What you need to know: All the feelings during the postpartum period

[3 MIN READ]

In this article:

  • It is completely normal and expected to experience a range of emotions – positive and negative – after childbirth. 

  • Identifying and understanding these emotions can help you navigate them and put them into perspective. 

  • Adopting and embracing ways to cope with what you’re feeling – like asking for help to take a nap or go for a walk – can work wonders too. 

Feeling a wide range of quickly changing emotions during your pregnancy-to-postpartum journey is a completely natural part of becoming a parent. Hormones, changes in life circumstances and exhaustion all contribute to your emotions. This is especially true during postpartum – the six weeks after childbirth – when you’re recovering, taking care of a newborn and adapting to this new phase of your life.  
However, naming and understanding these feelings can help you better deal with them today and in the future.

What you might feel during the postpartum period

Endorphin and oxytocin hormones contribute to the positive feelings you experience around childbirth. After birth, you experience a sharp decline in the progesterone hormone which can contribute to the very common “baby blues” or even postpartum depression (PPD). 

Pair that with round-the-clock feeding, diaper changes and exhaustion, and it’s no surprise that new parents often feel a mix of both positive and negative feelings in the early weeks after birth. You may feel:

  • Alert as you learn to care for your new baby and respond to its cues. 
  • Excited and content at your baby’s long-awaited arrival. 
  • Empathetic and more in tune with the needs of your baby and those around you. 
  • Joy as you see a first smile, hold a tiny hand or hear a first coo. 
  • Aggression or mood swings thanks to hormone fluctuations, sleep deprivation and stress. 
  • Anxiety for your baby’s health and well-being and your ability to care for them. 
  • Depression, likely caused by hormonal changes, genetics and other factors. 
  • Disappointment if your birth experience didn’t go as planned or you struggle to breastfeed or bond with your baby. 
  • Frustrated at the demands of caring for a newborn, lack of sleep and lack of help. 
  • Inadequacy and self-doubt as you navigate the challenges of parenthood, especially during the first year. 
  • Overwhelmed by your new responsibilities. 
  • Sad or weepy, due to changes in your hormones, fatigue and the ups and downs of childbirth.
  • Restless or unsettled which makes it difficult to relax.

During the postpartum period, you will likely feel a wide range of these emotions – and sometimes more than one at once! You also might feel happy and content one minute and deeply sad the next. This is all normal. 

A note on the “baby blues” 

It’s common to experience the “baby blues” in the two to three weeks after giving birth. This feeling is caused by rapid hormonal changes, the stress and emotions of childbirth, feeding or lactation challenges, physical discomfort, new responsibilities, sleep deprivation and more. These baby blues often result in crying, weepiness, forgetfulness and trouble concentrating. 

Nearly all new mothers – up to 85%, according to Johns Hopkins University – experience the baby blues. However, if they continue for weeks or months and are joined by any of the postpartum depression symptoms or other mental health issues, please contact your health care provider immediately. 

How to cope with feelings during the postpartum period and beyond

You and your baby have both just experienced huge life changes – be kind to yourself. Find moments to slow down, take care of yourself and get some alone time. Ask your partner or a loved one to help so you can take a shower (no small feat with a newborn!) or a nap, go for a walk or just get out of the house (alone or with your baby). Call in friends and family members to help, too. As the saying goes, “It takes a village.” 

Growing, birthing and caring for a baby is a physical and emotional journey. It’s also a huge transition. Whatever you feel, these feelings are completely normal – you’re not alone. And they don’t end after postpartum: Parenthood, too, is a journey of feelings. 

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Related resources

Preparing for baby's arrival with a comprehensive birth plan

Breastfeeding protects you and your baby

How midwives help parents have healthy deliveries

This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your health care professional’s instructions.

 
 

About the Author

The Providence Women's Health team is committed to providing useful and actionable insights, tips and advice to ensure women of all types can live their healthiest lives.

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