Postpartum: Riding the Emotional Roller Coaster

You’ve just given birth! This is a huge moment in your life, one of the most memorable things you will ever experience.  You may find it hard to sleep… or you may find it hard to stay awake! You may feel blissfully  happy… or tense and irritable. You may feel madly in love with this new little creature… or overwhelmed by your new responsibilities.

photo: Sears portrait studio

It’s all OK. It’s all normal. Here are some of the emotions you may be feeling right after your baby’s birth:

Thrilled. You are on a natural high. It’s hard think or talk of anything but your baby. You  may feel compelled to tell your birth story to anyone who will listen, followed by a detailed account of every yawn, diaper change, and feeding.

Overwhelmed. Taking care of a baby is a 24-hour-a-day job, and it’s all yours now. You may be worn out from labor and birth, but there’s not time for a vacation now! The first few months are the hardest, but soon you’ll be out of the postpartum fog and back on a bit more normal schedule!

Let down. After the emotional highs come the emotional lows. Feeding and caring for your baby may not be as easy as you hoped it would be. You may feel a twinge of sadness about no longer being pregnant. And it may be difficult to share the baby with your partner, family, and friends.

Weepy. They call them the “baby blues” and it’s totally normal. All the sudden changes in your life and in your hormones may cause you to feel anxious and worried about your ability to care for your baby, which may be followed by guilt. Be sure that you are being well cared for and have lots of support.

Beat up. Nearly every muscle, joint, and organ of your body was worked overtime to push the baby out. No wonder you feel battered from head to toe. You can expect your body to feel the effects of delivery for at least a few weeks, longer if you’ve had a c-section. You may have popped some blood vessels in your eyes or face from the intense pushing, which will disappear in a few weeks. You may look and feel washed out, pale, and exhausted. This too shall pass.

Feeling faint. The end of pregnancy brings a sudden shift in blood volume and total body fluid; it takes a while for your cardiovascular system to adapt and compensate for changes in position. So you may feel lightheaded and dizzy after delivery, especially when changing position from lying to sitting, sitting to standing. Until this woozy stage subsides (usually after a day), you may need to seek assistance when getting out of bed or walking.

Shivers and shakes. Immediately after delivery, many women experience chills and whole-body shakes, probably due to a resetting of the body’s temperature regulating system after a long bout of hard work. Rest and a warm blanket will help these chills subside within a few hours after delivery.

Bleeding and vaginal discharge. After birth, the uterus continues to discharge leftover blood and tissue, called lochia. In the first few days the discharge is comparable to a heavy menstrual period, and it may contain a few clots. After a week it becomes reddish- brown and thinner, then changes from pinkish to yellowish-white. Any activity that stimulates the emptying of the uterus, such as standing, walking, or breastfeeding, will also increase the amount of discharge.

To get yourself back on track, it’s important to get a lot of rest. Try to accept any help that’s offered to you. Relax and relieve sore muscles by soaking in a warm bath or getting a massage.  Replenish your energy by eating nutritious foods and drinking plenty of water. To get your mind off your aches and pains, focus on the miracle of your new baby and the new joys in your life.

For more of Dr. Sears’ postpartum information and advice, click on any of the links below.

Emotional Changes You May Feel
Postpartum Depression
Common Postpartum Changes
Easy Ways to Relieve Postpartum Stress
When to Call Your Doctor About Postpartum Bleeding
What to Do If Bleeding is Heavy
Afterpains: Normal or Not?
8 Ways to Get Your Urinary System Working Again
8 Tips to Relieve Nipple Soreness
4 Ways to End Postpartum Constipation
5 Ways to Reclaim Your Pre-pregnancy Weight

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