A new baby brings a lot of change. While change can be fun and exciting, it can also feel overwhelming.
Arrival of a baby can trigger feelings of doubt as a parent and fear of being able to provide for the baby’s needs. The addition of a baby can also put pressure on decisions related to childcare and work, impacting one’s sense of identity. Disruptions in schedules, inconsistent, sleep/ wake patterns, and internal conflict can take its toll on relationships.
Unrealistic expectations on what defines being a “good” parent can contribute to feelings of depression or anxiety especially when social comparison sets in, and your reality is different than the expectation. Guilt, shame, and hopelessness may begin to set in.
Feeling less attractive after birth, difficulties breastfeeding, lacking time and energy for self-care to take a shower, let alone get some time/ space for yourself can be hard! It can be incredibly validating to hear honest-postpartum-experiences-shared-by-real-moms.
Feeling sadness after the birth of a baby known as the “baby-blues” is common and short-lived, typically most present 4-5 days after giving birth and should decrease and last no more than two weeks.
The “baby blues” impacts approximately 70-80% of new mothers, according to the American Pregnancy Association. This is viewed as a mild form of postpartum depression. Symptoms such as negative feelings and mood swings are believed to be related to hormonal changes and chemical changes in the brain. Hormone levels during pregnancy quickly drop within 24 hours after childbirth which impacts women’s health.
Approximately 15% of mothers experience, peripartum depression, which is formerly known as postpartum depression (PPD). Peripartum depression is characterized by more extreme feelings in sadness, impacting thoughts and mood along with changes in sleep, appetite, and energy levels.
Thoughts of suicide, thoughts of harming your child, worsening of depression, and difficulties that impact day-to-day functioning should be taken seriously. Local crisis resources, emergency supports, and contacting the suicide prevention lifeline can help. Some women, especially those with a history of bipolar-disorder or schizoaffective-disorder have a higher risk of developing postpartum-psychosis which is rare. Onset is typically sudden and present in the first two weeks of birth.
If you are experiencing any of the following depressive symptoms longer than two weeks during or after pregnancy, please reach out.
- Depressed mood (sadness, emptiness, and/ or hopelessness)
- Loss of interest or pleasure in things you used to enjoy, including withdrawal from friends or family
- Lack of interest in the baby, not feeling bonded
- Mood irritability
- Crying a lot
- Increase in purposeless physical activity or slowed movements such as speech
- Eating too little or too much
- Sleeping too little or too much
- Having no energy or motivation
- Aches and pains that are persistent
- Feelings of worthlessness or guilt as a parent
- Fatigue/ loss of energy
- Difficulty concentrating and making decisions
- Thoughts of suicide
- Thoughts of harming yourself or your baby
Taking good care of yourself is so important, especially as you are taking care of a new baby! As you love your baby, may you also be able to love and accept yourself. As you discover new things about your baby, may you also re-discover yourself and learn to trust yourself as a parent.
When you are feeling stressed out, please seek support from friends and family. Let your partner(s), friends, and family know when you need a break. Call your doctor, nurse, midwife, or pediatrician to discuss concerns. They may also be able to assist with strategies, resources, and referrals for medication. If can also be helpful to make an appointment with a mental health professional who can work with thoughts, feelings, and your experiences being a parent.
Written By : Charlotte Johnson, MA, LPCC
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