Having a baby is one of the most exciting experiences in a woman’s life. It can also be terrifying, exhausting, confusing and frustrating. After giving birth, many women feel tired and overwhelmed by the multitude of emotions that they may be experiencing. A woman may feel frightened by the responsibility of taking care of another person; she may feel alone, isolated and even angry or incompetent. At times, instead of feeling love and awe toward her new baby, she may feel resentful or inadequate.
While these feelings may cause anxiety for both the new mother and for those around her, these feelings are very common. However, while almost 80 percent of new moms experience the “baby blues” after giving birth, if they last more than two weeks and if they affect her ability to take care of herself and her infant, it may be that the “baby blues” have progressed into postpartum depression.
What Is Postpartum Depression
Postpartum depression is a form of clinical depression that a mother can experience within the first few weeks, months or even up to a year after your baby is born. Postpartum depression is more common than many people think, affecting 12-16% of mothers. This number is even higher in teenage mothers. And it isn’t only first time moms that can experience postpartum depression; studies have shown that it can also affect women who have had children as well as adoptive mothers. In fact, it some studies have shown that it can even affect dads/partners too!
What Are the Symptoms?
In the beginning, symptoms of postpartum depression can look like the normal baby blues. In fact, they often share the same symptoms: mood swings, crying, irritability and insomnia. The difference between the baby blues and postpartum depression, however, is both the intensity and the duration of the symptoms. Postpartum depression usually sets in soon after childbirth and develops gradually over a period of several months. But postpartum depression can also come on suddenly, and in some women, the first signs don’t appear until months after they’ve given birth. Symptoms include:
- Difficulty concentrating
- Excessive anxiety or worry
- Crying or tearfulness
- Negative feelings such as sadness, hopelessness, helplessness or guilt
- Loss of interest in activities you once enjoyed
- Difficulty sleeping or returning to sleep
- Fatigue or exhaustion
- Changes in appetite
- Headaches or body aches
What Can I Do?
- Get Help: Tell your doctor if you are having symptoms or you are not sure. Your doctor can refer you to a counselor or psychologist who can help with psychotherapy or medication, if it’s needed.
- Get Your Rest: Sleep is one of the most important remedies for improving your mood. Sleep when the baby sleeps – even if it’s during the day. If your having difficulty falling asleep because of anxiety, tell your doctor. Communicate your needs with your partner, family and friends to help you get more sleep at night and during the day.
- Exercise: As soon as your doctor say it’s OK, start walking – alone or with the baby. Any aerobic exercise will help you sleep and reduce your anxiety. Take it easy and slowly increase your distance each week until you are walking or moving for about an hour a day.
- Seek support: Caring for an infant can be extremely isolating. But you’re not alone. There are other moms who understand what you are going through, who share some of your worries and questions, and who have lots of ideas. Ask your friends, family, clergy or community centers about groups for new moms. Seek out friends who have had babies, get out of the house and go to the park. There’s also a whole community of moms online who discuss postpartum depression and provide support to each other.
- Ask for help: It’s hard to do it all alone. Ask for help from family and friends in order to make time for yourself for least an hour or two several times a week. Having your own time will help you re-group and center yourself so you can then focus on your baby. Keep in mind that it’s hard to care for others when you are running on empty.
- Keep your expectations in check. Caring for a newborn can be challenging and is extremely time consuming. Set reasonable goals each day and do your best to let go of the small stuff.
Usually, the best defense against postpartum depression is a good offence. Taking care of yourself is the best way to ensure that you are able to take care of your child. However, if you are still struggling, even with the help of family and friends, it may be time to seek professional help.
- When Dad Has Postpartum Depression (psychcentral.com)
- Postpartum depression …you do not need to suffer through it! (parentingintheloop.wordpress.com)
- Are these ‘baby blues’ normal? I feel so overwhelmed (theglobeandmail.com)
- Post Partum Depression Help (stressrelievers.wordpress.com)
- Baby Blue – Beyond the Rocking Cradle (societalcontroversy.wordpress.com)
- Moms’ Actions Affect Infants’ Sleep (webmd.com)