You waited 9 long months, with friends and loved ones around you. As your belly grew, and clothes needed to be replaced, your joy and anticipation climbed each day. You allowed yourself an extra treat once in a while (the cravings hit often) and the nursery purchases were so much fun.
How could this get even better? By holding your precious baby in your arms.
And the day finally arrived. Sure, it was hard work, and you were exhausted, but you crossed the finish line and motherhood was awarded to you.
Whether this was your first child, or a second, or third, the love and elation is always there. Your happiness at holding your new baby can’t be measured with words.
So, why do you feel so sad? Why are you spending so much time crying, or feeling not right? Is this postpartum depression or just the baby blues? Oh friend, we have been there, too. You are not alone at all.
Let’s look at both of them and break it down.
When you give birth, your hormone levels naturally shift. You may also be experiencing sleep deprivation and spending many hours feeding a hungry newborn. Perhaps you are learning to juggle an infant with a toddler, and the stress of doing both is wearing on you.
All of these things can add to the short term mood swings that you may experience after your baby arrives, commonly referred to as the baby blues. As many as 50% to 75% of new mothers experience this shift in their emotions.
The baby blues can last from a few days to two to three weeks. These dips can also happen as hormone levels change with breastfeeding, weaning, or as your cycles resume. It is perfectly natural.
Other symptoms of the baby blues include decreased concentration, going from happy to sad quickly, crying spells and trouble sleeping. You may be irritable, anxious and have decreased concentration.
During this time, lean on your support people. Get help with dishes, laundry, or other household tasks so you can take time to get extra rest and recharge. Make sure to drink lots of water and focus on a healthy diet with plenty of fresh fruit and veggies. Nutrition plays an important role in regulating your postpartum hormones.
Get some fresh air and light exercise (once your care provider gives you the green light). Take your baby for a walk in the stroller.
What if you are feeling hopeless, worthless, or just alone all the time?
If you are experiencing the blues beyond 2-3 weeks, or can’t eat, sleep, or take care of your baby, or you have anxiety or panic attacks, that is a warning sign. Don’t wait to get help.
The symptoms of postpartum depression and postpartum anxiety disorders are more intense and longer lasting.
Other signs to watch out for may include:
- Avoiding friends and family
- Not bonding with your baby
- Too much, or too little sleep
- Intense irritability and anger
- Feelings of shame, guilt or inadequacy
- Lack of interest in doing your daily tasks
- Thoughts of harming yourself or your baby
Call your care provider and get in for a visit soon. Don’t wait for your 6 week check up. You may need help treating your symptoms.
Some moms may be embarrassed to admit that they need help, or that they are experiencing depression, but again, you are not alone. About one in ten new mothers experience postpartum depression. The most important thing is to get what YOU need to feel better.
Remember, our postpartum doulas are also here for you. You CAN do this!