The postpartum period marks the beginning of the postnatal period, and this phase is also referred to as the fourth stage of labor. It is also known as the puerperium and the “fourth trimester”.
It begins after childbirth and is typically considered to end within 6 weeks as the mother’s body, including hormone levels and uterus size, returns to a non-pregnant state. During this time, a new mother may experience a range of physical and emotional changes as she recovers from childbirth and adapts to caring for her new-born. It signifies maternal physiological and anatomical changes return to the nonpregnant state.
- Physical changes – Physically, postpartum changes can include vaginal soreness and bleeding, breast engorgement, and fatigue. Many women also experience mood swings, as well as anxiety and depression. These emotional changes are often linked to hormonal fluctuations, which can affect a woman’s mood and behaviour in the weeks after childbirth.
- Emotional changes – Emotional changes during the postpartum period are also common and can include mood swings, anxiety, and depression. Postpartum depression (PPD) is a more severe form of depression that affects up to 15% of new mothers. Symptoms of PPD can include sadness, irritability, feelings of worthlessness or guilt, and changes in appetite and sleep patterns.
While the physical and emotional changes that occur during the postpartum period can be challenging, there are many things that new mothers can do to support their health and well-being during this time. Resting when possible, eating a healthy diet, and staying hydrated can help to promote physical recovery. Talking with friends and family, joining a support group, or seeking professional help can be beneficial for managing emotional changes.
So, postpartum refers to the period after childbirth when a woman’s body goes through physical, emotional, and hormonal changes. These changes are a natural part of the process of recovering from childbirth and adapting to caring for a new-born.