Research shows it takes roughly a year to fully recover from the effects of pregnancy and mentally adjust to your new identity as a parent. Here’s what you might experience at 22 weeks postpartum.
Physical changes this week can involve everything from muscle tone and menstruation to hair loss and hormonal shifts.
Your arms and legs are likely getting stronger from months of bouncing your baby and lugging around a car seat. But since your ligaments loosen and relax during pregnancy, it can take a while to regain your full strength and muscle tone.
Roughly 60% of women develop diastasis recti while pregnant. This widening between the right and left ab muscles can cause your stomach to stick out slightly, and although it’s usually not permanent, about 40% still have it at the six-month mark.
Postpartum hair loss is all but inevitable. Though there’s not really anything you can do to prevent this excessive shedding, a shorter cut might help your hair look fuller and feel healthier in the meantime. As a bonus, your baby won’t be able to tug on it as easily.
Breastfeeding and weaning
If you’ve been back at work for some time, pumping may feel like second nature or it might feel like a real drag. If you’re struggling to find the motivation or to maintain your milk supply, you’ve got options!
Basic fit checks can be done at home, as nipple sizes can change over time. There are specialized lactation professionals when it comes to pumping, and there are other ways to feed your baby as well. It’s always okay to re-evaluate your feeding goals and seek some support.
If you recently began supplementing with formula or weaned completely off breastfeeding, your period might restart soon. Your postpartum menstrual cycle might be irregular for a few months or come with different or more intense symptoms than you had before getting pregnant.
Your mental health
You might be confidently cruising through new parenthood at this point, feeling happy, thankful, and generally content. However, depression, anxiety, and body image issues are also relatively common at this stage.
Postpartum anxiety and depression
As many as one in five new mothers struggle with anxiety, and about one in nine have postpartum depression (PPD). These conditions aren’t the same, but many of the symptoms overlap, such as constant worry, lingering sadness, mood swings, restlessness, racing thoughts, appetite changes, difficulty concentrating, and sleep issues. If you feel anxious or depressed for more than a couple of weeks, contact your healthcare provider or call the Postpartum Support International hotline.
Many women grapple with body image in the first year after giving birth, whether it’s societal pressure to “bounce back” after pregnancy or negative thoughts about their appearance. We realize it’s easier said than done, but it might help to reframe the narrative around your fitness. Instead of trying to get back to your pre-baby size, focus on long-term physical and mental health so you can live happily, thrive professionally, and be the best parent you can be.
Sleep and energy
Your baby might be sleeping for longer stretches or maybe even through the night at this point. If that’s the case, take advantage of the extra hours and get some much-needed shut-eye yourself. Eating a well-rounded diet, drinking plenty of water, and moving your body every day can also help you keep your energy levels up.
Whether you clock in from home or commute to your job, balancing career with family can be tricky — and it can be particularly stressful with a little one in the picture. From pumping at work to finding the right daycare center to trying to perform when you’re sleep-deprived, it’s understandable to feel overwhelmed.
Go easy on yourself, and try to embrace the chaos of this hectic life stage. There are so many curveballs when it comes to working parenthood. It sometimes feels like everyone is more organized or together, but we are all in the same boat!
Reviewed by the Ovia Health Clinical Team
- Wray J. Bouncing back? Women’s experiences of their own recovery after childbirth. University of Salford Manchester. 2012. Web.
- University of Rochester Medical Center. Back Pain in Pregnancy. Web.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). What to Expect While Breastfeeding. Infant and Toddler Nutrition. 2021. Web.
- Tavakoli M, et al. Predictors of mothers’ postpartum body dissatisfaction based on demographic and fertility factors. BMC Pregnancy Childbirth. 21, 8. 2021.
- Stanford Children’s Health. Newborn Sleep Patterns. Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford. Web.
- Office on Women’s Health (OASH). Postpartum depression. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHS). 2019. Web.
- Liu CH, et al. Risk factors for depression, anxiety, and PTSD symptoms in perinatal women during the COVID-19 Pandemic. Psychiatry research vol. 295. 2021. 113552. doi:10.1016/j.psychres.2020.113552