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When it comes to a mother’s first experience with her own postpartum health, there is at least one universal truth: you don’t know what you don’t know.

Darcy Slizewski, an obstetrician with Piedmont OB/GYN, said there are some questions expectant moms don’t know to ask. She offered tips for making the postpartum period easier – and a reminder that it only lasts for a season.

It’s no fun, but Slizewski said mothers should expect postpartum bleeding to last for up to six weeks. Stock what you need in advance.

“They will send you home from the hospital with pads, but have some at home that are not super bulky,” she said. “Don’t use tampons. Nothing in the vagina for six weeks – that includes tampons and sex.”

Keep your lactation consultant’s number handy.

“A lot of times you are home from the hospital before your milk truly comes in,” Slizewski said. “I also encourage women to get a couple of different kinds of nursing bras. You want them to be adjustable.”

Slizewski said you can’t really tell what size and style of nursing bra will be most comfortable for you until after your milk supply comes in.

If possible, plan to nest at home for a while.

“Amazon Prime has changed lives for postpartum moms,” Slizewski said. “Ask your friends what has worked for them and buy it online. Save those outings for the important things. In the winter, if you don’t have to have your baby out, don’t.”

Be prepared to wake up for more than just baby. Some women experience night sweats postpartum as the body adapts.

“It’s totally normal,” Slizewski said. “It’s akin to when you are post-menopausal. Your body is adjusting and part of that is adjusting to temperature. A true fever is something I want to know about.”

Slizewski said first-time moms don’t know what to ask, especially about topics like hemorrhoids (she says many mothers will experience them) and sex. They should never suffer in silence.

“A lot of women will have painful sex when they come back for that six-weeks appointment,” she said. “If it’s painful, let your doctor know. That’s not the new way of life.”

Adjusting to life with baby can impact mental health as well as physical health.

“Postpartum blues, which is basically an imbalance of your mood after delivery, is normal,” Slizewski said. “If you feel so emotionally unstable that you feel like you aren’t taking care of yourself or your baby, or if you don’t care, you need to tell your doctor.”

Slizewski said postpartum depression, which is treatable, may not be immediately apparent. It can show up at any time in the first year after delivery.

No matter what the symptom or question, Slizewski said new moms should feel comfortable talking with their doctor.

“If it doesn’t sound right, ask your doctor,” she said. “There’s a lot of bad advice out there.”

And remember that this time of adjustment is just temporary.

“People always say the days are long but the years are short, and that’s totally true,” Slizewski said. “It’s so easy when you’re tired and you’re not sleeping well to think, ‘Am I ever going to feel normal again?’ You will.”

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