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- The Prospective Mother - 40/45 -
opportunity on the intervening days to move spontaneously, though we do not really expect them to move naturally until six or eight weeks after the delivery, when the patient is able to take as much exercise as she likes. Toward the end of the second week, however, mild laxatives generally prove effective, and it is important to select one the dose of which may be gradually decreased. Senna prunes, which were described in Chapter V, fill the purpose very well. Six or eight of them may be needed at first, but the number may be gradually reduced, until finally none are necessary.
_Cleanliness_.--In view of the excessive elimination of waste products from the body, the maintenance of cleanliness during the lying-in period may require the use of a large amount of linen. Occasionally patients perspire so freely that the night clothes have to be changed several times in twenty-four hours, and the bed linen only a little less frequently. But at any cost it is imperative not to hinder but rather to promote this function and to keep the skin in a healthful condition through bathing and massage. Nurses are taught, on this account, to give a warm soap and water bed-bath in the morning and an alcohol rub at night. Patients are usually allowed to take tub-baths after the third week.
Local cleanliness, which is a matter of the very first importance, can only be attained through bathing the vulva with an antiseptic solution and the use of sterile pads. At first the pads are changed very frequently, but after the discharge becomes less profuse they are renewed at intervals of four to six hours.
_The Diet_.--For the first week of the lying-in period not all patients are given the same diet, and the physician always leaves specific directions regarding it. Generally the diet consists of liquids, such as milk and broths, for a couple of days; under some circumstances liquid nourishment is continued longer. As the appetite increases easily digestible but nutritious food is added, and before long the patient resumes her ordinary diet.
The modern tendency is to give solid food and to give it in substantial amounts much earlier than was once customary; restrictions, none the less, are still observed so long as the patient remains in bed. With the body at rest, its food requirements are diminished and hearty meals are unnecessary. If convalescence proceeds satisfactorily such wide latitude in the choice of food is permissible that the nurse may regulate the diet, consulting the physician whenever necessary.
_The Environment_.--A large, bright room that can be quickly heated and easily ventilated adds notably to the comfort of the lying-in period. The windows may be opened through the greater part of the day and at night should always be left so. To make thorough airing of the apartment more feasible and to protect the mother from annoyance when the baby cries, it is more satisfactory to have the baby occupy an adjoining room where the nurse sleeps within call. Under any circumstances some arrangement must be made so that the mother's rest at night will not be broken needlessly.
No pains should be spared to keep the patient quiet for at least ten days. Household cares and petty worries materially delay convalescence. During this period only a limited number of the immediate members of her family ought to see her, and their visits should be brief. Unfortunately, if too many relatives and friends visit her a number of questions will be repeatedly asked which are decidedly wearing on any patient.
_The Time for Getting Up_.--How long a woman should stay in bed after the birth of a child is a question which has given rise to prolonged discussion. The majority of obstetricians adhere to the traditional ten days; but there are advocates of a longer period and advocates of a shorter one. The generalizations of many writers upon this subject are too sweeping, for exceptions may be found to any rule. Each patient is best counselled when the advice given is based upon her own condition and particularly upon the progress made in the involution of the uterus, which does not advance with the same rapidity in all cases.
More or less in imitation of the custom among savages, Charles White, in 1776, recommended that women should not remain in bed longer than a day or two after child-birth. Very likely the inadaptability of the method to civilized women soon became apparent; at any rate his suggestion was not widely adopted, and had been completely forgotten until a few years ago, when the custom was revived in one of the German clinics. The innovation met with violent opposition in Europe, and, so far as I know, has found but scant favor in America.
Generally patients are allowed to sit up in bed toward the end of the first week, but if there are stitches, sitting up is deferred until ten days or later, when the stitches have been removed. Under the most favorable circumstances, however, sitting up in bed becomes wearisome, for the weight of the body does not fall upon the spine, as it should; and besides the extended position of the legs is fatiguing. No one should force herself to keep this posture, for at best it does no more than relieve monotony. The exercises previously suggested prepare her much more effectually for getting upon her feet.
