Birthing a baby is a stressful, exhausting experience. Often times, one of the first questions new moms ask is, "When can I take a shower?" Hartshorn says that if you gave birth vaginally, you can usually take a shower right away. With a c-section, though, you'll need to wait a little longer. "It might be a day or two before they finally let you take a shower... The key is to just not scrub your incision site," says Hartshorn. You don't want to risk loosening your stitches or bandages.
Other new moms go stir crazy after a few days at home; many want to know when they can go out and drive again. "You really should have somebody chauffeur you around for the first week," says Hartshorn. Hitting the brake and gas pedals with your foot actually uses your abdominal muscles, which are stretched after birth, so it's important to rest them for a while. If you had a c-section, Hartshorn recommends waiting 2-3 weeks to drive. Check with your doctor to find out when it's okay to operate a vehicle.
In today's society, there's pressure on new moms to lose their baby weight as soon as possible. But dieting shouldn't be your first priority. "You shouldn't diet while you're nursing. Nursing actually burns 300 extra calories a day," says Hartshorn. Instead, eat nutritiously and expect to lose weight little by little. "It took 9 months to put the weight on, it could take 9 months to take all the weight off," says Hartshorn.
The same goes for exercise. Take it slow at first. Women who've just given birth shouldn't do any strenuous exercise until after their six week check-up with their OB/GYN. If you're itching to get moving, try some light walking instead. Take your baby for a walk around the neighborhood or do some leisurely laps around your local mall with the stroller. If you're feeling stiff, most stretches are okay too. Just be sure to take extra care with abdominal stretches; again, you don't want to disrupt any stitches you may have gotten after delivery. Keep in mind you're still healing.
Sex will also be off limits until after your six week check-up. Your doctor needs to make sure you're healing well both physically and emotionally before he or she can give you the green light to be sexually active again. Your doctor may also talk to you about birth control during this appointment. Even if you're breast feeding or your period hasn't returned, it's still possible for you to get pregnant again.
If you don't feel ready for sex yet, though, that's okay. "Don't do anything - and that includes exercise and having sex - that you don't feel ready to do," says Hartshorn. Every woman is different. Some people want to start having sex right away, and others prefer to wait a few months before being intimate again. You have to decide what's right for you.
Finally, if you want to celebrate the birth of your baby with a drink, you can. Just be sure to consume alcohol in moderation. "Whatever you drink does go to the milk, so you just want to take a sip," says Hartshorn. Or, time your celebratory drink for at least three hours before baby is due for a feeding. That gives your body time to process the alcohol before you need to breast feed again. "Don't go crazy - don't actually get drunk if you're still nursing!" says Hartshorn.
For more information on recovering after giving birth, as well as additional parenting advice, click here to visit www.AmericanBaby.com.
By Erin Petrun