Women are extremely vulnerable to depression and anxiety during the postpartum period. The combination of hormonal changes, adjustment to the new life, the lack of sleep, and the emotions that may rise from the childbirth experience itself can all contribute to how the mom feels. However, for many reasons, new moms often experience societal pressure to feel happy and joyful after birth, to fall immediately in love with their baby, and of course- to fit right back in to their old skinny jeans. All those unrealistic expectations can evoke a great deal of guilt and shame for new moms, in addition to the stress and mood changes they may already be experiencing.
Research suggests that between 70% and 80% of new moms experience some degree of mood shifts after childbirth. Those shifts may be characterized by sudden sadness, irritability, crying for no apparent reason and general restlessness. These symptoms are considered normal and are typically referred to as the “Baby Blues”. They should disappear within two weeks.
In the meantime, there are several things you can do to help you get through this phase:
1. Adjust expectation
There’s no such thing as a perfect parent or a perfect baby. Expecting too much from yourself might result in feeling frustrated and disappointed. Try to prioritize your tasks and remember that you are doing the best you can.
2. Get some fresh air
Try to set yourself a goal to get out of the house at least once a day. It may seem challenging, but it can actually help elevate your mood and “recharge” your batteries.
3. Accept help
For some it could be a challenging task, yet there are so many things to do right after birth, and the help from a relative or good friend could really make a difference, not to mention the advantages of having company and not being alone.
4. Get proper rest
It may seem impossible to find the time to do so, since your newborn consumes most of your time and energy. However, try to come up with a plan with your partner/parents/friends that allows you to get some time to rest during this chaotic period.
5. Get proper nutrition
Skipping meals is so easy during the first few weeks. You may find that you are too busy feeding your baby to focus on feeding yourself. However, eating pproper meals is crucial for your recovery and your well-being, so make sure you eat some healthy food during the day.
6. Don’t go it alone
In addition to the practical help your friends and family can provide, they can also serve as a much-needed emotional outlet. Share your feelings with whomever you feel comfortable with. Sharing and talking about your experience has a truly healing effect, as long as the person you choose to talk to is open to listen and support you in the way that meets your needs.
7. Trust your instincts
If, despite the efforts you make and the support you get from your loved ones, you still feel overwhelmed and stuck, you may want to consider seeking professional help. An experienced professional can provide you with the support and strategies you need in order to successfully overcome this challenging period.
In case the symptoms persist longer than two weeks and are severe to the point that they get in the way of normal functioning, it could be an indication of a more serious condition, such as clinical postpartum depression. In that case, it is best to talk to a professional who can make an accurate diagnosis and tailor a plan which consist of psychotherapy and possibly medications.