Your Healthy Self
You’ve got to love your husband. He has sex, he has an orgasm, ejaculates, and nine months later calls himself Dad. You have sex, probably without an orgasm; for the next thirty minutes you lie propped up on a pillow with your legs in the air, hoping his sperm will make its way up the cervical canal and meet up with your egg; and then you wait anxiously until you can take a pregnancy test to find out whether in nine months you’ll be able to call yourself Mom. Of course, all of this assumes you had planned to get pregnant, which doesn’t take into account the percentage of pregnancies, however welcome they may be, that are unplanned. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg, right? You spend the next few months nauseated, vomiting, and eating saltines. All the while, he takes clients to four-star restaurants and eats four-course meals. While your body contorts into different shapes, his body stays exactly the same. Maybe he gains a few extra pity pounds–but for the most part, you’re on your own.
Over the months that follow, you complain–a lot. He comforts you while flicking the TiVo controller. You burp, fart, and have heartburn that could light your house on fire. He smiles, rubs your feet, tells you what a great job you’re doing.
When you get to bed, you can’t sleep; he sleeps like a baby. Your mind is racing: Will I be a good parent
? What will our lives be like? How will I cope?
Maybe you even wake him out of his sound sleep with your questions. “Piece of cake,” he tells you, and falls fast asleep again.You gaze down at your enormous belly, your aching breasts, the spider veins that are slowly creeping their way up your legs. You look at his body as he snores and realize that nothing’s changed for him; is this fair? Do I even need to answer that question? I always hated those husbands that told people, “We’re pregnant.” What do they mean, “we”? Are they kidding? we
are NOT pregnant. If men could get pregnant we’d
become extinct, and it wouldn’t be gradual, either. It would be sudden, like an explosion, and nine months later, the human race would cease to exist.
All right, I’m running away with myself–but just a little. It doesn’t end there, though. After the baby comes out, your husband’s body is still normal, but yours has gone through a war.You’re breaking out and having mood swings like a teenager. He’s trying to help but looks a little scared, and not of fatherhood, mind you–you think he might be scared of you! You look in the mirror; why wouldn’t he be scared of you? Your feet are large, your hair is falling out, you haven’t slept, and you’re leaking from every opening in your body. Then, you gaze down at your sleeping baby and take a deep breath, while your husband hands you a cup of chamomile tea, and you know it’s all worthwhile. That doesn’t mean, however, that there aren’t a lot of changes to be reckoned with, physical and emotional, and challenges to be overcome.
This book was written to help you learn how to take care of yourself after having a baby, and to let you know when you need to go to a doctor or other health professional when self-care isn’t enough.With everybody’s focus on the baby, it’s easy for Mom to be forgotten. But if you’re not well, physically or mentally, your baby will suffer too. Your baby needs a healthy mother. Taking care of yourself is a crucial step in learning how to take care of your family.What’s up with my skin?
I don’t know about you, but I miss that “pregnancy glow.” People used to come up to me left and right to tell me how good I looked and how much pregnancy agreed with me.
After giving birth, however, it became abundantly clear that pregnancy had taken a toll on my skin. The glow was replaced by acne, stretch marks on my body, and spider veins on my legs. Friends complained of varicose veins and skin tags too. On top of the sleepless nights and stress which could make even a china doll break out,we were plagued by feelings that we’d never look as good as we had before we got pregnant. Here’s the scoop on some of the top skin concerns and what you can do about them.Why am I breaking out like a teenager? I’m a mom, for goodness sakes.
Unfortunately, being a mom won’t protect you from your hormones, which have been on a roller-coaster ride lately. Acne during pregnancy is not uncommon and can linger after the baby’s born. Surging hormone levels are responsible for an increase in oil-gland production, which can make the skin a breeding ground for zits. So if you thought your pimples ended with high school graduation, think again!
How come my girlfriend has the clearest complexion of all time and I look like a pimple product commercial?
The same reason why she had heartburn during pregnancy and you didn’t: We’re all different. Some women will have acne and others won’t. If you’ve suffered from acne in the past, especially during your period, it is more likely you will have acne during and after your pregnancy. There is some good news, however: Nursing may protect your skin from breaking out. Another good reason to breastfeed.
