Most women expect to adjust easily to the arrival of their new baby. They anticipate they will feel tired, but they still expect to feel good about themselves, their babies and their families. When you have a history of mental health challenges, you often expect that things will be much worse than simply feeling tired. And depending on your mental health condition, you may have been told, as I was by my psychiatrist, to not have children because of your mental health condition. Even though I did experience some major challenges in the post partum period, such as postpartum depression and psychosis, I am extremely grateful for my son, Noah and the blessing that he is in my life.
And the truth is, many women experience challenges in the post partum period, regardless of the prior mental health history. Statistically, 40-80% of new moms will experience “the blues” and 10-15% will be affected by postpartum depression.
High expectations are placed on motherhood and as a result women may find it difficult to talk about their depression. This leaves them silenced, lonely and isolated. My goal in writing this and sharing my experiences is to help break the silence.
POST PARTUM BLUES
Approximately 3-4 days after the birth of your baby you may experience “the blues”. Some symptoms may include:
- tiredness and fatigue
- weeping and crying
- poor concentration
- anxiety and sleeplessness
Even though you may experience these feelings you will be able to cope with the changes in your life. These feelings are normal and usually resolve in 1-2 weeks.
BEYOND THE BABY BLUES AND POST PARTUM DEPRESSION
If the baby blues do not disappear in one to two weeks you may be developing post partum depression. It can occur in any mother after birth, miscarriage, stillbirth or abortion. The onset can be sudden or the symptoms may develop slowly up to a year after the delivery. I also feel that depression can happen at any point as a new parent and it is not simply the first twelve months of a child’s life that we need to on the look out for symptoms, but at any time during motherhood/parenthood. Symptoms may include:
- hopelessness and helplessness
- extreme fatigue (even with rest)
- sleep disturbances
- impaired concentration and memory
- loss of interest in appetite, self-care and sexual relations
- thoughts that scare you
- overly concerned with your own and baby’s health or no feeling for baby
- inability to cope
It is also common to experience an overwhelming sense of guilt arising from the inability to enjoy being a mother. If any of the above symptoms persist, please seek professional guidance by visiting a Naturopathic Doctor, psychologist, and/or your family physician/midwife.
TIPS FOR THE FAMILY
Even with the help of professionals getting yourself through post partum depression takes courage, persistence and patience. Some helpful suggestions are:
- sleep when baby sleeps if possible
- develop a support system (i.e. other moms)
- ask for help from family and friends (ie laundry, make meals, cleaning)
- take 1 step at a time-avoid becoming overwhelmed
- maintain open communication with your partner
TIPS FOR DAD
- try to be patient
- listen and accept
- provide breaks for mom
- support her decision to seek help
- monitor for signs of emergency
- provide emotional support
The post partum period is a time when your hormones are continuing to change, you may be nutritionally depleted and your energy levels are compromised due to the potential lack of sleep and stress of becoming a new mom. The important message to hear is that post partum depression and/or anxiety it is treatable. To seek help from our clinic, please call 587-521-3595 to set up an appointment.