Adjusting To Life Postpartum: How to Navigate Physical and Emotional Changes

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Becoming a parent is a major life change. Whether you are a first-time parent or welcoming another child, it can take some time to adjust to life with a new baby.  

Here’s how to navigate the changes that come with this new chapter.   

Physical and emotional changes

Your hormones undergo dramatic changes in the first few days and weeks after childbirth. These changes are responsible for a variety of physical and emotional changes.  

After giving birth, endorphins and oxytocin levels rise, which can help to promote maternal-infant bonding and reduce stress. Meanwhile, after delivering the placenta, estrogen and progesterone levels will decrease and these imbalances may contribute to “baby blues” or postpartum depression. The “baby blues” are common, and symptoms include mood swings, crying spells, and anxiety. The baby blues usually go away on their own within a few days or weeks.   

Postpartum depression or PPD is common: 1 in 8 women will experience symptoms, and anxiety/depression rates are particularly high for transgender individuals, as well. Birthing parents can experience intense feelings of sadness, anxiety or despair that prevent them from doing daily tasks. PPD symptoms can be severe and can last weeks after giving birth. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, it is important to speak to your healthcare provider. They can help you to determine if you have postpartum depression or another mood disorder. They can also provide you with support and treatment options. 

In addition to these hormonal changes, you may also be struggling with pain as your body heals from delivery, whether vaginal or c-section. You are also likely sleep deprived, which can impact your physical health, as well. Speak with your doctor if you are experiencing prolonged pain, or pain that prevents you from taking on normal tasks, to discuss resources for pain management and relief. 

Hormonal shifts, in additional to external stressors like lack of sleep and pain, can have an immense impact on your mental health. With the right tools and as your body makes its way through recovery, most begin to feel better after a few weeks. Give yourself grace as it takes time to heal. 

Adjusting to life with a new baby

In the weeks and months postpartum, your physical symptoms should begin to taper, and your body may begin to feel back to itself. But, your physical being is only one part of the postpartum puzzle. Carrying a child, giving birth, and caring for a newborn can be mentally jarring, especially if you are a first time parent. As you navigate these physical and emotional changes, here some intentional steps you can take to manage this transition: 

  • Give yourself time to adjust: It can take several weeks or even months to adjust to your new life as a parent. If you already have a child or children at home, understand they will need to adjust to their new sibling as well. You may grieve some of the things you did before having a baby, or struggle to feel like “you.” Be patient with yourself and don’t expect to have everything figured out right away. 
  • Take care of yourself: As hard as it can be to prioritize yourself while juggling many responsibilities, it’s important to carve out time for self-care. Make sure you are getting enough sleep, eating healthy foods, and making time for physical movement. 
  • Lean on your village: Parenting can be isolating at times, so it’s important to have a support system of family and friends who can be there for you. Sometimes, reconnecting with those who know you best can also help you feel more like you. They can also lend a helping hand if you are feeling overwhelmed. Don’t be afraid to ask for help from your partner, family, friends, or other parents.  

Just like every pregnancy is different, so is every postpartum experience. Whether you are a first-time parent, or have navigated the newborn phase before, you may still be addressing different highs and lows. During this transitional period, it is more important than ever to give yourself grace, ask for help, and take it day-by-day. 

Help is available. You can call 1-833-TLC-MAMA (1-833-852-6262) for 24/7 free confidential support. If you are in mental health distress or have a suicidal crisis, call 911 or text the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988 for free and confidential support.