actual labour.
This ensures that our birth canal is good and empty to give extra room for baby to come through and can mean that a woman might not actually need to open her bowels for a few days to a week after having a baby. When we do actually need to go again, there really isn’t anything to worry about. Our bodies are beautifully and highly evolved so that our vaginal opening and our anus actually head away from each other. So, when we do open our bowels, the stitched part of the perineum doesn’t get over-stretched and there is no damage to the stitches and no pain. We worry so much, and then we wonder afterwards what all the fuss was about!
Drinking plenty of water and eating lots of fruit and veg after birth makes going to the loo easier and then, when the urge strikes, get a pad of tissue paper and press it over your perineum to reassure you that your stitches can’t come to any harm.
If, despite this, you simply can’t go after 5-7 days, tell your midwife who will be able to sort you out with some simple medicines to help get things going again.
3. “My baby is losing their skin and I’m worried it’s something I’ve done something wrong!”
Within a week of being born, the lovely peachy-soft, perfect skin of our newborn starts to go dry and then come off. Every time you take their baby-gro off the air is filled with a cloud of skin flakes. Mums worry that their baby has “dry skin” and grab the oil to moisturise it.
The flaking is completely normal and it happens to all babies. Quite simply your baby’s first skin is their ‘womb skin’ - perfectly evolved for 9 months of life in the fluid-filled amniotic sac inside your uterus.
Once the baby is born this ‘womb skin’ needs to be shed to make way for the first ‘room skin’ - just as peachy soft as the ‘womb skin’ but especially evolved to cope with the outside world.
So, the ‘womb skin’ MUST flake off to make way for the ‘room skin’ and you can’t, and shouldn’t try, to stop the flaking by slapping on oil. Even the gentlest of oils like coconut or olive oil can affect the healthy working of the skin and can also lead to irritation.
So care for your baby’s beautiful skin by leaving it to do its job without interfering - avoid bathing baby for the first few days of life to let any leftover vernix absorb and nourish the skin, and then only bathe your baby once or twice a week using nothing but warm water. No soaps, lotions, oils or other products should be used on a newborn baby for at least 6 weeks and, after that, stick to ones that are meant for babies and follow the instructions carefully -
less is definitely more in this case, and nothing is best of all. When you want to enjoy some delicious baby massage time, just use your warm, bare hands.
Remember that your baby’s skin is highly evolved and is more than capable of taking care of itself so, help it do its job by keeping those products out of your shopping basket and your newborn baby’s skin soft and kissable.