Child birth: What should women expect?

Penny Kalungi had a normal delivery with her first child. She didn’t have any complications; she and the baby were both in perfect health condition. What she didn’t see coming was the discomfort from the episiotomy (a surgical cut made at the opening of the vagina during childbirth, to prevent rupture of tissues).

She had heard about the excruciating labour pain but no one had warned her about the pain experienced after giving birth.

“It was too much, I couldn’t sleep; sitting was painful and I couldn’t walk either,” she says.

Her whole body was in pain. With fractured joints and a hip dislocation, Kalungi says her life had almost come to a standstill.

Just as one gets changes during pregnancy, they should expect changes after delivery. 

‘The labour ward is the pinnacle where women discover the courage to become mothers’. This phrase is true, basing on the experiences mothers have shared over centuries.

Women who have gone through labour testify to having had near-death experiences, yet even after delivery, it barely gets any easier.

A recent thread on Twitter saw women share some of the agonising experiences that came in the aftermath of their deliveries.

Surgeons during an operation at Oshen- King Faisal Hospital. After a C-section, a woman might be at risk of developing an infection, therefore, caution is necessary. Net photo

One Nanjala Nyabola sparked off the discussion by inquiring from women about the age at which they found out that sometimes pregnancy causes women to lose their teeth? The response to her tweet was overwhelming yet revealing for many. A number of women were shocked to learn that pregnancy and delivery could have such enormous effects (including loss of teeth) and with this, a number of women went on to subsequently share their experiences.

“Can you also imagine that your pelvis bones also dilate and become soft, making you prone to back and hip pain during this process? I have an injured hip so I feel the changes at a very high level,” Census K Lo-liyong wrote.

Another woman highlighted how the women in her family always tell her that pregnancy does anything it wants.

“My aunt’s teeth shifted and she lost all her edges during her pregnancy. She had her baby and her edges came back and her teeth look like she’s had braces,” she wrote.

Whereas it is not news that giving birth comes with unspeakable pain, what about the changes women don’t hear about every day? What are some of the physical and emotional changes women should expect during and after childbirth?

Dr John Muganda, a gynaecologist, says there are many things to expect during pregnancy and that some of them are specific for the first, second and third trimester.

A huge body change, due to hormonal changes. Gain of weight, nausea, abdominal discomfort and sometimes vomiting tend to happen during the first trimester, he explains.

During the second trimester, Muganda says the pregnant mother is familiar to these changes, unless if it is a multiple pregnancy (when one is pregnant with twins, triplets or more).

“In the third trimester, there is fatigue, general body weakness. Sometimes signs of compression of the stomach. At that moment, as the mother is nearing delivery, she can feel frequent but slight uterine contractions,” he says.

Dr Wilbur Bushara explains that when a woman gets pregnant, they are bound to have hormonal changes and this, therefore, will come with various changes which include increased or reduced appetite, craving (increased appetite for a particular type of food), morning sickness where a mother usually feels feverish during morning hours and gets better during the evening, and lower abdominal pain, among others.

The medic goes on to say that women at this stage of their life are disposed to infections, for example, candidiasis, urinary tract infection (which are usually because of reduced immunity and incomplete emptying of the bladder as a result of the baby pressing against it).

Bushara also mentions weight gain, breast enlargement and mood swings where a mother changes from one mood to another so easily even without a cause.

Bushara notes that just as one gets changes during pregnancy, they should expect changes after delivery, adding that the changes that come after delivering, however, entirely depend on mode of delivery; that is if it was by caesarean section or normal vaginal delivery.

Some of the changes he says are both physical and psychological.

“Some mothers develop postpartum psychosis. This is a mental health problem that some mothers may develop after delivery irrespective of the mode of delivery, and during this time they may hate the baby, refuse to breastfeed them and hate themselves as well,” the medic reveals.

Some mothers may develop postpartum haemorrhage too. This is an abnormal bleeding within the first 24hrs after delivery or after 24hrs.

This, Bushara says, is a medical emergency and that a mother is advised to seek medical attention as fast as they can.

Puerperal sepsis is when a mother gets high temperatures, associated with chills or rigors within the first six weeks after delivery. Bushara notes that this can be due to infections gotten after or during process of delivery.

He also explains that mothers are bound to get haemorrhoids, “Some mothers will experience anal swellings associated with pain when passing stool and this mostly affects mothers who have a normal vaginal delivery.”

A column on the Huffington Post about ‘weird post pregnancy body changes you might not expect’ reveals that some mothers experience phantom kicks even after delivery.

“No one ever talks about these, but many mothers recognise them. They’re little flutters and kicks in the womb, just like you have mid-pregnancy,” the column shows.

It also indicates that there are cases of mouthfuls of blood. Bleeding gums and wobbly teeth are common post-birth, while breastfeeding, the baby uses so much of your calcium that you need to keep your calcium levels topped up.

There is also the case with automatic lactation. One of the surprising things about lactation is that it can start in small amounts during pregnancy. Then, when you see your baby for the first time, you may find yourself leaking milk without even realising. And some women can continue to have achy breasts and produce a few drops many months or even years after they have stopped breastfeeding and after their periods have returned, the column shows in part.

“There is also involuntary urinating, while the common loss of bladder control in late pregnancy normally improves after birth, there is the possibility you might never regain full bladder control.”

What can be done to support the wellbeing of expectant mothers?

Mothers should make prenatal visits a priority. This is when doctors can rule out any possible complications that can rise during or after pregnancy, hence ensuring a healthy pregnancy.

Annet Imbabazi, Cashier

The Government should invest more in the welfare of pregnant mothers. During this stage, women are so fragile that they need all the care and support they can get.

Jackie Umurerwa, Statistician

There should be more non-government organisations set up to take care of women during this period. They should be in place to avail all the necessary information on pregnancy and child birth.

Jamil Sentamu, Businessman

There should be more platforms where mothers share their own experiences with the labour ward and life after that. This will give other women comfort to know that they are not alone in whatever they are going through.

James Bashaija, Cashier