Between the tenth and the fifteenth day patients may leave the bed and sit quietly in a chair. The condition of the uterus, the character of the lochia, and the firmness of the pelvic floor will determine the day, but usually it proves wiser to defer it until fully two weeks have lapsed. As a rule, the patient remains out of bed an hour the first day, two the second, three the third, and so on until she is up all day. She should not attempt to walk until the second or third day. At first she should take only a few steps, but gradually she may increase the number and finally walk with freedom and ease. Several reasons make it advisable for patients to remain four weeks on the floor where they have been confined; going up and down stairs is especially tiresome, and, of still greater importance, patients pass from the doctor's control as soon as they go down stairs. For fear of overtaxing the strength none of the household cares should be assumed before the fourth week, and not all of them then, for women are not capable of resuming their accustomed duties fully until the sixth week; and some are not strong enough to do so until a somewhat later date.
Since patients generally feel well during the lying-in period they are apt to object to remaining in bed two weeks. Most of them acquiesce as soon as they understand the organic changes in progress and appreciate the lasting benefits of a temporary forbearance, but a few must be made to realize that very serious penalties may be attached to undue haste. For the latter it might be better if the alarming consequences of getting up too early--discomfort, hemorrhage, and collapse--occurred more frequently than they do. As it happens, the ill-effects of such indiscretion are not usually felt immediately; when too late the lesson is learned that many of the operations upon women in the later years of life are dependent on imprudent conduct just after the first child was born.
THE FINAL EXAMINATION.--Looking to complete restoration of the woman's health, the modern management of obstetrical cases breaks decisively with tradition at three points. An utter disregard of precaution has given way to very careful preparations before and at the time of labor; definite rules for the management of the lying-in period are carried out under the supervision of the physician; and finally, prompted by the same impulse, the physician examines his obstetrical patients before discharging them. Satisfactory conditions are generally found; if they are, it is a great comfort to be assured of the fact; and if not, timely treatment of the abnormality may readily correct it; with delay, on the other hand, treatment often becomes more formidable.
The end of the fourth week of the lying-in period proves a convenient time for this examination. As yet the restorative changes in the reproductive organs have not been completed, but one may definitely say by this time whether or not they will culminate in a satisfactory manner. Besides, making the examination while the changes are in progress sometimes enables the physician to treat approaching complications before they actually develop. Thus, when the pelvic floor has not regained its strength sufficiently, the patient will be advised to forego the liberty in moving about ordinarily granted at this time. When the womb inclines to an improper position, a temporary support may be introduced to hold it where it belongs; later, upon removing the device, the womb usually retains a good position. Again, there are conditions which a douche will relieve, and still others benefited by medicinal treatment. If an abnormality is recognized which cannot at once be treated to the best advantage, arrangements will be made for such prompt treatment that the woman will not become an invalid. Instead of placing obstacles in the way, patients should rather insist upon this examination, for it is important in guarding their future health.
Now and then patients are kept under observation for a longer period, but, as a rule, they are discharged as well as examined at the end of four weeks. They may also discard the abdominal binder about this time and put on corsets, which, however, should not be tightly worn. Although thrown upon her own resources from this moment, the patient will clearly understand that she must continue to exercise sound discrimination in what she does. And here, of course, we encounter the greatest difficulty in offering practical advice, for what one may do easily will overtax another. Generally speaking, going up and down stairs more than once a day is inadvisable until another two weeks have passed. Likewise the mother who would adopt a conservative policy will not take full charge of her baby before it is six weeks old, though there can be no objection if she wishes to direct its care. The same advice applies to running the household. Over- exertion, no matter what the source, delays convalescence from child- birth to such an extent that the safe plan is always to err on the side of doing too little, rather than to run the risk of doing too much.
THE NURSING MOTHER
The Breasts--Human Milk--The Technique of Nursing--Hygiene of the Mother: Diet; Psychic Influence; Recreation and Rest--The Supplementary Bottle--Weaning.
When the obstetrician pays his final visit the mother usually has ready a number of questions, most of which anticipate difficulties in the care of the baby. At that time, however, minute and far-reaching directions cannot always be given. Unforeseen peculiarities in the development of the child may modify such general principles for the management of infants as could be laid down in advance. With a few exceptions, therefore, mothers require during the early years of a baby's life skilled advice as to his upbringing--advice for which neither instinct nor haphazard counsel is a safe substitute. It is an
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