Your little bundle of joy has finally arrived! This is what you’ve spent the last several months (maybe even years!) waiting, praying and planning for. You expected to feel joy, overwhelming love and relief. Maybe, like me, you mistakenly thought you would strap your baby in a carrier and go on about your busy life. What you didn’t expect were the tears, bone-crushing exhaustion, constant worry or intrusive scary thoughts that can come with postpartum depression and anxiety.
Having a new baby is a huge change
Bringing baby home can bring such a mixed bag of emotions including joy, anxiety, sadness, hope, or overwhelm all at the same time. As a new mom you might be wondering whether if what you are feeling is normal or a sign of something wrong. Postpartum depression (PPD) and postpartum anxiety (PPA) are the two most common of a group of disorders known as perinatal mood and anxiety disorders (PMADs). These can appear during pregnancy or after baby is born.
PPD and PPA are extremely common. Widely accepted statistics show that 1 in 7 moms experience postpartum depression or anxiety , but more recent studies show that it may actually be as high as 1 in 5. Other less common postpartum mood disorders include postpartum panic disorder (1 in 10), OCD (1 in 10) and PTSD (1 in 10). The most rare, yet serious is postpartum psychosis, which affects about 1 in 100 moms and can be life-threatening for mom or baby. For more information about PMADs, visit Postpartum Support International here.
It is normal for moms to experience the “Baby Blues”, which is a period up to 2 weeks after the baby is born when you may feel more tearful or emotional than normal. If the symptoms continue after 2 weeks, please talk to your doctor or mental health provider. Also, keep in mind that adoptive moms can experience PMADs too!
Many factors contribute to Postpartum Depression and Anxiety.
Drastic hormone changes during pregnancy and postpartum affect emotions and mood. Adjustment to new motherhood can be challenging, impacting absolutely everything including daily routines, household responsibilities and relationships. An infant in the house most likely means sleep deprivation for both parents, which takes a huge toll on mental and physical health. There may even be a grieving period for your old life, who you used to be and the things you used to do. That’s normal! This doesn’t make you a bad mom.
Some moms are at higher risk than others.
Factors for increased risk include difficult a pregnancy, labor or delivery, prior history of PMAD or any other mental health diagnosis, substance abuse, baby health concerns (ie: NICU stay or medical issues), unplanned pregnancy, issues with breastfeeding, limited support or other life stressors.
Talk to a healthcare professional or therapist about the following potential signs and symptoms if you:
- Find that nothing is funny or sounds fun anymore, everything is hard
- Blame yourself even when things aren’t your fault
- Worry constantly to the point that you can’t relax or think about anything else, or are having panic attacks
- Are unable to stop crying longer than two weeks after childbirth; feel sad or miserable most of the time
- Are unable to sleep due to feeling too worried, sad or upset even when there is an opportunity to sleep
- Have thoughts that maybe things would be better if you weren’t here
- Experience recurrent and upsetting intrusive thoughts, thoughts of hurting yourself or the baby
8. Notice a drastic change in your personality or habits, reduced need for sleep, hallucinations or delusions. (This is a serious symptom and requires immediate medical care.)
What can you do to feel better?
- Accept help. If someone offers to bring food or come by to help with chores, take them up on it! I made a list of everyone who said “let me know how I can help” and called them after my baby was born.
- Get sleep however and whenever you can. “Sleep when the baby sleeps” is frustrating advice when baby’s nap is your only time to get something done. But could you sleep through one of baby’s naps? Have someone take a feeding shift at night? Take a nap when your partner gets home? Brainstorm ways to get a little longer stretch of sleep however you can.
- Take care of your basic needs like food and water- this one sounds obvious but can be one of the first things new moms forget! Have a full water bottle and easy to easy finger foods nearby so you can snack throughout the day.
- Get outside: take the baby for a walk and get some fresh air
- Get together with other moms- Do you have a neighborhood moms Facebook page or Nextdoor group? This is a great place to check for a mommy and baby yoga class, a support group, church moms group or playgroup.
- “Visit” with your old self. What did you used to enjoy doing before your baby was born? The thing that used to fill your soul and make the time fly by? Whatever it is, ask for help and make it a priority.
- Make an appointment with a mental health therapist.
- Contact Postpartum Support International’s Warm line at 1-800-944-4773 for support and linkage to your local coordinator to find out about therapy, support groups and other resources in your area. You can also text them at 1-503-894-9453.
- Talk to your doctor about medication if things aren’t getting better.
The most important things to know are that you are not alone, it’s not your fault and you can get better.
Postpartum Support International’s Warm-line