You’re doing a fantastic job, mom! We can never say this enough, especially in these first challenging months after the birth of your baby.
Childbirth and parenthood are exhausting, stressful and exhilarating—and some days the balance will naturally tip more in favor of negativity.
Although you’re expected to be the happiest woman on earth, in reality the constant worry, doubt, fatigue or sadness can be overwhelming.
These hormonal mood swings are very common as you and your new family adjust, both physically and mentally.
But when should you worry that your moods could be something more sinister and what can you do about it?
Many moms get a case of the baby blues in the first weeks after childbirth, experiencing symptoms such as anxiety, sadness and irritability.
You may feel overwhelmed, the need to cry, an inability to concentrate or trouble sleeping. While these symptoms are miserable, they will disappear in a few weeks.
But if these feelings seem unusually intense, both in terms of duration and frequency, you—or your
PPD is in no way an indication mom (or dad) has done anything wrong.
It’s a mood disorder that’s a form of major depression and can develop as a result of your biology, psychological factors or life stressors.
Factors that could contribute to PPD include hormonal fluctuations, a previous history of depression, stress, fatigue and lack of support.
Breastfeeding releases the hormone oxytocin which is a powerful antidepressant, so as weaning changes mom’s hormone levels it could trigger depression.
Although it can be confused with the baby blues at first, a clear indicator of PPD is if you’re finding it hard to get through each day and care for your baby.
If it helps, you’re not alone, with up to one in seven women experiencing the mood disorder.
It’s also not something that always comes on directly after birth: some women actually suffer depression in pregnancy, whereas some may not feel the effects until many months afterwards.
If you are experiencing any of the below postpartum symptoms for more than two weeks, seek advice from a health provider.
- A loss of pleasure in activities
- A change in appetite (eating more or less)
- Severe anxiety or panic attacks
- Feeling guilty and blaming yourself
- Excessive irritability, anger or agitation
- Sadness and long bouts of crying
- Fear of not being a good mother or being left alone with the baby
- Disinterest in the baby, family and friends
- Difficulty concentrating, with memory or decision making
- Sleep issues
- Thoughts of harming yourself or your baby
The sooner you seek treatment, the sooner you will feel better—and you will feel better.
What Can I do?
While sometimes the symptoms will be apparent, many of us may not recognize or acknowledge that we’re depressed—especially if we think it’s just a bout of the baby blues.
But whether it’s the mom, family member or friend who spots the symptoms, seeking help is the only way forward.
Women who take the probiotic lactobacillus rhamnosus HN1001 may suffer less anxiety and depression during and after pregnancy, researchers in New Zealand recently found.
PPD is certainly responsive to treatment, which will usually involve counseling and sometimes anti-depressant medication.
In addition to medical help, there are a few things that may help you to cope better:
- If possible, get someone to help care for your baby more often and help with household duties once or twice a week to allow you to get proper rest.
- Take a day to pamper yourself! Try a spa day, or any relaxing place outside the house.
- Exercise will get the endorphins going so try to get outdoors for a light walk or jog.
- Visit someone you haven’t seen since the baby came into your lives.
Most importantly moms, don't be afraid to speak up!
You’re doing a great job and there’s no shame in asking for help.