On average, it takes about a year to fully recover from childbirth and adjust to the reality of being a parent. Four months is a milestone for both you and your baby, but if you’re still not feeling like your usual self, that’s completely normal.
Here’s what you might experience this week in terms of physical changes, mental health, energy levels, self-care needs, and social connections.
Postpartum symptoms at the 16-week mark can involve everything from skin changes to hair loss to breastfeeding.
If you’ve been pumping, make sure you’re replacing parts like duckbills and membranes for optimal pump function.
If you’re struggling with clogged ducts, 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.
Other potential skin issues this week include uneven texture, eczema, rosacea, hives, or dark patches (hyperpigmentation). Check in with a dermatologist if these conditions don’t get better after a few weeks.
You might also start shedding more than usual (if you haven’t already). Postpartum hair loss can be a bummer, but try not to freak out. It’s a completely normal symptom that happens to virtually all women the first year after giving birth, and it won’t last forever.
Your mental health
At 16 weeks postpartum, you might be feeling more confident about caring for your baby and happy about this new life stage. However, postpartum depression (PPD) and anxiety are also relatively common.
Roughly one in nine new mothers suffer from PPD. Symptoms can include lingering sadness, difficulty concentrating, sleep issues, mood swings, and appetite changes.
The hormonal changes from weaning off breastfeeding may also contribute to the “baby blues.” Your body produces the feel-good, relaxing hormones oxytocin and prolactin while nursing, and without them, you might feel temporarily sad or unusually stressed.
Some of the most common signs of postpartum anxiety include constant worry, restlessness, racing thoughts, and feelings of dread. The symptoms can also be physical, such as shakiness, excessive sweating, and nausea. If you feel anxious or depressed for more than a couple of weeks, let your provider know or call the Postpartum Support International hotline.
Your energy levels
Feeling sluggish this week? Sleep deprivation is likely to blame. According to a survey, new parents get an average of five and a half hours of shut-eye per night — about two-thirds of the recommended eight hours.
You could still be some time from your baby sleeping through the night, but we promise there’s light at the end of the tunnel. If possible, try switching off with your partner for part of the night, naps or going to bed very early.
Eating a balanced diet, moving your body, and drinking tea or coffee can help prevent sluggishness. Just try not to go overboard with caffeine later in the day, as it can make it harder to fall asleep when you get your chance.
Your bundle of joy is a top priority right now, but tending to your own needs is crucial too. Before becoming a parent, your self-care may have been a bit more indulgent, like watching five uninterrupted episodes of your favorite show or taking hour-long bubble baths. But at four months postpartum, it might be as simple as painting your nails, stretching for a few minutes each day, meditating, or getting back into a skincare routine.
Sex, intimacy, and social connection
Whether it’s cooking dinner together, watching a movie at home, or having sex, alone time with your partner can help you stay connected during this hectic stage. When you’re ready to have vaginal intercourse again, don’t overlook birth control. It’s possible to ovulate and get pregnant even before your period restarts.
And regardless of your relationship status, human connection is essential. New parenthood can be isolating and overwhelming at times, and bonding with friends, family members, and other parents might help you feel less alone and more grounded.
Reviewed by the Ovia Health Clinical Team
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- Queensland Children’s Hospital. Increasing your breast milk supply. Children’s Health Queensland Hospital and Health Service. 2021. Web.
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