After 9 months of morning sickness, picking names and just generally figuring out how you’re going to navigate your new world once the little one arrives, you’ve reached the finish line and your baby is finally here. Now for the magic. The time where you get to just snuggle up with that sweet nugget and enjoy the fruits of your long labor. So…why does it sometimes feel so sad?
Remember those mood swings you felt when you were pregnant? During pregnancy, your body is adjusting to growing a baby and your hormones can cause your mood to change in an instant. After the baby is born, your body is making yet another adjustment as it shifts to no longer supporting another human growing in your belly. Hormones like estrogen and progesterone are suddenly decreasing and you’re also now managing the added stressors of learning how to care for your baby. It is completely normal to continue experiencing mood swings after delivery.
The Baby Blues
Many new moms experience the “baby blues” within the first few days after giving birth. Feelings of sadness that set in immediately following having a baby are typically referred to as the baby blues and can include other symptoms such as unexplained crying spells, difficulty sleeping, anxious feelings, and mood swings. The baby blues are extremely common (up to 4 in 5 new parents experience the baby blues). These feelings can come and go, but are typically short-term and go away on their own after a couple of weeks. However, if you find yourself experiencing sadness or related symptoms that are lasting longer than a few weeks, you may want to consider talking with someone about a more serious condition called postpartum depression.
What is Postpartum Depression?
Postpartum depression is a more severe, long-lasting form of depression that typically begins after childbirth, but can start as early as during pregnancy. Postpartum depression can impact anyone regardless of age, color, or background, however, there are higher risks of developing it if you have experienced any of the following:
- Unplanned or unwanted pregnancy
- History of depression
- Lack of support system from friends or family
- Relationship or money problems
- A physically or emotionally difficult pregnancy
Postpartum Depression Symptoms
While some of the symptoms of postpartum depression may be mild and similar to what you may experience during the baby blues, some are severe and can last for several months (or longer, if you don’t seek help). Symptoms of postpartum depression may include:
- Feeling empty, sad, or overwhelmed
- Unmotivated to do basic tasks (like getting out of bed, taking a shower, etc.)
- Severe mood swings
- Crying often for no particular reason
- No longer enjoying activities or hobbies that you did before
- Feelings of resentment toward your baby
- Withdrawing from family and friends
- Difficulty making decisions or concentrating
- Thoughts of harming yourself or your baby
- Change in appetite (either eating too little or too much)
How to Treat Postpartum Depression
If you are experiencing symptoms of postpartum depression, it’s important to ask for help as soon as possible in order to manage the symptoms and to help bond with your new baby. However, there are also proactive steps you can take to help decrease the risk of developing postpartum depression or to help with symptoms if they have already started.
- Counseling. Especially if you meet any of the risk factors of developing postpartum depression, talking to a counselor or therapist while you’re pregnant or after the baby is born can certainly help.
- Community and support from other new moms. Being together with other moms who are in a similar situation can be helpful. Not only can it help to build a support system of friends, but it can also be a great source of self-care.
- Self-Care. Caring for a new baby is hard work. It’s important to make sure you are also taking time to care for yourself as well. Something as small as taking a shower, stepping outside for a few minutes, or eating a hot meal can go a long way with helping your mood. Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it.
- Healthy eating and exercise. Being mindful of eating healthier foods and fitting in some light exercise will not only help to keep you well nourished, but can also help to boost your energy levels as well.
- Sleep. Sleep can be tricky in the beginning as your ability to sleep well at night is often determined by the sleep of your baby, but getting as much sleep as possible when you’re able to during the day and at night is important and can make a huge difference.
- Medication. After meeting with a doctor, you may prescribe you with medication to help during this time.
You’re Not Alone, We Can Help!
Whether you think you may be experiencing symptoms of postpartum depression or would just like to learn some parenting tips or other life skills, Community Pregnancy Clinics is here for you. We offer one-on-one parenting lessons and can assist with referring you to additional support, if needed.