Research shows it takes about a year to fully recover from childbirth and adjust to the reality of parenthood, so if you’re not feeling like your old self yet, remember it’s totally normal. Here’s what you might go through this week in terms of physical changes, mental health, energy levels, and work-life balance.
From your period to your complexion to your hair, things may still be a bit different than they were before pregnancy.
Many first-time mothers restart their periods at about 12 weeks postpartum. However, it could take months before your cycle is regular — potentially longer if you’re breastfeeding.
Water retention (or edema) is a normal postpartum condition. Though the swelling you had in your legs, feet, and hands during pregnancy probably went down in the first week or two after giving birth, it’s not uncommon to keep retaining a bit of water for a few months. Staying hydrated can help, but if it gets noticeably worse, check in with your healthcare provider.
Skin changes and hair loss
At the 12-week mark, you might notice some skin changes, like uneven texture, eczema, or dark patches (hyperpigmentation). Breakouts are pretty common, too, especially for those nursing or weaning off breastfeeding, thanks to hormonal surges.
Postpartum hair loss could start around this time as well. It can be alarming, but keep in mind it’s completely normal and should subside in the next few months.
If you had a C-section…
Most people fully recover from childbirth in the first couple of months. However, a C-section can take up to 12 weeks to heal completely, and the incision site might look pink or reddish for several months before fading into a thin, flat scar. Scar formation can vary, and if you notice yours is raised, bumpy and red — this could be what’s called keloid scar. You can discuss options for care with your provider. Continued discomfort of any kind can often benefit from scar massage and mobilization techniques.
If you’re breastfeeding…
If you’re breastfeeding, you’ve probably hit your stride and added in pumping for work or shared responsibility. If you’ve been pumping for more than 4 weeks, make sure you’ve replaced parts like duckbills or membranes for optimal pump function. When you begin venturing out more often, sleeping longer stretches, and going for extended periods between feedings, your milk ducts could become clogged. Massaging and pumping can help. However, clogged ducts can lead to a painful breast tissue infection called mastitis, so contact your healthcare provider ASAP if you can’t resolve it on your own.
Your mental health
As you gain confidence as a parent and get to know your baby more each day, you might feel happy, grateful, and generally content this week. That said, postpartum depression, anxiety, and body image issues could also arise.
Postpartum depression and anxiety
About one in nine new mothers struggle with postpartum depression (PPD). Symptoms can include intense feelings of sadness, difficulty sleeping, and mood swings. With postpartum anxiety, the common signs are constant worry, appetite changes, and restlessness (which can also be part of PPD), as well as some physical symptoms like excessive sweating, shakiness, and nausea. If you feel anxious or depressed, contact your healthcare provider or call the Postpartum Support International hotline. Help is available.
Body image issues are also common these first few months. If you’re having negative thoughts about your appearance or feel pressure to “bounce back” to your pre-baby weight, remember it took nine months to grow your baby in your belly, and it can take just as long for your body to fully recuperate.
Some people never get back to their pre-pregnancy size, and that’s OK too. The most important thing is that you’re being gentle with yourself in this new stage of life.
Your energy levels
Eating a well-rounded diet is vital for keeping your energy levels up, but if you’re lagging this week, a lack of sleep could be to blame. New parents get an average of five to six hours of shut-eye a night, which is two to three hours less than the recommended seven to nine hours.
Babies usually don’t start sleeping through the night until at least three months — potentially longer if you’re breastfeeding. If your little one isn’t there yet, try not to worry. This stage won’t last forever.
Returning to work
Your parental leave could be coming to an end this week. Balancing family with work is never easy, and it can be particularly stressful for new parents. Having said that, switching gears from baby duty might be a welcome change.
There’s no right or wrong way to feel about returning to work after having a baby. Just try to go easy on yourself as you transition to this new stage, and be sure to tell your provider about any unusual or lingering mental or physical symptoms.
Reviewed by the Ovia Health Clinical Team
- Wray J. Bouncing back? Women’s experiences of their own recovery after childbirth. University of Salford Manchester. 2012. Web
- Riley M. The First Year of Parenthood: New Parents and Their Sleep Patterns. Sleep Junkie. 2021. Web.
- Stanford Children’s Health. Newborn Sleep Patterns. Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford. Web.
- Queensland Children’s Hospital. Increasing your breast milk supply. Children’s Health Queensland Hospital and Health Service. 2021. Web.
- Mayo Clinic Staff. Edema. The Mayo Clinic. 2020. Web.
- Vora RV, et al. Pregnancy and skin. Journal of family medicine and primary care. 2014. 318-24. doi:10.4103/2249-4863.148099
- Office on Women’s Health (OASH). Postpartum depression. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHS). 2019. Web.