Twenty-one weeks postpartum

Here’s what might be going on with your body, mental health, energy levels, self-care needs, and social connections at 21 weeks postpartum.




Your body

You may be fully healed from childbirth, but that doesn’t mean you’re completely out of the woods with postpartum symptoms. From your hair to your hormones to your muscles, there are a handful of physical changes you might notice this week.

Hair loss

Postpartum shedding is all but inevitable. While there’s not really anything you can do to stop it, you might consider a shorter cut. Not only can it make your hair feel a bit fuller and healthier, but your baby won’t be able to grab it as easily.

Breastfeeding and weaning

Beyond the time commitment, breastfeeding can take a real toll on your body. If you’re struggling to make enough milk to feed your growing child or experience frequent pain or clogged ducts, don’t feel guilty about switching to or supplementing with formula.

Five months of nursing is something to be proud of, so give yourself some credit. Just a heads up, though, weaning off it might result in temporary acne or other hormone-related symptoms.

Menstruation

If your period hasn’t restarted yet, it could show up soon — especially if you recently stopped breastfeeding. Your cycle might be different than it was before pregnancy in terms of duration and symptoms, or it could be irregular for a few months.

Muscle changes

Around 60% of women develop diastasis recti during pregnancy. This widening of the left and right ab muscles can make your stomach stick out slightly, and while it’s not usually permanent, roughly 40% still have it at the six-month mark.

Your arms and legs are probably getting stronger from all the holding, bouncing, and rocking you’ve been doing. But since pregnancy causes your ligaments to relax and loosen, it can take a while to fully regain your physical strength and muscle tone.

Your mental health

Some of the most common mental health conditions 21 weeks after childbirth include postpartum depression (PPD), anxiety, and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Feeling briefly sad, stressed, or anxious is normal, especially during this hectic, pivotal life stage. But if depression, irritability, concentration issues, insomnia, or obsessive, repetitive behaviors go on longer than two weeks, let your healthcare provider know or call the Postpartum Support International hotline.

Sleep and energy

You can borrow a little time with caffeine and feel slightly more bright-eyed and bushy-tailed by eating a nutritious diet. But getting enough sleep is really the only way to keep your energy levels up.

New parents get an average of five and a half hours of shut-eye each night the first year — about two and a half hours short of the recommended eight. One study linked sleep deprivation to postpartum weight retention, meaning it could make it harder to shed the pounds you may have gained while pregnant. The most important thing, though, is your ability to power through your day and focus when you need to.

We realize it’s easier said than done, but it’s important to prioritize rest. If your baby’s feeding and sleeping schedule doesn’t allow for a full night of uninterrupted shut-eye yet, aim for two shorter stretches or consider switching off with your partner on nighttime baby duty so you can each get enough sleep at least every other day.

Self-care

Self-care doesn’t need to be extravagant or time-consuming. This week, it might be as simple as getting a haircut, painting your nails, meditating, meeting up with a friend for coffee, hosting a virtual happy hour, or streaming a yoga class in your living room.

Sex, intimacy, and social connection

Nearly 90% of women are sexually active within the first six months after giving birth. However, many experience low libido and other issues like difficulty reaching orgasm and pain during intercourse.

Though intimacy with your partner is undoubtedly important, it doesn’t have to involve sex. But when you’re up for it, have a birth control plan in place because you could ovulate before your period restarts.

Relationship status aside, human interaction is essential. The first few months of parenthood can be isolating, and connecting with friends, family members, and other parents can provide the sense of community you crave.

Reviewed by the Ovia Health Clinical Team


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