Giving birth is a special experience, and is the start of a new chapter in life for most women. Sometimes new mothers feel physically exhausted and overwhelmed with the new responsibilities, unprepared and unsure of their ability to meet their baby’s needs, or even disappointed with their birth experience. Sometimes a new mother will feel guilty for not being as happy and joyful as they expect. This anxiety, sometimes called the Baby Blues, is completely normal. There is no need to feel guilty about your emotional response the major changes happening in your life. Over time, these feelings go away as you bond with your child and gain confidence in your ability to take care of their needs.
If these feelings do not go away over time, or even intensify, then you might be suffering from postpartum depression. Most women experience postpartum depression within the first three months after delivering their baby, however, there are some cases where women experience postpartum depression up to a year after giving birth. So what causes depression, and how can you avoid it? There isn’t one exact cause for postpartum depression, but changes in hormones is one major factor. During your pregnancy, your body produces more estrogen and progesterone than normal, and when your baby arrives, the levels of these hormones drop dramatically.
There are psychological factors linked to postpartum depression too. Many are related to your feelings about the pregnancy, how it will change your relationships, and how prepared you feel you are for the baby; however, there are several ways to lessen you anxiety and manage the stress of learning how to care for your newborn:
Always be honest with your significant other and your support system about your feelings during and after pregnancy. If you do not have a strong support system, or feel embarrassed talking about your feelings to people you know, there are different support groups you can join. This kind of open communication is similar to talk therapy and will help you understand why you feel the way you do.
Make sure to ask for help when you need it. You should not feel guilty about learning how to care for your child, especially when you are a new parent. Most friends and family are willing and enthusiastic to help out when they can, and would love to spend time with you and your baby.
Don’t forget to take care of yourself first, by getting as much rest as you can, eating healthy, and continuing to do things you enjoyed before giving birth. This will help keep your energy up and allow you to get used to the needs of your newborn. Taking some time to keep yourself happy will make it easier to adjust to your role as a mother without feeling like you are losing touch with your self-identity.
Finally, remember that no one is perfect, so there is no use in feeling like you are a “bad parent.” No one is given a manual for how to care for their child, so it is a learning process, and eventually you will get the hang of caring for your baby and maintaining other parts of your life.
Certain factors can increase your chance of experiencing postpartum depression. If you are pregnant and any of these apply to you, remember that stress from these scenarios can play a part in postpartum depression:
• Having depression or bipolar disorder before pregnancy
• Having mixed feelings about the pregnancy
• Abusing alcohol, illegal substances, or smoking during pregnancy
(this behavior is harmful to your baby and should not continue during or after pregnancy)
• Being a single mother or having a weak relationship with your partner
• Experiencing complications during delivery
Women suffering postpartum depression might be easily agitated, restless, feel worthless or guilty, are unable to enjoy most activities, and may even have thoughts of death or suicide. Symptoms will vary, with some women worrying excessively about their baby while others show little interest in them. In severe cases, some mothers feel urges to hurt their baby, but this is very rare and these feelings are almost never acted upon. Generally, symptoms are persistent, and cause you to feel negatively about your baby or your life situation after delivery.
Postpartum depression is a very serious condition, sometimes leaving mothers unable to properly care for their baby. Women with postpartum depression should seek help immediately. If you experience the symptoms of postpartum depression, call Dr. Ayalon to get help. You may need talk therapy or prescription anti-depressant medication depending on the severity of your case and whether you are beast feeding or not. Call our office for more information about postpartum depression and what you can do to avoid experiencing it after delivery.
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