Many new moms, some say about 80%, experience a heightened emotional state after giving birth to a baby. These feelings include sadness, anxiety, crying, a sense of being inadequate, feeling overwhelmed, wondering “why did I want this?”, and more. Some of these feelings are easily attributable to exhaustion, hormone changes, and struggles to adjust to a life that is forever changed in many expected but also unexpected ways.
The “baby blues” are often experienced by adoptive mothers, and sometimes even fathers and adoptive fathers as well, so while they don’t share the hormone changes that are inevitable after childbirth, the struggles to feel competent, the loss of sleep, fear about possible changes in role/identity, no time for oneself, etc. are all adjustments faced by every new parent.
The symptoms are usually not considered severe and while the new mom may feel reassured and relieved by speaking with a counselor, physician or therapist, treatment is not generally prescribed and the mood will lift after a short time; some experts say a few days or a week. Talking to a trusted relative or friend, and receiving help and reassurance, may be all that is needed.
Postpartum depression, or PPD, is a significantly more serious and diagnosable mood disorder. It can occur during pregnancy as well as after the baby is born, but if experienced after childbirth, the symptoms will typically appear within the first 3 months and peak around month 4. Sometimes, however, if the condition is not treated, the disorder can persist for years, and if a new mom experiences PPD with one baby it is likely she will experience PPD with later babies.
Symptoms include marked disturbance in eating and/or sleeping as in not eating much at all, or being unable to stop; not sleeping much at all or being unable to stay awake, racing thoughts of harm coming to the baby or other fears or worries that can’t be turned off, thoughts of harming the baby or yourself, or feelings of guilt and shame about “not being able to do this right” or “not being a good mother”. Sometimes women who suffer from PPD hallucinate. This is cause to seek treatment immediately, for the well being of the baby and the mother. Treatment may include psychotherapy and medication. The need for treatment may constitute an emergency if the mom is fearful of harming herself or the baby..
The period of the first five years of a baby’s life are very significant for the development of healthy attachments, and for the child to feel safe and secure is very important. The emotional health of both parents, and particularly of the primary caregiver, is necessary for that process to occur.
Postpartum depression is not indicative of a woman not wanting to be a parent! That is a harmful myth, resulting in women who need treatment being ashamed and fearful about telling anyone how they feel for fear of being blamed or thought of as “unnatural”.
The bottom line? Having a baby is a huge adjustment for anyone, and for many, if not most, people – just plain difficult! If you are struggling with depression and it is affecting your ability to bond with or care for your baby, get help! A qualified and experienced professional can make all the difference.
IF YOU DON’T FEEL YOU CAN GET OUT OF THE HOUSE FOR TREATMENT, CONSIDER ONLINE THERAPY.
Thanks for reading this, and please contact me via phone at 408-410-4341 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Don’t be ashamed or embarrassed to ask for help – it’s because you are a good parent that you will reach out!