Dearest New Mama,
You have just given birth. In accomplishing this feat, you are empowered, yet exhausted, and now tasked with life’s most important responsibility—caring for your baby. Amidst this sudden change, you may find yourself feeling sad, anxious, or irritable. These feelings can be distressing, as you expected to be basking in the glory of motherhood; however, what you are feeling is normal. Eighty percent of new mothers will experience the Baby Blues, and twenty percent will experience Postpartum Depression. This means you are not alone! After giving birth, levels of estrogen and progesterone plummet. This sudden crash may trigger “blue” symptoms. Baby Blues Connection, an online resource for new moms, suggest women may experience some or all of the following symptoms:
- Frequent crying
- Feeling let down
Symptoms usually remit after two weeks as your hormones begin to adjust. If you find your symptoms worsen or continue after a few weeks, you may want to be assessed for Postpartum Depression. PPD is less common than the Baby Blues, but is still experienced by 1 in 5 moms. It can be hard to differentiate between the two, as they share many of the same symptoms. Postpartum Depression, however, is longer lasting and more severe, sometimes making it difficult to care for your baby. While it looks different for every mom, here are some of the most common symptoms:
- Frequent crying or unrelenting sadness
- Loss of interest daily activities
- Appetite and sleep disturbances
- Intense guilt or shame
- Emotional numbness
- Anxiety, irritability, and restlessness
- Intrusive thoughts of harm coming to your baby
- Sometimes, even thoughts of death or suicide
Unlike the Baby Blues, Postpartum Depressive symptoms usually do not remit on their own. Therefore it is important to reach out for help if you think you may be struggling with depression following the birth of your baby. If you feel safe, confide in your partner, a family member, or a close friend. You may also choose to work with a therapist who can validate your experience and help you alleviate these symptoms. Seeking help in a time of need is difficult, as we feel exposed and vulnerable. Remember, what you are experiencing is common, treatable, and temporary.
In the mean time, try to find little ways to sneak in self-care. When you have a free moment (albeit they are few), soak in a bubble bath instead of your usual five-minute shower. Enjoy a hot cup of coffee or tea. If you can, get outside and take in fifteen minutes of sunlight. Eat a warm, balanced meal instead of the cold pizza in the fridge. We sacrifice so much for our babies, even at the expense of our own physical and mental health. Now is the time to ask for help if you need it.