Most women start planning for their baby’s arrival as soon as they get pregnant, and even sometimes before they’re pregnant. There are clothes to buy, toys to pick out, car seat to decipher. We start sorting out a birth plan. We often hear about how the first few weeks can be difficult, but we don’t realize the truth until we live it.
The changes our bodies go through during the pregnancy is incredible, but what happens afterwards is astounding. There are physical changes (lochia, involution, hemmorhoids, etc.). There are hormonal changes (drop in estrogen & progesterone, increase in prolactin). Psychological changes such as, “I’m a mom” and “That’s my baby”. (There can also be the overwhelming feeling of love towards the baby or sometimes it can take women several days to feel like the baby is really theirs. Both are completely normal and both can be shocking.)
Now let’s add on sleep deprivation.
In our culture, within a few days of childbirth, we are back home with the baby, maybe partner is there, maybe they had to go back to work quickly, but we’re alone or with one support person and trying to take care of a newborn while experiencing all these changes at once.
It’s no wonder we get the blues.
“Baby Blues” are normal. Approximately 85% of new moms get the blues and dads and adoptive parents can get them, too. The blues usually goes away or starts to get better by 3 weeks or so. As we pass the blues, we start to feel better and are beginning to adjust to the ‘new normal’.
There are things we can do to lessen the risks of more serious postpartum mood disorders:
- Take time to recover physically and psychologically. Relax, the dishes will get done eventually. Have family help (or hire someone to help) with the chores so you can rest and recover.
- Get skin-to-skin with the baby. This is good for both mom & baby and dad & baby. (We’ll talk about mom and dad in another post.) Skin-to-skin releases oxytocin which lowers heart rate, blood pressure, and promotes bonding.
- Don’t rush to get back to your pre-mom performance levels. Take the time you need to transition into this new and fantastic life. Your baby is two days old and you’re a two day old mother.
If you, your partner, a family member or friend is not finding their ‘new normal’ and are showing signs of possible postpartum mood disorders, it’s important to start asking questions. Talk to your doctor, your partner’s doctor, your family member’s or friend’s partner. Express your concerns and ask your questions.
Understanding that postpartum mood disorders are not just an issue where mom needs to “Buck up and deal with it”, or “What’s the matter? You have a beautiful baby; You should be happy”. These are medical conditions, that need to be addressed. If someone has diabetes, you don’t tell them to just “Buck up and deal with it”.
Knowing how to reduce your risk is half the battle. Knowing the signs to watch for is important. But the most important part of all is then asking a professional, “Are these the Baby Blues, or could it be something else?”