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, you could experience engorgement or swollen ducts.
If regular feedings, ice and Ibuprofen don’t help, you need to look out for an infection called mastitis. Contact your healthcare provider ASAP if you notice signs of infection like fever, skin color changes, or generally feeling unwell.
You could get your first postpartum period within a month of giving birth, or it could take upwards of a year. If you recently weaned, 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.
You may also start shedding or be in the most dramatic part of postpartum hair loss. The amount of hair fallout you’ll experience postpartum can be alarming, but it is normal and resolves over time on its own.
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 PPD 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. This is something to expect if you’ve recently started weaning. 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, and it can take just as long to fully recuperate. 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 significant amount of time from your baby sleeping through the night, but we promise it’ll happen. If possible, it can be helpful to strategize with your partner for night time needs and daytime rest or breaks.
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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