So, what happens after those 40-odd weeks you've spent walking around with someone you've never met? And how soon do you get your life back or, at the very least, your pre-pregnancy bod back? "The breast-feeding mother should be encouraged to get back to exercise a few weeks after delivery, as and when she is comfortable with her new schedule," says Dr Eileen Canday, chief dietitian with Breach Candy Hospital.
Recommended foods include whole wheat products, oats rather than refined wheat products, well-cooked pulses, seasonal fruits, leafy veggies, as well as walnuts, flax seeds for essential fatty acids and omega 3 fatty acids, apart from milk, milk products and lean meats.
For mothers worried about getting back to aerobic exercise, including walking and light jogging, Canday says, "Aerobic exercise has no adverse effect on lactation. She could continue with the forms of exercise that she has been doing before her pregnancy."
Coping with change
Profound hormonal and physical changes post delivery are likely to be challenging for any new mother, says gynaecologist Dr Suman Bijlani. "Meeting her own expectations and that of her husband and in-laws can be a daunting task," she says, adding, "Many women suffer from sleepless nights, bodyache, backache, irritability, mood swings and lethargy. Fatigue may set in and dampen her enthusiasm."
Bijlani categorises these changes as 'baby blues', which she says are a fairly common part of early motherhood and are, therefore, not usually a cause for concern. "However, in extreme cases, post-partum depression may set in, which is a more serious problem and needs medical help."
Cases of postpartum depression are more common in women who have a history of being depressed before, or are in a stressful environment, says Bijlani. "If you suspect postpartum depression in yourself or a family member, contact your doctor immediately."
Bijlani says that women aged 35 and above are usually better prepared -- certainly psychologically -- for the life change that the birth of a baby heralds. They must, however, be prepared that their obstetrician is likely to advise them to take certain screening tests in the first and second trimester to assess their individual risk. "They do have a higher risk of having a miscarriage, twins and babies with genetic defects or Downs Syndrome (mongolism)." For a safe pregnancy, Bijlani advises preparation. "Undertake routine blood tests and complete pre-pregnancy vaccination if possible," she says.
Look after yourself!
In order to cope with the change, experts advise looking after 'you', first. "Treat yourself to a foot and back massage! Do not hesitate to ask for favours when you need them. Love yourself and equip yourself to give your baby the right start!" Bijlani concludes.