At 23 weeks postpartum, you’re past the five-month mark. Hopefully, you’re feeling more comfortable in your new role at this point and settled into a daily rhythm with your little one. In any case, you could still be experiencing a few physical changes and emotional obstacles. Here’s what to know.
Your baby has been outside your belly for nearly six months now. And while you’re likely seeing big changes in their development, a full recovery from the effects of pregnancy, labor, and breastfeeding can take a bit longer.
Up to 60% of women develop diastasis recti during pregnancy. This widening between the ab muscles can make your stomach stick out slightly, and although it’s not usually permanent, around 40% still have it six months after giving birth.
Your legs and arms are likely getting stronger from regularly lifting, holding, and bouncing your bundle of joy. Still, it can take a while to fully regain strength and muscle tone. As with any physical transformation, you’re wise to focus on slow and steady progress rather than quick results.
If you’re no longer breastfeeding exclusively or are starting to introduce your baby to solid foods, there’s a good chance you’ve gotten your period. Your first few post-pregnancy cycles might be irregular, but it’s never too soon to start thinking about birth control, since experts recommend waiting 18 to 24 months between pregnancies.
Skin and hair
About nine out of ten women develop stretch marks during pregnancy, and while the streaks sometimes fade, they may never disappear completely. Just know stretch marks are super common and nothing you need to fix or cover. They’re only a sign of your incredible ability to grow and carry a human for the better part of a year.
Other skin issues you might notice this week include rosacea, eczema, sensitivity, or hormonal breakouts related to changes in breastfeeding. You could also begin shedding — that is, if you haven’t already. The sheer amount of hair loss you experience postpartum is enough to make anyone panic, but try not to freak out. You’ll most likely regain your usual fullness by your child’s first birthday.
Your mental health
It’s normal to feel not like yourself for the first few months postpartum. At 23 weeks, you might be feeling thankful, happy, and emotionally adjusted to your new identity as a parent. But keep in mind postpartum depression (PPD), anxiety, and body image issues are still common at this stage, even if you haven’t had symptoms until now.
Postpartum depression and anxiety
Symptoms of PPD and anxiety sometimes overlap. They can include lingering feelings of sadness, constant worry, irritability, racing thoughts, or mood swings. It can also show up as intrusive thoughts, which are unwanted or scary thoughts that pop up without warning. If you feel depressed or anxious for more than two weeks, contact your healthcare provider or call the Postpartum Support International hotline.
Roughly one-third of women struggle with body image in their first six months postpartum. If you’re having negative thoughts about your appearance or feel pressure to “bounce back” to your pre-baby physique, remember what an amazing thing your body did.
You carried and nourished a child for nine months in the womb, then birthed and potentially breastfed them for many more weeks. Try to focus on being emotionally healthy and physically strong instead of fitting into a certain size. In the end, this will benefit not only you but also your child.
Whether you clock in from home or commute to your job, balancing family with career is no easy feat. From trying to be productive on little sleep to finding trusted childcare to pumping at work, you’ve got a lot going on.
Rather than setting an unrealistic goal of a perfect work-life balance, go easy on yourself during this undoubtedly hectic stage. Parents can have it all, but maybe not all on the same day, so don’t sweat it if some things fall by the wayside. Every phase of parenting is different, and it’s okay if priorities shift from day to day and week to week.
Reviewed by the Ovia Health Clinical Team
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