It’s hard to believe that the birth of a baby would bring emotions other than joy, elatement, and hope.
So many positive emotions surface when seeing new life enter the world. We’re slightly prepared to know that there will be some underlying tiredness and financial obligations. We have some awareness that our daily schedule will be changing. All of these small preparations don’t seem to grasp the way that life is impacted by the arrival of a new baby.
As many as 85% of new moms will experience what has been normalized as the “Baby Blues.” Women will commonly experience symptoms of tiredness, fatigue, unhappiness, worry, irritability, overwhelmed, and forgetful. These symptoms begin after the birth of a baby and may last up to three weeks postpartum. The symptoms are often a reflection of the many changes and transitions, lack of sleep, hormonal fluctuations, and newness of caring for a baby. Baby blues doesn’t necessarily need professional attention and will commonly be resolved though rest, care and support from family and friends, and time for adjusting.
Postpartum depression and anxiety affects 10-20% of moms, can begin in the last couple months of pregnancy and last 1-3 years after child birth, and causes greater distress. The symptoms become crippling and exhausting, invoking many thoughts of shame and guilt in not fulfilling the dreams and norms of being a “good mom.”
The symptoms of Postpartum Depression and Anxiety include:
- Excessive worry
- Feelings of worthlessness, helplessness, and hopelessness
- Loss of interest in doing favorite activities
- Lethargy and fatigue
- Inability to sleep or excessive sleeping
- Loss of appetite
- Anger, irritability, and resentment
- Poor concentration
- Isolation and loneliness
- “Scary thoughts”
- Thoughts of suicide or self-harm
- Thoughts of harming the baby
Women may feel a loss of control and identity as life seems to be demanding more than they are able to contribute. They may feel separate or distant from their infant with whom they were told that they would feel an instant bond and connection and a euphoria that made the birthing pains worth it. These new moms may feel like a failure for struggling to provide what they imagined should have come so easily.
Experiencing symptoms of depression and anxiety with the birth of a child is not a personal failure. There are some common warning signs that can gathered to inform a mom of her predisposition to postpartum depression or anxiety, which may perhaps prepare her and normalize her experience.
Warning signs for Postpartum Depression and Anxiety include:
- Severe premenstrual syndrome (PMS) or significant sensitivity to hormonal changes
- Personal history of depression, anxiety, bipolar, or psychosis
- Family history of depression, anxiety, bipolar, psychosis, or postpartum depression
- A history of trauma, abuse, neglect, or severe family dysfunction
- Tendency towards being a perfectionist or a heightened need of control
- A tendency to worry, ruminate, or obsess
- A history of miscarriages, still-birth, or abortion
- Undesired pregnancy
- A difficult or strained marriage
- Single mom
- Limited social support or friendships
- Lack resources or assertiveness to ask for help
- Difficult pregnancy (depleting physical and emotional resources)
- Other outside stressors (i.e. job change, relocation, major losses, financial strain)
It is difficult to see beyond postpartum depression and anxiety, making it easy to believe the fallacies that “life will never be better”, “I’m not a good mom”, or “my baby would be better off without me.” It’s essential to foster as much emotional support, practical support, and physiological support as possible to muster your way through this transitional time to a period of adapting and thriving.
Ways to manage Postpartum Depression and Anxiety:
- Rest and sleep when possible
- Eat healthy meals and snacks
- Drink plenty of water
- Avoid or reduce caffeinated drinks
- Address and manage any thyroid dysfunctions, Vitamin D deficiencies, or other body chemistry needs
- Ask for or accept help for meals, childcare, laundry, or grocery shopping
- Connect with friendships
- Practice being gentle, kind, and gracious to yourself for this period of adjustment
- Trust your resiliency
- Rearrange your priorities and expectations
- Reach out to professional support or support groups
- Practice any other symptom management skills that you have found helpful
This time will pass! You will find the good again. You will find yourself again. You will find joy again.