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    Postpartum Period (Puerperium): What are the stages?

    Postnatal Care

    Postpartum Period (Puerperium): What are the stages?

    Updated on 3 November 2023

    The postpartum period marks the beginning of the postnatal period, and this phase is also referred to as the fourth stage of labor. A woman experiences emotional as well as numerous physical changes in this period. Therefore, it is essential to know about the postpartum period meaning, its different phases, and the challenges that one faces during this period.

    Stages of postpartum period

    The postpartum period duration is around six weeks, during which the hormonal levels and the size of the mother's uterus return to the pre-pregnant state. The postpartum period can be divided into three different continuous phases.

    Acute postpartum period

    The acute or initial phase of the postpartum period involves the first six to twelve hours after childbirth. During this period, the mother is monitored by midwives or nurses to ensure no complications arise. One of the significant health risks that a woman has during this phase is postpartum bleeding.

    This bleeding primarily occurs because the place where the placenta is attached to the uterine wall bleed, and as long as the uterus does not contract, doctors cannot stop this bleeding. Furthermore, one might also face complications such as amniotic fluid embolism, uterine inversion, and eclampsia.

    Subacute postpartum period

    The second phase of the postpartum period is called the subacute postpartum period, lasting two to six weeks. During this phase, a woman’s body undergoes several changes in genitourinary recovery, emotional status, hemodynamics, and metabolism. This is a slow phase, and one may experience all these changes vividly.

    A woman can feel these changes easily in the form of perineal discomfort or postpartum depression. According to studies, eighty seven to ninety four percent of women reported at least one health problem during their subacute postpartum period.

    Delayed postpartum period

    The third and last phase of the postpartum period is called the postpartum period, which lasts six months. This is the phase where restoring the muscles and connective tissues occurs, and the body returns to the pre-pregnant state. One also experiences recovery from childbirth complications such as urinary and fecal incontinence and painful intercourse.

    Furthermore, mental ailments such as PTSD also subside in this stage. Although the body gradually restores to pre-pregnancy, the genitourinary system’s changes take much longer to resolve.

    Sex during the postpartum period

    One might wonder, after childbirth, what is the right time to have sex? Some women experience low libido or low sexual drive during the postpartum period, a normal phenomenon. Healthcare professionals advise waiting for at least six weeks after childbirth to have sex. However, if a women feel that she is ready, they should at least consult a doctor before starting intercourse.
    Low libido during the postpartum period may be due to nervousness or fear of feeling pain during intercourse. If a woman plans to have another child, then they should wait at least twelve months to recover from the subsequent pregnancy fully.

    When is the first menstrual period after giving birth?

    After childbirth, one experiences vaginal bleeding, known as lochia, which should not be confused with menstrual bleeding. The timing of the first period depends on whether a woman is breastfeeding or formula-feeding their baby.

    In the case of breastfeeding, the first menstrual period may not return for up to six months and sometimes does not return until the woman has weaned their baby from breastfeeding. Whereas a woman who is formula-feeding their baby may get their first menstrual period six to eight weeks after childbirth.

    Postpartum checkups

    To understand the early symptoms of postpartum, one must study and understand what is postpartum period and what its stages are. Doctors advise women to go for a checkup two to six weeks after childbirth. And if someone has cesarian delivery, they must go for a checkup after two weeks. Some of the health checkups that are performed during postpartum are -

    • Weight check
    • Blood pressure check
    • Breast, abdomen, and pelvic examination
    • Blood glucose test for diabetic women

    In addition to these checks, one must visit the doctor frequently for additional checkups and tests during the postpartum period.

    To get more information about postpartum care and recovery, you can check Mylo Postpartum Care Plan that takes care of the new mother's needs and holistic well-being. It can help you with postpartum recovery, increased breast milk secretion, weight loss, improved gut health and constipation relief and postpartum depression.

    Know more about postpartum period (FAQs)

    1. Can a postpartum period trigger weight loss?

    Ans: A woman loses weight during the postpartum period because the amniotic fluid, placenta, and other fluids leave the body, and the body returns to the pre-pregnancy state.

    2. Can I start birth control before my first postpartum period?

    Ans: One should avoid using hormone birth control pills during the postpartum period as it might affect the milk supply during breastfeeding; women who do not plan to breastfeed can start using birth control after three weeks of childbirth.

    3. How long is the postpartum period?

    Ans: The postpartum period lasts for six weeks after childbirth.

    4. What to eat in postpartum period?

    Ans: Women should eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains during the postpartum period. They should avoid packaged and processed foods and drinks with high levels of salt and saturated fats.

    5. What is the difference between puerperium & postpartum period?

    Ans: There is no difference between the puerperium and the postpartum period as both mean the same thing, i.e., time after birth when physiologic changes in the women recede, and they return to the nonpregnant state.

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    Written by

    Priyanka Verma

    Priyanka is an experienced editor & content writer with great attention to detail. Mother to an 11-year-old, she's a skilled writer and has written about many niches, in both English & Hindi. She has been playing with words for 13 years.

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