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Puerperium is the six to eight week period between delivery of a baby and the return of the uterus to its normal size. This period is also sometimes known as the postpartum period. There are a number of health concerns for women during the puerperium period, along with social and psychological concerns. During this stage, a woman may be encouraged to visit the doctor several times to monitor her body's recovery from pregnancy and delivery, and her baby will also be given special medical attention as it adapts to the world outside the uterus.
The puerperium period is often said to start with the successful delivery of the placenta. Immediately after delivery, a woman is examined to check for any signs of tearing or other complications, and these issues are addressed. The woman may stay in the hospital or rest in bed for several days after birth to recover from the immediate physical trauma of the delivery. In the case of a woman who has required surgery as part of the labor and delivery process, a hospital stay can last several days while the surgical site is monitored.
As puerperium progresses, a woman may experience periodic checkups to confirm that everything is healing normally, and to check for complications such as urinary incontinence or constipation which can sometimes emerge after delivery. The woman's psychological state is also assessed, as some depression is not uncommon during the puerperium period. Doctors also usually provide new mothers with lots of information about child raising topics, ranging from feeding advice to information about normal infant development.
During the puerperium period, women experience a vaginal discharge known as lochia. This discharge can include blood in the early days of the postpartum period, along with mucus, and is sometimes compared to a menstrual period. Women are often asked to monitor this discharge for any signs of a strong odor or unusually-colored mucus which can indicate that a woman is experiencing an infection.
Adjustments for mother, child, and larger family can be intense during the puerperium period. This period can also be traumatic for women who have chosen to give their children up for adoption. Support from friends and family members is critical for women during this stage, whether it comes in the form of deliveries of food, friendly visits, assistance with cleaning the house, or a simple phone call to chat. In some nations, health visitors or midwives stop by periodically during this period to make sure that women and families are adjusting well and to address any questions or concerns.
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