It’s true that there’s no greater joy than finally getting to bond and get to know your new baby postpartum. But if we’re allowing ourselves to be honest, it also can be an extremely trying and difficult time. From hormonal changes to little to no sleep and a completely new role of becoming a mother or a mother of multiples to adapt to, the postpartum period can be marked by both highs and lows. Because of that, it’s important to be kind to yourself and to lean on your support system when you need it.
“Postpartum is one of the most challenging times in any woman's life,” explains Dr. Banafsheh Bayati, M.D., a board-certified OB/GYN in Los Angeles, California. “You are never adequately prepared for the hormonal changes, lack of sleep, breastfeeding frustrations, and healing pains. Postpartum anxiety is also something that we as a society underestimate and do not adequately support. We are all aware of postpartum depression but postpartum anxiety is more common.”
Trust—it’s normal to feel a rollercoaster of emotions, but it’s still important to ask for support.
“Simply stated: it's normal to cry and feel overwhelmed. It's normal to feel lost and inadequate. It's normal to feel that you want to escape despite this tremendous love for your newborn,” says Bayati. “It takes a village. Our society is not set up for that. Reach out to friends and family, to your obstetrician or therapist, and let others help you.”
In addition, it’s crucial to continue to be in regular contact with your doctor or healthcare practitioner. Bayati explains that she uses email, telehealth, and regular visits during the first few months postpartum to check-in and support her patients.
Don’t stop the wellness practices that you’ve been developing throughout your pregnancy.
It’s easy to cut back on self-care when you’re exhausted and taking care of a newborn. But postpartum is just as important as any other trimester to make time to care for yourself, so you can in turn care for your new baby.
“Your postpartum diet, meditation, and exercise can not be underemphasized at this time,” says Bayati. She particularly recommends pilates or physical therapy, which can be helpful to strengthen the body and the muscles you used in labor. “I also believe a prenatal vitamin that supports the changes in the postpartum is key. Do not let yourself be deficient in folate, vitamin D, or iron at this period of time as that can exacerbate issues.”
Stay connected to your body and mind.
Just as you’re learning to understand and be in sync with your baby at this time, it’s important to also stay connected and in sync with yourself and be honest about feeling less than okay. “If a lack of sleep and anxiety is building, it is important to get help. It's important to be in close contact with your obstetrician. If your partner and family are beginning to worry about you, take this seriously, and get help. Without adequate sleep, postpartum issues can exacerbate quickly. If you have a history of mood disorders, know that you are at a higher risk to need more help postpartum. Your baby needs you to be willing to ask for help so that you can be there for your newborn. Know yourself and be in tune with your body and mind.”1
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Dr. Banafsheh Bayati is a board-certified Obstetrician/Gynecologist practicing in Santa Monica, California. She serves women from adolescence to menopause with an emphasis on preventative health and holistic care. Her passion is obstetrics. She resides in Santa Monica with her husband and three children.1 Postpartum Support International - PSI. Postpartum.net.