After you’ve given birth, you now begin what we call the postpartum period. This term refers specifically to the six weeks following birth but can last much longer depending on your culture or medical needs. We love caring for postpartum mothers and babies! The Central Maine Healthcare teams will work with you to help you adjust to motherhood and to heal your post-pregnancy body.
Body Changes During Postpartum
After you’ve given birth, you will typically bleed (called lochia) in which your body is eliminating all the excess blood, tissue, and mucus that helped your baby to grow. The best thing for you during this time is to rest and enjoy your baby, allowing your body to do the work to heal up properly. If you have any concerns about your bleeding, please don’t hesitate to call us with questions.
During the 6 weeks after birth, your uterus shrinks back to its normal size and you might feel some light contractions as this is happening. You also might feel more uterus tightening while breastfeeding, which is perfectly normal (and another reason why breastfeeding helps your body heal!).
In the first few days after birth, your breasts will change size and shape as they prepare to feed your new baby. Colostrum is the first “milk” that your breasts will produce and is an amazing substance that gives your infant nutrients that he or she needs to get a great start at growing. A couple days later, your breast milk will come in and you will probably notice a difference in how your breasts feel.
If, at any time, you have concerns about breastfeeding, feel free to talk to a nurse or lactation consultant at our hospitals. If you have chosen not to or can’t breastfeed for any reason, we can work with you to take care of your body and help you decide how you would like to feed your baby.
Feeling extra moody, sensitive, or even a little “down” is normal during the first days and weeks of postpartum. But sometimes new moms can develop depression that they just can’t shake on their own.
Postpartum depression is a type of clinical depression that occurs in some new moms shortly after they give birth. Our nurses screen new moms very carefully for this treatable condition but it may not become apparent until you are back at home.
Research indicates that as many as 1 in 6 mothers will experience depressive feelings or the more consistent condition of postpartum depression. The causes are believed to be the significant drop in hormones (primarily estrogen and progesterone) that occur once a woman gives birth. Thyroid levels may also drop significantly, and a low thyroid condition can cause depression. The body may adjust in time and correct itself. If the cause is low thyroid, that can be easily tested and treated with medication.
It is important to note any symptoms you are feeling, and if they persist, tell your healthcare provider. Difficult emotional or life circumstances occurring at the same time can trigger or make postpartum depression worse. Serious, lingering depression is debilitating – but treatable – so don’t hesitate in telling healthcare providers all that you are feeling.
You might not feel like “yourself” for several days after giving birth, due to hormonal changes, fatigue and recovery. However, if after a week or two you notice the following symptoms, set up an appointment with your healthcare provider immediately.
Symptoms of postpartum depression include:
- Feelings of being overwhelmed
- Feeling hopeless
- Feeling sad and crying frequently
- Lack of interest in social interaction
- Low libido
- No interest in food, or the opposite, overeating
- Lack of energy and motivation
- Trouble sleeping or sleeping too much
- Memory problems
- Inability to focus
- Inappropriate feelings of guilt or worthlessness
- Inexplicable and/or vague body pains
Postpartum depression treatment:
The two most common forms of treatment for postpartum depression, which may be combined, are medication and talk therapy. Some medication may not be appropriate for women who are breastfeeding, and your healthcare provider can counsel you about what you can take.
Your choice of therapist may depend on your healthcare provider’s recommendation, your health insurance coverage and your income. Possible therapy resources are: a psychiatrist (a doctor’s referral is usually needed), a psychologist, or a licensed clinical social worker. Ask your doctor or staff at Central Maine Healthcare about mental health experts who specialize in postpartum depression.
Please remember that depression is not your fault. It is a condition that affects many new mothers. And most of all, it can have an impact on your new baby. Call your healthcare provider if you have any concerns about your emotional or psychological state. You can get help to feel better!
For additional resources on post-partum depression visit Postpartum Support International.