The Postpartum Milestones You'll Reach, A Month By Month Guide
by Yvette Manes

The majority of the information you'll find about the first year after giving birth more to do with the baby's important milestones than the mother's. Many new moms are led to believe that six weeks after giving birth, they're as good as new and should set their focus on taking care of their little one. But, the reality is that there several personal postpartum milestones in the year after giving birth that moms can overlook. It's hard to think of yourself when you are busy raising a family.

A study by Dr. Julie Wray, of the University of Salford, found that six weeks was simply not enough of a recovery time for new moms. Wray observed practice in two maternity wards and interviewed new mothers two to three weeks, three months, and six to seven months after they had given birth. She concluded that an entire year was needed for a mom to feel fully recovered. Because of this, it's important for moms to know what to expect from their bodies and minds in those first 12 months after having a baby.

Here is a month to month guide of the postpartum milestones you'll reach in the year after giving birth.

Month 1

The first month after giving birth is when your body will go through the most changes. You will likely be sore all over. WebMD noted that sore muscles in the arms, neck, or jaw are common after childbirth because of all your hard work during labor. You will also experience some abdominal cramping, which is a sign that your uterus is beginning to contract. According to the March of Dimes, right after you give birth, your uterus is round and hard and weighs about 2.5 pounds.

If you had a C-section, you may be extra tired due to blood loss and your incision will be sore or numb. If you had an episiotomy or perineal tear, you will likely feel discomfort in your vaginal region, as well. Immediately after giving birth you will have a vaginal discharge known as lochia, which is bright red and heavy for the first few days, and will gradually taper off becoming watery and changing from pink or brown to yellow or white according to the Mayo Clinic. It's also not uncommon for new moms to have some difficulty urinating and constipation immediately after giving birth.

During the first week postpartum, What To Expect noted that your milk will come in and your breasts will feel engorged, they may be bigger and hard, and will be very tender. According to the March of Dimes, the engorgement should go away once you start breastfeeding, but if you don't plan to nurse, it may last until your breasts stop producing milk.

According to Kids Health From Nemours, postpartum depression (PPD) can begin as early as two to three weeks after giving birth. If you start to feel sad, tearful, despairing, discouraged, hopeless, worthless, or alone contact your doctor right away.

Month 2

Most doctors want to see their patients for postpartum check-ups around the six-week mark to make sure that everything is looking good. This is also the time you should get the OK to return to normal sexual activity, as long as your body is healing normally, according to Baby Center.

Your uterus should be back to it's normal size by your sixth week, weighing just two ounces, according to the March of Dimes, and you should no longer be feeling abdominal cramping.

If you aren't breastfeeding, your period may return in this month. Healthline noted that a woman’s period typically returns about six to eight weeks after giving birth, if she isn't nursing. Talk to your doctor about birth control options whether or not you are breastfeeding.

If everything looks good at your postpartum check-up, your doctor may also give you the OK to start exercising again, according to Baby Center.

Month 3

Because of your falling estrogen levels, the lush hair that you gained during pregnancy may begin to fall out at this point. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, this condition is referred to as excessive hair shedding, and it only lasts a few months.

You might also be returning to work at this time. In the U.S. The Family and Medical Leave Act ("FMLA") provides certain employees, including pregnant women, up to 12 workweeks of unpaid, job-protected leave a year.

Month 4

After months of sleep deprivation, many moms start to feel postpartum fatigue. This is not uncommon, but Baby Center warned that postpartum fatigue can be a sign of hypothyroidism, or underactive thyroid. A small percentage of women develop this condition four to eight months after giving birth.

Your C-section should be healed by this point, according to Parents, although your scar might still be red or purplish.

Month 5

Most moms think they're in the clear if they haven't had any symptoms of postpartum depression by now. But, according to Postpartum Progress, PPD can show up any time in the first 12 months after having a baby. For some moms, their first inclination that they may have PPD is in later months when their baby starts to sleep longer, yet they still find themselves fighting insomnia or excessive anxiety. Talk to your doctor if at any point you start to feel sad, anxious, depressed, worthless, or excessively worried.

Month 6

Have you made time to go to the dentist after giving birth? If not, make that appointment right now. There's a long-held belief that babies pull calcium from your teeth while you're pregnant. According to Directions in Dentistry, a dental blog by California dentist Nicholas Calcaterra, this is actually a myth. The truth is that morning sickness, acid reflux, and changes in your diet and oral hygiene are the real reason why you are at a high risk for tooth decay when you're pregnant. Regardless of why your teeth are at additional risk for decay, it's important to visit your dentist regularly, but especially in the year after giving birth.

Month 7

The hair loss you've been experiencing postpartum should begin to taper off by now, according to Baby Center.

La Leche League International (LLLI) also noted that new mothers who exclusively breastfeed may see the return of their menstrual period around this point. But, for some moms, lactational amenorrhea, or the lack of period due to breastfeeding, lasts much longer.

Month 8

Remember the dark line down your abdomen when you were pregnant? It should start to get lighter by this point (although it can stick around for a year or more depending on how dark it is and if you're breastfeeding.) Fit Pregnancy noted that around 75 percent of pregnant women develop a dark line from the pubic bone to the belly button – though for some women it can extend to just below the breast. This linea nigra, or black line, is caused by hormones in your second trimester.

Month 9

You've probably heard the saying "nine months on, nine months off" referring to the amount of time you were pregnant versus the amount of time it will take you to get your pre-pregnancy shape back. The reality, however, is that every person is different. There are moms who fit into their pre-pregnancy jeans one week postpartum, moms who never fit into them again, and countless number of moms in between. By nine months postpartum, your body should be healed enough to start a fitness routine if you are interested in doing so.

If you've been struggled with PPD, research in the Journal of Midwifery & Women's Health shows that exercise can have antidepressant effects. Even something as simple as joining a neighborhood stroller walking group can also expose you and your baby to new friendships.

Month 10

If you had melasma, a hyper-pigmentation of the skin that occurs during pregnancy, it should be significantly lighter by this point according to Continue to use sunscreen to keep the splotches from getting darker with sun exposure.

Month 11

Although they will never fully disappear, your stretchmarks should have faded by this point. According to Parents, stretchmarks usually start out red and will lighten within a year. There are many topical treatments marketed for use on stretchmarks, but your best bet, if they bother you, is to talk to a dermatologist.

Month 12

You made it! You are one whole year postpartum. Your baby may be walking at this point, which means you will probably spend a lot of time running after your new 1-year-old. You might even be thinking about getting pregnant again soon. Make sure to visit your OB-GYN for your annual check-up and don't forget to schedule your bi-annual cleaning at the dentist.