After finally being past pregnancy and the birthing experience, the next milestone for a new mother is the crucial 6-weeks period. The benchmark of 6-weeks holds significance not just in terms of growth of the newborn but also physical & mental health of the new mother.
During pregnancy, a woman’s body goes through several changes- all aimed at keeping the baby safe & healthy. Post-delivery, the body again goes through several changes. Some of these changes are for getting ready for rearing the newborn and some are for getting the body back in the non-pregnant state by healing and adjusting. And it is believed that by 6 weeks after delivery, most of the changes of pregnancy, labor, and delivery have resolved and the body has reverted to the non-pregnant state.
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Women typically experience the following that makes this 6-week window extremely crucial & significant-
1. Soreness and fatigue from the process of birthing settles down by 4 to 6 weeks. New moms claim to feel like their ‘real self’ by this time.
2. The uterus goes back to its original size from almost 2½ pounds at the time of delivery to just 2 ounces by 6th week. As a result, After-birth pains slowly diminish by the 6th week.
3. Discharge comprising blood and tissues (called Lochia) gets less and lighter in color by the end of 6th week. The flow is heavier and brighter in colour in the beginning.
4. During first few weeks postpartum, one might experience breast engorgement. This is when the breasts swell as they fill with milk. By 5-6 weeks, the mothers body gets to know the right amount of milk that needs to be produced for the baby. The first 6 weeks are thus extremely important for establishing supply and demand.
5. If you’re not breastfeeding, your period may start again in 6 to 8 weeks after giving birth.
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6. Gynaecologists nowadays also treat 6 weeks as the benchmark post which new moms can gradually resume gentle exercise if they were physically active until giving birth as long as they do not have any complications or conditions that might make exercise dangerous.
7. First 6 weeks also play a significant role in the emotional progress of a new mother. One might feel the excitement of seeing their little bundle of joy but feel stressed out & exhausted at the same time because of lack of sleep & new responsibilities. Overall exhaustion and fluctuating hormones may take a new mother through a roller coaster of emotional turmoil during this phase.
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8. Through breastfeeding, kangaroo approach and time spent with the newborn, first 6 weeks play a critical role in creating a special relationship with the baby. This is the time that most new parents take to learn how to care for their newborn and understand how to function as a changed family unit.
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9. Many women get the “baby blues” during the first few days after childbirth. The “baby blues” usually peak around the fourth day and then ease up in less than 2 weeks. In case this extends further, one must seek professional help as it might signal the onset of Postpartum Depression.
In a way, the first 6 weeks after giving birth are critical to bonding, healing, and breastfeeding.
But for a new mother, the expectation of demonstrating knowledge & confidence in her ability to provide adequate care for herself and her newborn prior to discharge from the hospital, becomes a challenge. And lack of any support can have devastating outcomes for the infant & new mother in such a case.
The WHO recommends post-natal visits, counselling sessions and support systems to enable a new mother recover in this period. Important & critical advices related to right nutrition, breastfeeding, latching etc. must be provided by healthcare provider in such follow-up visits. Even during the hospital stay, information about self-care and newborn care must be provided to new mothers to allay concerns and boost confidence levels.
It is thus essential to choose the right hospital where even postpartum care services are of high quality standard.
As a first-time mom, you might feel anxious and over-whelmed about the quality of care promises made by hospitals these days. But with the help of online communities like Together for Her, you can make an informed decision keeping your expectations & needs on top of priorities.
Together for Her has created a number of resources for pregnant women to help them access the best care. ‘Together’ comes as part of a push for honest parenting, as a platform for mothers speaking openly about how their experience with healthcare providers has been.
Learn more about Together here.