Will it ever go away?
Yes, acne will disappear for most women when their hormone levels normalize, usually within a few months. If you have a history of breaking out prior or during your menstrual cycle, you can expect the same pattern once you stop breastfeeding and your period resumes. But look on the bright side: At least you don’t have to go to the senior prom with a pimple on your nose!
What can I do about those pesky zits in the meantime?
Remember back when Mom told you not to pop them? The same advice still applies. Do not touch or squeeze your acne–you can get a nasty infection which is the last thing you need right now.
Take care of your skin and keep it clean. Dermatologists recommend washing your face with a mild cleanser twice a day. Over-the-counter products which contain benzoyl peroxide and/or salicylic acid should be safe if you’re nursing; just check the label. If the problem is really bad, you may need a prescription. Make an appointment with a dermatologist, and make sure the doctor knows you’re nursing before he or she prescribes any medication.Stretch Marks
Before getting pregnant, everyone warned me about stretch marks. What are they and why do we get them?
Stretch marks are one of those unwanted little gifts of pregnancy. Because that growing baby made your uterus expand so much, your tummy’s skin paid the price. Stretch marks are reddish, slightly depressed streaks that are seen on the abdomen and occasionally on the buttocks, breasts, and thighs.
They appear because the elastic tissue in your skin gets worn down as it stretches and grows with your pregnant body. Pregnant women aren’t the only people blessed with stretch marks. Anyone experiencing rapid weight gain is at risk too, including bodybuilders, overweight and obese people, and even kids going through puberty.
Does everyone get them?
No. There are (very lucky) women out there without a single stretch mark on their bodies. Studies show that roughly fifty percent of women have stretch marks during and after their pregnancies.
Your stretch mark risk goes up if you are carrying more than one baby, have a large baby, or gain weight rapidly.
When will they go away?
Do you want the good news or the bad news first? Let’s start with the bad news: They won’t really go away. But, here’s the good news: They’ll fade. Stretch marks fade significantly by six to twelve months post-pregnancy. So instead of those lovely reddish streaks, you’re left with a silvery white remnant. Just consider it a battle scar from pregnancy!
Can I prevent them from happening to me?
My mother-in-law says yes. She swears by cocoa butter and bought me a tub of cream to slather all over myself during my first pregnancy. After my clothes repeatedly got stuck to my stomach and thighs, I did some research. The real answer is no. (I didn’t have the heart to tell her and re-gifted the second tub of cream during my second pregnancy to an unsuspecting relative!) No cream or lotion has been medically proven to help. So don’t waste your money.
Help! I have large, twisted, blue veins runningdown the back of my calves.
Welcome to the club that no one wants a membership to. You have varicose veins, enlarged, cordlike veins that often take up residence in your legs. Let’s be honest: They’re not so pretty. They often conjure up images of Grandma in a bathing suit.
Why do we get them?
Pregnant women are vulnerable to varicose veins for several
reasons. Pregnancy increases the amount of blood in your body and the blood can pool in your legs, making the veins larger. As your uterus gets bigger with the growing baby, the added pressure gets exerted on the veins in your legs. Plus, your hormones can relax the walls of the veins, further adding to the problem.
My legs ache; could it be the varicose veins?
Unfortunately, yes.To add insult to injury, varicose veins can cause pain, aches, a feeling of heaviness, and cramps. They can also cause itchiness and throbbing. These symptoms tend to get worse if you sit or stand in one place for an extended period of time.
Take note: If one leg becomes swollen, red, or painful, seek medical attention right away.You may have a blood clot and need to see a doctor immediately.
Is there relief for my symptoms?
Yes. Many doctors recommend compression stockings, which won’t land you on the fashion pages of the newspaper, but will help ease your aches and pains. By compressing the flesh of your legs, they help get the blood moving more efficiently. Speak with your doctor and make sure the stockings fit properly. Getting the wrong size isn’t going to help, especially if the stockings are too big.
I thought the varicose veins would disappear after I gave birth. But mine haven’t. What’s up with that?
Most varicose veins will improve within three months post-pregnancy. But some will linger. If yours are sticking around and causing unpleasant symptoms, it’s time to see a doctor.
