The journey to welcoming a baby into the world is a miracle of nature and a (literal) labor of love. Then a new kind of journey begins—recovery.
It's crucial to empower yourself with knowledge of what might happen as your body changes over the coming six weeks postpartum that have the potential to delay your recovery. The good news is that identifying some of these conditions early and equipping yourself with the right knowledge, as shown below, can help any new mama.
Here's what we want you to know:
1. Having various pelvic floor issues is fairly common.
The pelvic floor is made up of all of the muscles, ligaments and connective tissues that support the function of pelvic organs like the uterus, bladder and bowels. It's not uncommon for women to experience issues with those muscles weakening after the strenuous effort of childbirth.
Possible symptoms include:
- Persistent pain in the pelvic or genital region
- Discomfort during sex
- Frequent urination
- Unexplained back pain
If you notice any of the above symptoms persisting, get in to see your physician or ob-gyn right away. They can recommend treatment, schedule further visits if necessary and guide you towards using targeted techniques, like core exercises and yoga to soothe pelvic pain and strengthen those muscles once again.
2. Losing hair is perfectly normal.
A totally normal occurrence among many new mothers is postpartum hair loss—a result of hormones leveling out following pregnancy, during which women typically experience higher levels of estrogen and progesterone. While an individual naturally loses about 80 hairs a day through the growing process, it's not uncommon for a woman to experience nearly triple that postpartum.
Hair loss usually slows around six months postpartum, but if you're not seeing any signs of slowing, it might be helpful to have bloodwork done to see if other imbalances might be affecting your body.
In the meantime, make sure to consume a balanced diet, working in plenty of protein, calcium, iron, and other minerals and minimize stress as much as possible to keep your hormone levels under control.
3. The separation of abdominal muscles isn’t as scary as it sounds.
Diastasis recti is a separation of the abdominal muscles that occur following pregnancy. This is a normal process where the growing uterus causes the larger muscles in the abdomen to stretch and ultimately drift apart once the tension is released.
Though it's a common condition, especially in older mothers or those who have carried multiples, it's certainly frustrating to have a bulge in your abdomen or midsection that stubbornly refuses to budge.
Although severe cases might require the intervention of a physical therapist, most cases of diastasis recti can be identified with a simple at-home check, and treated with specific exercises (which can also be done at home).
4. Getting postpartum infections can happen—so listen to your body.
As your body recovers from childbirth, the potential for complications through a variety of different infections can arise. Some common infections affecting new mothers are infections from C-section incisions, mastitis (a breast infection commonly brought on through breastfeeding), and urinary tract infections. Symptoms include:
- Fever, chills, aches, and fatigue
- Hard or painful areas, usually only on one breast
- Difficult or painful urination, cloudy or bloody urine
Make sure you listen to your body and get to your physician right away if you experience any of the above. Most infections can be treated with a simple course of antibiotics, and by drinking plenty of fluids.
5. Battling postpartum depression is *so* hard—but help is available.
An unfortunately common psychological condition affecting new mothers is postpartum depression, and it has been linked to rapidly fluctuating hormone levels causing chemical imbalances in the brain, sleep deprivation, and stress.
Common symptoms include:
- Crying for no apparent reason, or more than normal
- Feelings of moodiness, restlessness, or irritability
- Oversleeping, or not being able to sleep at all
- Trouble concentrating or remembering details
- Trouble bonding with or forming an attachment to the baby
- Feelings of self-doubt about being able to care for the baby
- Thoughts of harming self or the baby
Because these symptoms are broad, postpartum depression shouldn't be self-diagnosed. It's important to consult with a doctor and a psychologist, who can take into account your specific circumstances and make an informed decision about the best course of action.
Due to the severity of this condition, a doctor will usually recommend a treatment plan involving therapy and medication, which can greatly improve a new mother's ability to cope. Having friends and family that act as a resource and support network is also invaluable.
In short, the more a new mother is informed about what to expect, the better prepared she will be to handle the physical and emotional changes that can occur postpartum. Though postpartum recovery can be certainly overwhelming at times, remember that the changes the body is going through are a result of the incredible power of motherhood, and are nothing to be ashamed of!