Your recovery journey will look a little different than the next person’s. At five weeks postpartum, you’re probably well into your healing journey. Still, it can take time to refamiliarize yourself with your body and adjust to the reality of being a parent.
Here’s what to expect in terms of physical symptoms, mental health, energy levels, intimacy, and work-life balance.
What’s currently going on with your body depends on a few factors, like the type of birth you had and whether you ran into any complications. If you had a C-section, keep in mind it can take six or more weeks for surgical healing, so you might continue to experience numbness or itching around the incision site. And beyond recovery from childbirth, you might notice a few other postpartum symptoms.
Night sweats and hot flashes
Hot flashes and night sweats are relatively common in the few weeks after giving birth — you can blame it on hormones, fluid retention, and your body’s way to keep baby warm.
Stretch marks are common during pregnancy and afterwards. They gradually fade in some cases but may not disappear completely. Other potential postpartum skin changes and discomforts include uneven texture, dryness, melasma (dark patches), hives, eczema, and acne. While these are relatively normal, you may want to check in with a dermatologist if any symptoms persist for more than a few weeks.
The linea nigra is a thin, dark line that often runs from the top of your pelvis up to your belly button. Skin discolorations, particularly this one, are common during pregnancy and postpartum and are nothing to be overly concerned about.
Much like chloasma, the linea nigra is a result of the overactive hormones in your body stimulating production of melanin, the substance primarily responsible for pigmentation in your body. During pregnancy, you may have noticed slight discolorations across your body, particularly the linea nigra. Those with darker skin are more likely to develop skin discolorations during pregnancy and postpartum. It can take a few months to fade.
PUPPS rash is a rash on your stomach that starts in the third trimester with itchy red bumps. It can linger for several weeks postpartum. While it’s not a sign of a bigger health issue and it will go away on its own, it can be extremely annoying. If you’re looking for some relief, try applying cold compresses to your stomach or taking a cool shower or bath.
Though it’s less likely if you’re breastfeeding, it’s possible for your period to start within the first six weeks after giving birth. However, it could take several months for your body to return to a normal cycle, and your periods might be shorter, longer, or involve different symptoms than before you were pregnant. Many people who are exclusively breastfeeding find that their period takes more than a year to return.
When your period does resume, your cycles could be shorter or longer than before and involve different symptoms like more severe cramps, heavier bleeding, noticeable breast tenderness, or bloating.
Drinking plenty of water and eating a balanced diet is always important, and when you’re breastfeeding, it’s crucial for keeping your milk supply and energy up. If you’re experiencing pain, bleeding, or still having trouble with latching, you deserve support from a breastfeeding professional. Feeding goals often change over time, and it’s always okay to re-evaluate what works best for your family.
Your mental health
Many people struggle with body image in the months after giving birth. Your body did an incredible thing, but it’s ok if you’re having trouble embracing any changes. Give yourself some grace and time. Your worth has absolutely nothing to do with the way your body looks in the mirror.
About 11% of new mothers experience postpartum depression. Some feel sad, anxious, hopeless, or unable to focus, while others feel disconnected from their babies or cry over seemingly small things. It’s normal to be emotional during this time, but if these symptoms feel severe or last more than a couple of weeks, get in touch with your healthcare provider or call the Postpartum Support International hotline. There are many options to get you feeling like yourself again. This is not something that you just have to accept as part of the postpartum experience.
Your energy levels
With an out-of-whack sleep schedule and the immediate demands of caring for a newborn, all while trying to meet your own self-care needs, burnout is common among new parents. To keep your energy levels up, eat nutritious meals whenever possible, take naps when you can, and treat yourself to one or two cups of tea or coffee per day if that’s your jam.
Sex and intimacy
Healthcare providers typically recommend waiting six or more weeks after giving birth before having sex. This will give you time to fully heal and get into an intimate mindset while juggling your new identity as a parent. There is no “normal” timeline for resuming sex or becoming intimate postpartum. Communicating your needs and boundaries with your partner may be new for you, but talking about what you do and don’t need is so important.
And once you get the green light from your provider and are feeling up for intercourse, bear in mind you could unknowingly ovulate before your period restarts. In other words, it’s not too soon to be thinking about birth control.
Returning to work
Going back to work after parental leave can be emotional. If you’re planning on working, it’s normal to feel a bit overwhelmed as you think about being away from your baby for the first time and consider some of the practical questions: If you have a partner, will they stay home or will you? How can you find a trusted caregiver? Where and how often will you need to pump?
Try to be easy on yourself as you figure out how to balance your job with your home life. And as always, be sure to communicate with your healthcare provider about any unusual or lingering physical or mental symptoms.
Reviewed by the Ovia Health Clinical Team
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