What’s the treatment for varicose veins?
Good news: There are many different treatments for varicose veins. From surgery to injections to lasers, you have a host of different options. And you have many different types of doctors to choose from as well: Plastic surgeons, interventional radiologists, and dermatologists all perform these kinds of procedures. Discuss the options with your primary doctor to see which one is right for you. Remember, all procedures can have possible side effects, so discuss
these as well.
I noticed red, branching blood vessels on my legs–what are these?
They’re called spider veins, another battle scar of pregnancy. But don’t despair: They usually fade quite a bit postpregnancy.
Why do I have them?
Spider veins are thin veins that lie close to the surface of the skin. They show up when you’re pregnant because of the increase in blood circulation. They’re also caused by hormonal changes. Some experts believe that crossing your legs while sitting can bring them on because the blood in your legs gets backed up. There’s also good evidence that they are inherited, so if Mom has red spiders running up and down her legs, chances are: so will you.
Are they similar to varicose veins?
Sort of. Spider veins are smaller than varicose veins, but they both show up during and after pregnancy. Varicose veins can be painful and may worsen over time. Spider veins are generally not painful and fade or disappear postpregnancy.
It’s been over a year since I gave birth and my spider veins haven’t disappeared; what can I do?
There are several treatments available. Many women opt for sclerotherapy, a procedure in which the vein is injected with a solution that makes it collapse, and as a result, it becomes less noticeable. Laser surgery is also available. Both treatments may have side effects including swelling, pain, and bruising. Make sure to discuss these and other related matters with your doctor.
Also keep in mind that while most veins don’t disappear completely, the procedures usually cause them to fade considerably.Melasma or “the Mask of Pregnancy”
What is melasma?
Melasma, often called “the mask of pregnancy,” is discolored patches of skin on the face. It’s caused by the overproduction of melanin, a pigment that gives your skin its color. It commonly affects the cheeks, nose, and forehead. The condition is linked to your body’s hormonal changes and can show up during pregnancy or when you take oral contraceptives or undergo hormone replacement therapy.
Is it common?
Yes. Melasma is very common and affects roughly six million women. Women with darker skin tones are more likely to get it. Important to note: Sun exposure can heighten your risk for melasma–so limit your tanning time and make sure to use sunblock with an SPF of at least fifteen.
I’ve had my baby, why hasn’t the melasma gone away?
For most women, melasma will fade several months after delivery. For others, it can persist. Some women report having melasma for many years post-pregnancy; others report that their melasma never went away at all. The not-so-good news: Even if your melasma does go away, it may come back in subsequent pregnancies.
Can I treat it?
Although there is no cure for melasma, it can be effectively treated. Creams containing hydroquinone have been shown to help fade the patches of melasma. Chemical peels and topical steroid creams have been shown to work, as well as laser treatment. Remember,many treatments have side effects, so you should definitely consult a dermatologist.Skin Tags
Help! After I had my son, I noticed several small pieces of skin hanging down from under my breasts; is this normal?
Yes, it’s normal.You have skin tags, which commonly develop after pregnancy or as people age. They’re totally harmless and often show up in the folds of your skin. Your neck, breasts, and armpits are common hot spots.
Will they go away on their own?
Unfortunately, the answer is no. Your skin tags are here to stay. Skin tags do not resolve after pregnancy.
Can they turn into skin cancer?
No. Skin tags are not precancerous and will never turn into skin cancer. They shouldn’t cause you any discomfort unless they’re located in an area of friction, like under a bra strap, at which point, the tags can become red and inflamed, itchy, and even painful.
I hate the way they look; can I get rid of them?
You sure can. Some women opt to have skin tags removed for cosmetic reasons. Others eliminate the ones that get easily irritated. Dermatologists can cut, freeze, or burn them off, and the procedure is usually quick and virtuall pain-free. Don’t ever attempt to remove them yourself. You could cause an infection, blood clot, or bleeding.
Excerpted from The New Mom's Survival Guide by Jennifer Wider, MD. Copyright © 2008 by Jennifer Wider, M.D.. Excerpted by permission of Bantam, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.