With the growing number of stresses on new moms, it seems a good time to revisit the topic of baby blues. In the first few weeks after giving birth up to 80% of new moms experience some degree of depression. It can be as mild as just being teary for no apparent reason to thoughts of hurting the baby or yourself.
The causes are usually a combination of hormonal, biochemical, environmental, psychological, and genetic factors. There are some predisposing factors like previous bouts of intense anxiety or depression, financial or marital struggles, or inadequate social support. But many moms have one or more of these factors and never experience depression. These negative feelings don’t make you a bad mom nor come because you are a bad mom.
Let’s look at some symptoms.
Some of the major symptoms of postpartum depression are: irritability, hypersensitivity, loss of concentration, crying, anger, hopelessness, guilt, difficulty sleeping, change of appetite or eating habits, and aches and pains.
Postpartum anxiety is experienced by about 10% of moms. The symptoms include extreme anxiety or irritability, restlessness and agitation, shortness of breath, chest pains or discomfort, sensation of choking or smothering, dizziness, faintness, hot or cold flashes, and fear of dying or going crazy or of losing control.
Another less common, but recognized problem is postpartum obsessive-compulsive disorder. Moms may have recurrent disturbing or violent thoughts or images that center on harming their baby. They may have some of the more common symptoms of obsessive-compulsive behavior like hand-washing or ritualistic behaviors. But they may also hide the knives or avoid the kitchen in an effort to ward off thoughts of harming the baby or refuse to bathe the baby for fear they would drown their baby.
If you experience any of the more severe of these symptoms, get professional help as soon as possible. If your symptoms are less severe, here are some things you can do to help yourself overcome the baby blues.
- Don’t put unnecessary or unrealistic expectations on yourself. You have just been through nine months of pregnancy and all the stresses that put on you. Then you’ve gone through delivery and now your body is trying to readjust again to not being pregnant or to nursing your baby. Cut yourself some slack! You won’t be able to jump right back into taking care of your house, cooking meals, taking care of any other children, and taking care of a new baby all at once!
- Accept or ask for help. People love to help when there’s a new baby. When they offer to cook meals for you, accept their offer. If a friend drops by, don’t hesitate to ask her to do some chore that is making you crazy- like folding the laundry or sweeping the kitchen floor. That’s what friends are for.
- Take good care of yourself. You will be much more able to care for your baby when you feel well yourself. Find time for a relaxing shower, even if you have to ask someone to watch your baby for an hour while you pamper yourself a little. If you usually wear makeup, put some on. Buy something new to wear post-birth and enjoy dressing up a little.
- Get some rest. Even if you are having trouble sleeping, take breaks whenever the baby sleeps to read or watch TV or whatever else you find relaxing. Turn off your phone ringer, others can wait until you’re ready to talk to them.
- Go outside in the fresh air and sunshine. Take your baby out too. Both of you will benefit from the change of atmosphere and the rhythm of walking.
- Share your feelings. It is important to be able to talk to someone you trust about the feelings you are having. Join a mom’s group or find an on-line community that can help support you. Just knowing you’re not alone in your feelings will be helpful. And others may have discovered some things that were particularly good for them that you can try.
For a more in-depth article about more severe postpartum depression see: Not What I Expected
An excellent resource with tons of information, see- Postpartum Progress
If you or a friend is suffering with postpartum depression, anxiety, or obsessive-compulsive disorder, don’t ignore the symptoms or feel ashamed of them, but seek good, reliable medical or psychological help as soon as possible.