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Postpartum Care

Postpartum Care

Published: 3 May, 2024 | 8'

After giving birth, a woman's body begins a period of recovery and adaptation. This stage is known as the postpartum or puerperal period.

There are significant changes during pregnancy and it is in the postpartum period that the body returns to its state before pregnancy, in addition to adapting to the new routine with the baby. These weeks are also a time of sudden physical and mental changes, and it varies greatly for each woman.

We will explain how to better understand what happens in a woman's body during this period and the care to be followed with the help of Dr. Joan Matas, an integrative gynecologist.

What is the postpartum or puerperal period?

"The puerperium or postpartum period is the period of time that begins just after giving birth until the physiological state before pregnancy is restored," explains the doctor. It can last 40 days, which is known as the quarantine, but this time varies from one woman to another and can be considerably longer.

This stage is characterized by the start of breastfeeding, the return of ovulation, and with it menstruation, which usually occurs 3-4 months after delivery. Of course, it is a time of joy for the new family member, but also of great challenges, especially for the mother, so it is normal to experience:

  • Lack of sleep and tiredness.
  • Discomfort (in the vagina if it was a vaginal birth, or in the incision in the case of a cesarean section).
  • Difficulty breastfeeding for mothers who choose breastfeeding.
  • Stress, due to a new situation.
  • Bleeding, which is more abundant in the first few days, also known as lochia, and usually persists as a residual loss for about a month, although this time varies from one woman to another.

"All these symptoms are normal since they are weeks of significant changes," reassures Dr. Matas, "the main objective is the well-being of the mother and the baby, as well as the well-being of the entire family, so it is important to ask for help whenever needed and consult the general practitioner or midwife with any doubts."

What happens in our body during the postpartum period?

If no complications arise, let's look at the main physiological changes that will occur in women during the postpartum or puerperal period, and which will focus on returning the body to its pre-pregnancy state:

  • Elimination of accumulated water in the tissues during pregnancy and weight loss.
  • Recovery of normal heart rate and resistance of venous walls.
  • Vaginal bleeding gradually decreases.
  • Hormonal changes: after childbirth, estrogen and progesterone levels decrease and return to their normal levels. In the case of breastfeeding, prolactin secretion increases as long as it continues.
  • The abdomen returns to its usual state and the pressure on the diaphragm, stomach, intestine, bladder, and lungs is relieved. Therefore, respiratory function improves, bladder capacity improves, and normal intestinal activity is restored.
  • Pigmentation that usually occurs during pregnancy on the face, linea alba, or vulva disappears.
  • The immune system's response to bacteria, viruses, or germs may be affected. Therefore, it is important to pay special attention to immune care during the postpartum period.
  • The size of the uterus gradually decreases and the last remnants of childbirth (called lochia) are eliminated during the first few days.
  • Resumption of menstruation. The time depends on each woman. In cases where there is no breastfeeding, menstruation can resume approximately three months after childbirth. When there is breastfeeding, menstruation usually takes longer to return.

Nutrition During the Postpartum Period

Following a balanced diet and healthy habits during the postpartum period can be challenging due to the changes that come with the arrival of the baby, but it is essential to have a diet with a good amount of nutrients for the well-being of the mother and the baby.

Therefore, to anticipate and minimize the changes during this stage, the doctor confirms that "the ideal scenario is to follow appropriate guidelines during pregnancy and maintain them in the postpartum period for optimal recovery, practicing regular exercise and maintaining a balanced diet."

After giving birth, one of the concerns is to regain the pre-pregnancy weight, but it is important to consider that this is a slow process and different for each body. It is advisable to have taken care of the diet during pregnancy and not to have gained excess weight. "I recommend paying attention to the quality of the caloric intake that should come from healthy sources such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, and lean meat, avoiding saturated fats and added sugars," continues Dr. Joan Matas, "skipping meals is not recommended thinking that it shortens the recovery period from the pre-pregnancy state. Instead, we should be aware of the real needs of our body."

Guide to Taking Care of Your Diet After Giving Birth

Postpartum Care

If you are concerned about your diet during this period, Dr. Matas also recommends a series of guidelines that can help you take care of your physical and emotional well-being during this stage:

  • During this period, it may be beneficial to eat small, frequent meals instead of three large main meals.
  • You can have healthy snacks between meals that provide energy and satiety, such as nuts, a piece of fruit, or a protein source.
  • Although it may be difficult at times, try to sit down and enjoy your meals during main meals and share moments with family and friends, as this can promote emotional well-being.
  • Due to time constraints during this period, you can opt for simple dishes such as salads or roasted dishes.
  • You can also try to cook in large quantities (known as "batch cooking") to have several servings in the refrigerator. This way, you can save time cooking for another occasion when it's not possible.

