There really is no greater joy than finally getting to know your new baby postpartum. But for most women, it also can be an extremely heavy and difficult time: 80% of new moms report feeling the baby blues in the days after giving birth. From hormonal changes to sleep deprivation—not to mention inhabiting a completely new role, whether you’re a first-time mom or a mom of multiples—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 in those first weeks. Postpartum anxiety is also something that we tend to underestimate as a society and do not adequately support. We are all aware of postpartum depression, but postpartum anxiety is more common.”
1. Trust—it’s normal to feel a rollercoaster of emotions, but it’s still important to ask for help when you need it.
“Simply stated: it's normal to cry and feel overwhelmed. It's normal for new parents 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 OB/GYN 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.
2. 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 care is just as important as any other trimester—and it can be even more demanding. That makes it all the more crucial to prioritize yourself whenever possible, even if it’s in small ways. (You know how they say on a plane to put your oxygen mask on first before helping others? The same logic applies here.)
“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 support the muscles you used in labor. “I also believe a postnatal 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.”
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3. 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 crucial to stay connected to yourself and check in with your mental health. “If a lack of sleep and anxiety is building, it is important to get help,” says Dr. Bayati. “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 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.”
Trying breastfeeding? Check out our guide to the first 24 hours of breastfeeding—from lactation consultants and women’s health experts.
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.
2 Baby Blues after pregnancy. March of Dimes.
This article is for informational purposes only. It is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and we recommend that you always consult with your healthcare provider. To the extent that this article features the advice of physicians or medical practitioners, the views expressed are the views of the cited expert and do not necessarily represent the views of Perelel.