Here’s what might be going on with your body, mental health, energy levels, and work-life balance at 18 weeks postpartum.
From your period and complexion to your hair and hormones, there are a handful of physical changes you might be experiencing this week.
When you start venturing out more often, sleeping longer stretches, and going more hours between feedings, your milk ducts could become clogged. Pumping and massaging can help, but it could lead to a painful breast tissue infection called mastitis. Contact your healthcare provider ASAP if you can’t resolve it on your own.
If you experience recurring clogged ducts, frequent nipple pain, or are struggling to keep your supply up, remember breastfeeding isn’t for every family, and give yourself a pat on the back for making it this far.
You could get your first postpartum period within a month of giving birth, or it could take upwards of a year. If you recently quit breastfeeding, it may show up sooner than later, but the duration and symptoms might be different than they were before pregnancy.
At the 18-week mark, you might notice some skin changes, like dark patches (aka melasma or hyperpigmentation), uneven texture, rosacea, or general sensitivity. Acne is pretty common, too, especially if you’re breastfeeding or weaning off it, thanks to hormonal surges.
You may also start shedding. The amount of hair fallout you’ll experience in postpartum can be alarming, but bear in mind it’s totally normal and won’t last forever.
Your mental health
As you get to know your baby more each day and get into the groove of being a parent, you might feel happy, thankful, and all-around content. Having said that, postpartum depression, anxiety, and body image issues could also arise this week.
Postpartum depression and anxiety
About 11% of new mothers suffer from postpartum depression (PPD). Symptoms of the “baby blues” often include intense sadness, difficulty sleeping, frequent crying, and mood swings. With postpartum anxiety, the most common signs are constant worry, racing thoughts, restlessness, and appetite changes, along with some physical symptoms like excessive sweating, hot flashes, shakiness, and nausea.
Your body produces the relaxing, feel-good hormones called oxytocin and prolactin while breastfeeding, and without them, you could feel unusually stressed or temporarily sad. If you feel anxious or depressed for more than two weeks, get in touch with your provider or call the Postpartum Support International hotline.
Body image issues are also common the first year after childbirth, such as negative thoughts about your appearance or pressure to “bounce back” to your pre-baby size. But remember it took nine months to grow your baby in your belly, and it can take just as long to fully recuperate. Further, some people never get back to their pre-pregnancy weight, and that’s OK too. The most important thing is striving for long-term physical and mental health.
Your energy levels
If you’re feeling sluggish this week, it might help to drink more water, focus on a nutritious diet, and take daily walks. However, sleep deprivation could be the main culprit. New parents get five and a half hours of sleep per night on average, which is about two and a half hours short of the recommended eight.
You might still be a month or two away from your baby sleeping through the night, but we promise it’ll happen. If possible, you might try switching off with your partner on nighttime baby duty. That way, you’ll each get a full night’s sleep at least every other day.
Your parental leave has likely ended at this point. Whether you work from home or commute every day, balancing family with career is never easy, and it can be particularly stressful while you’re still navigating life with a baby. Still, temporarily switching gears from baby duty can be freeing, so try to embrace this new stage, busyness and all.
Reviewed by the Ovia Health Clinical Team
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