Wednesday 25 April 2018

Dr Nina Byrnes: Our GP gives advice on how to recover after childbirth and what to do when your sense of smell goes

Dr Nina Byrnes
Dr Nina Byrnes

Nina Byrnes

Our GP gives advice on how to recover after childbirth and what to do when your sense of smell goes.

Question: I am due my first baby in a few weeks. I have managed to read lots of information about the delivery and my mood after, but how will my body will recover?

Dr Nina replies: The early days and weeks after childbirth can be difficult emotionally and physically. It is likely that whatever kind of delivery you have had, you will be sore.

Having a C-section brings a surgical wound that takes up to six weeks to heal. Vaginal delivery can result in tears or an episiotomy and stitches. Simple things like applying cool ice-packs to the perineum can help reduce swelling and pain. These should be changed frequently.

Postnatal bleeding usually progresses from bright red to brown to a paler yellow over some days and weeks. Changing pads very frequently helps keep the area as clean as possible and reduces the chance of infection. Having regular baths can also help ease discomfort.

Passing urine or bowel motions after delivery may be difficult. Have a squeezy bottle of cool water to hand. Spraying this on the perineum (the area around the vagina) as you pass urine may help reduce any stinging. Eating plenty of fruit and vegetables and avoiding constipation is important.

Start doing pelvic floor exercises as soon as possible. In the early days, as you pass a bowel motion, pressing a maternity pad over the front of the perineum may help support it and reduce further discomfort.

Haemorrhoids are very common after delivery. There are a number of over-the-counter and prescription remedies available. Ask your doctor or midwife about these. Another simple solution is to apply ice. Thinner ice cubes are best as they can get closer to the haemorrhoid.

Breastfeeding can hurt initially, so take advice from the midwife. Learn how to latch the baby on correctly. Expose your nipples to air as much as possible. There are number of compresses and ointments that can help. Feed regularly, emptying the breasts fully each time. Most breast pain settles after a few weeks.

Most importantly, don't expect too much of yourself. Get as much rest as possible. Eat well and frequently. Keep visitors to a minimum in the first days and weeks.

You and your baby need time to get to know each other. You will recover. The rewards far outweigh the pain.

Question: I seem to have lost my sense of smell lately. It's really getting me down. I can't really taste any food properly which  makes it hard to eat. What causes this?  Is there anything I can do, and do I need to see a specialist?

Dr Nina replies: Anosmia is the medical term for a loss of sense of smell. A total of 80pc of our taste involves using our sense of smell.

The common cold or flu, hay fever, sinusitis or non-allergic rhinitis can all cause inflammation of the lining of the nose which may harm the sense of smell.

Obstruction of the nasal passage by polyps, bony deformity inside the nose or, rarely, tumours may also disrupt smell. Smells are picked up by olfactory sensors in the nose which pass signals along nerves to the brain. A head injury, brain tumour, radiotherapy to the head and neck or stroke can do this. Neurological conditions such as Alzheimer's disease, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis and Parkinson's disease may reduce the sense of smell. Finally other conditions such as diabetes, B12 deficiency, an underactive thyroid or malnutrition can damage smell.

It is worth going along to your GP for a check-up. A simple examination and possibly bloods might identify a treatable cause. If the cause relates to a change in the lining of the nose, your doctor may prescribe antihistamines, nasal sprays and nasal rinses. In severe cases of rhinitis, steroid tablets can help. If a cause can't be found, referral may be advised. For large polyps or deformity, nasal surgery may help improve things.

Safety and awareness are important for those with permanent anosmia. Install smoke alarms in your home. Consider other fuels rather than gas for cooking and heating. Avoid using potent chemicals. Finally, make sure you read the use by dates on food as you won't be able to smell food that has gone off.

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