Postnatal care is extremely important for both the woman and the baby (or babies) in question.
Signing up for maternity care services is a very surreal experience. Simply filling out the form can feel quite daunting especially if it is your first pregnancy as you are consumed with thoughts of the unknown. On subsequent pregnancies, you cannot help but compare things to the care you received in your previous pregnancies. Perhaps you are hoping for a very similar experience or level of care whereas the person sitting beside you wants a drastically different experience to what they have experienced before.
Then comes the variety of different options available. Will you go public, semi-private or private? Will you choose midwife-led or consultant-led care? Which hospital should you opt for? Will you avail of combined care in conjunction with your GP or consider the Domino Scheme? It is total oblivion of information and options to sift through.
At this stage your thoughts are completely focused on the pregnancy. You are thinking scans, wait times and the parking situation while you are attending these appointments. It’s difficult to imagine the end point and the fact that, all going well, there will be a baby at the end of it all. For this reason postnatal care probably won’t even be on your radar.
Postnatal care is extremely important for both the woman and the baby (or babies) in question. It is the time where all parties are at their most vulnerable in many ways. It is a priority to ensure that nothing is forgotten, left to chance or overlooked. For this reason, there are a number of postnatal check-points and check-ups which are extremely important to avail of.
Some of your postnatal care will happen in the actual maternity hospital while you are staying there. If you have had stitches they will be cared for and checked. The midwives will also make sure your pain levels are under control as well as exploring any feeding concerns or general health issues.
Giving birth is a mammoth task and it affects so many elements of your physicality and emotional well-being so it really is important to feel as good as possible before you are discharged from the hospital. The very same can be said for your baby. They will be seen by a paediatrician and will most likely have a hearing exam as well as being weighed and checked for several general issues. If you have any concerns it is important to raise them while you have access to the dedicated hospital team.
When you leave hospital your care will continue between community midwives who may visit your house and finally your Public Health Nurse who should visit you within the first couple of days of returning home from the hospital. They will offer extended care and essentially take over from the hospital. They will be able to share their expertise on areas of feeding and generally caring for your baby.
It is an amazing resource and taking advantage of it is really important. Your PHN will have an open-door policy and will be available to call or visit if you have any concerns about the baby or your own well-being after the birth. If you are struggling with anything physical they will be able to offer advice and perhaps a referral. The same can be said for any concerns regarding your mental health. The role of a public health nurse is hugely important and can make all the difference for a new mum and baby.
If your baby becomes sick or if you have any major health concerns regarding your own recovery after the birth it is recommended to raise it with the maternity hospital you attended for the first six weeks of your baby’s life. They will have a phone number and A&E department. After six weeks you should attend a general children’s hospital/adult hospital or your GP should any issues arise for you or the baby.
Your baby will have a check-up at two weeks and both you and your baby will have a six week check up also. Both of these occur at your GP’s office and are very important to attend. This is a safe place to discuss anything that might be worrying you physically or mentally. It is important to seek help in between these weeks and after if you have any concerns or worries. Do not suffer in silence and remember that this is a very vulnerable and sensitive time for you.
Tracey is a happy mammy to four-year-old Billy. She is a breastfeeder, gentle parent and has recently lost five stone so healthy family eating is her passion! You can find her at www.loveofliving.ie.