Five months is a big milestone for both you and your baby. Though you might be feeling more like your old self this week, there are still a handful of postpartum symptoms, changes, and potential obstacles to consider. Here’s what to know.
At 20 weeks postpartum, your baby has been out of your body for about half as long as they were in the womb. And while you’re probably seeing significant changes in their development, fully recuperating from the effects of pregnancy, childbirth, and breastfeeding can take a bit longer.
As many as six in ten women develop diastasis recti (widening of the left and right ab muscles) during pregnancy, which can make your stomach stick out slightly. While it’s not typically permanent, about 40% will still have it at six months postpartum, and about a third have it at the one-year mark.
It can take a while to regain your physical strength and build your muscle tone back up after pregnancy. But your arms and legs are likely getting stronger, thanks to daily lifting, holding, rocking, and bouncing your bundle of joy.
If you’re no longer breastfeeding or have started introducing your baby to solid foods (usually closer to six months), you may have gotten your period by now. But your first few cycles could be irregular, longer or shorter than before, or involve different premenstrual symptoms. In any case, it’s never too soon to think about birth control because you could get pregnant before your period returns — and even while you’re still breastfeeding.
Skin and hair
Around 90% of women get stretch marks while pregnant, and although they sometimes fade, the streaks may never disappear entirely. It may take some adjusting, but know they’re super common and only a sign of your body’s incredible ability to grow and carry a human.
You might experience other skin changes this week, like eczema, rosacea, sensitivity, or hormonal breakouts related to breastfeeding or weaning. There’s a chance you’ll start shedding this week too (if you haven’t already). The amount of hair loss you experience during postpartum can be alarming, but try not to panic. Most women are back to their usual fullness by their child’s first birthday.
Your mental health
It’s normal to feel a little off-kilter the first few months postpartum. At the 20-week mark, you might feel happy, thankful, and mentally adjusted to your new identity as a parent. However, postpartum depression (PPD), anxiety, and body image issues are still somewhat common at this stage.
Postpartum depression and anxiety
Symptoms of these conditions sometimes overlap and may include lingering sadness, irritability, constant worry, mood swings, racing thoughts, or restlessness. If you feel anxious or depressed for longer than a couple of weeks, check in with your healthcare provider or call the Postpartum Support International hotline.
About a third of women struggle with body image in the first six months after childbirth, whether it’s feeling pressure to “bounce back” to their pre-pregnancy size or general dissatisfaction with how they look.
If you’re having negative thoughts about your appearance, remember what an amazing thing your body did carrying and nourishing and birthing a child. Instead of aiming to lose weight or fit into a certain size, try pivoting your wellness goals to being physically strong and emotionally healthy. This will ultimately benefit not only you but also your child.
Whether you commute to your job or clock in from home, balancing career with family is never easy — and it can feel particularly overwhelming with a five-month-old. From finding trusted childcare to trying to focus on little sleep to pumping at work, you’ve got a lot on your plate.
Instead of striving for a perfect work-life balance, give yourself a little grace during this hectic stage. You can have it all, but maybe not every single day. To-do lists may get longer as a new parent, but you’ll be much more productive with the time you have.
Reviewed by the Ovia Health Clinical Team
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