No two recovery journeys are the same, but the six-week mark can be somewhat of a milestone — and not just for your baby. Halfway through the “fourth trimester,” you’re likely healing from childbirth, and you’re probably due for a postpartum check-up.
Here’s what to expect in terms of physical changes, mental health, energy levels, intimacy, and your next healthcare appointment.
If you had a vaginal birth, there’s a good chance your body has recuperated. But for those who had C-sections, it can take six or more weeks to heal completely, so you might continue to itch or feel numb at the incision site this week. No matter how you gave birth, you may also experience backaches, skin changes, hair loss, or even have your first postpartum period.
Back pain is common among pregnant people, and unfortunately, it can linger for a couple of months after giving birth. Why? It can take a while for your core and pelvic floor muscles to regain their strength and stability after loosening during pregnancy. Your back takes on the work that your core just can’t manage right now. Coupled with holding and rocking your baby several hours a day, aches and pains are pretty standard during this time.
Pelvic floor exercises (like kegels) can strengthen your muscles, and address or prevent back issues as well as incontinence.
At six weeks postpartum, you might notice a few skin changes. They can be relatively minor, like uneven texture, dryness, or breakouts, or a little trickier to treat, such as persistent hives, eczema, or melasma (hyperpigmentation). If any symptoms last more than a few weeks, consider making an appointment with a dermatologist.
Postpartum hair loss
Thanks to hormonal changes that prevent shedding, you might have had slightly thicker hair while pregnant. But one or three months after childbirth, things often go in the opposite direction. Though it can be alarming, postpartum hair loss is expected, and generally stops about 6 months after it begins. While there isn’t a cure for postpartum hair loss, keep in mind this isn’t permanent, it’s just a natural part of the healing process.
Your period could restart within the first six weeks, though it’s less likely if you’re breastfeeding. When you do menstruate, you might experience different symptoms than before — and it could still be several months before it’s regular. People who are exclusively breastfeeding may find their period doesn’t appear for over a year.
After giving birth, your cycles might be shorter or longer than before and involve different symptoms like more severe cramps, heavier bleeding, noticeable breast tenderness, or bloating.
It takes as long as six weeks (sometimes more) for the uterus to shrink back to its normal size. The muscles and skin on top of your uterus often take even longer to find their new normal. For this reason, it’s common to still look pregnant during this time, so don’t worry if you’re most comfortable rocking maternity clothes.
Your mental health
About one in nine new mothers experience postpartum depression. For some, this mental health condition can make you feel sad, hopeless, anxious, moody, irritable, or restless. For others, it’s an inability to focus, difficulty bonding with the baby, or crying over life’s daily challenges. A rollercoaster of emotions is normal for new parents, but if your symptoms don’t go away within two weeks, contact your healthcare provider or call the Postpartum Support International hotline.
Many new parents also struggle with body image the first year after giving birth. While it’s easier said than done, try to remember what an amazing thing your body accomplished, and give yourself plenty of time to meet any physical goals.
Your energy levels
Let’s face it: the first couple months of parenthood are exhausting. With middle-of-the-night feedings, not sleeping longer than a few hours at a time, and the stress of caring for an infant, mustering the energy to tackle your to-do list might feel nearly impossible.
Go easy on yourself when you can’t get everything done. And if your loved ones offer help with meals, cleaning, or errands, accepting it might allow you to get the rest you crave.
Sex and intimacy
Healthcare providers usually recommend waiting until at least six weeks postpartum before having intercourse to ensure plenty of time for healing. But even if you have the green light, remember there’s no rush to have sex if you’re not up for it. In the meantime, think about scheduling some alone time to connect with your partner — even if it’s just watching a movie at home.
6-week postpartum check-up
You might also have a six-week postpartum appointment around this time. Your healthcare provider will see how you’re healing from childbirth, examine your breasts, check your vitals, go over potential postpartum depression symptoms, and ask about your overall mental and physical health.
If your postpartum check-up has been scheduled as a virtual visit, this may be more convenient for you. However, if you have any concerns, don’t hesitate to request a switch to an in-person visit.
If you’re experiencing anything unusual, it’s a good idea to track your symptoms. That way, you’ll be able to give your provider the full picture, and they can come up with a care plan that works for your needs.
Reviewed by the Ovia Health Clinical Team
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- Office on Women’s Health (OASH). Postpartum depression. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHS). 2019. Web.
- Tavakoli M, et al. Predictors of mothers’ postpartum body dissatisfaction based on demographic and fertility factors. BMC Pregnancy Childbirth. 21, 8. 2021.
- Alum AC, et al. Factors associated with early resumption of sexual intercourse among postnatal women in Uganda. Reprod Health 12, 107. 2015. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12978-015-0089-5