Dietary Ingredients during the Postpartum Period

In order for you to recover properly after giving birth, it is necessary to follow a diet that is rich in nutrients, taking into account the specific requirements during these weeks, especially if you are breastfeeding. Therefore, although all nutrients are necessary for our body, there are some that require special attention.

In addition to a balanced diet, you can take dietary supplements during this postpartum period, whether you are breastfeeding or not, always consulting with your primary care physician or specialist.

Essential Vitamins and Minerals during the Postpartum Period

During pregnancy, iron deficiency is common, or a significant amount of blood may have been lost during childbirth. For these reasons, it is advisable to follow a diet that is rich in iron during the postpartum period, including foods such as red meat and leafy green vegetables, which can be supplemented with dietary supplements containing this mineral.

"Iron, along with B complex vitamins, has properties that can help alleviate fatigue and tiredness, which are common during these weeks," says Dr. Matas. B vitamins can be found in eggs, legumes, and meats.

Vitamin C helps with the absorption of iron and also has beneficial properties for the immune system and energy metabolism. Therefore, it is also beneficial to consume sufficient amounts of this nutrient, both during pregnancy and after giving birth. It is found in citrus fruits such as oranges or kiwis, as well as in vegetables such as peppers or broccoli.

Omega-3 fatty acids are beneficial, especially during the breastfeeding period, as the consumption of DHA by the mother contributes to the normal development of the baby's brain and vision. They can be found in fish and nuts.

10 Tips for the Postpartum Period

The recovery process depends on numerous factors and is different for every woman. It is influenced by the type of delivery, the diet and lifestyle during pregnancy and before conception, as well as the specific emotional and social circumstances of the mother and the family environment.

As Dr. Matas points out, "physiological recovery takes a few weeks, but adapting to the new routine emotionally and dealing with hormonal changes can prolong this process." Keeping the following tips in mind can help during the first few weeks of the postpartum period:

Tips for the postpartum period

  1. Above all, be patient with the process. It is a continuous learning experience, and there is no such thing as a "guide to being a perfect mother."
  2. A gradual and healthy weight loss. Following a diet that provides optimal nutrients, drinking enough water, and avoiding foods with added sugars or processed foods can naturally help eliminate a significant portion of the weight gained during pregnancy.
  3. Self-care and relaxation. Sometimes, social pressure can make us demand too much of ourselves, but it is normal to feel overwhelmed by all the changes. Focus on your well-being and take small moments of relaxation to do something you enjoy, like reading, cooking, listening to music, or simply spending some time alone resting.

  4. Visitors? There will be many family members and friends who will want to meet the baby, but feel free to decide the timing for this or wait a few days until you adapt to the new family unit.

  5. Ask for help. Before reaching a state of overwhelm or stress, reach out to your close circle or a healthcare professional with any questions and express your concerns or needs.

  6. There is no set routine or pace. Especially during the first few weeks, the baby won't have a strict schedule and will follow their own rhythm for feeding and sleeping, so adaptation during this time is crucial.

  7. Maintain an active lifestyle. You can start going for walks a few days after giving birth, as long as there are no complications and you feel well. Physical exercise plays a crucial role in recovery and overall well-being.

  8. Spend time outdoors. Going out or taking walks, whenever possible, engaging in activities with family or friends, and changing the environment can be beneficial for your emotional and physical well-being.

  9. In some cases, it may be advisable to supplement your diet with dietary supplements containing vitamins, minerals, and other natural ingredients, always consulting with a healthcare professional based on your specific needs or concerns.

  10. Trust yourself and your instincts. Every baby is different, and there is no "magic formula" for parenting. You can seek guidance from advice or recommendations from your surroundings, but always follow your instincts.


Content created in collaboration with Dr. Joan Matas. This article is for informational purposes and does not substitute the consultation with a specialist.

About the Specialist

Dr. Joan Matas is an integrative gynecologist specializing in Breast Pathology, Fertility, and Orthomolecular Medicine and Nutrition. Through his social media accounts, @dr.matasdalmases, he helps inform and promote healthy habits.

Health Specialists