Life in the Postpartum Lane
- Expect to have feelings; about the labor, the birth, towards the baby, about nursing or not, about responsibility, about your partner,etc. REMEMBER: feelings are feelings! They are not logical, rational, right or wrong. Allow yourself to feel them, and find someone safe and non-judgmental to talk to about them.
- Up to 80% of women experience the “baby blues,” a mood change which can occur 24 to 48 hours after delivery. THIS IS NORMAL! It is believed that this mood swing is related to the rapid hormonal changes of labor and childbirth. Symptoms of the blues can include crying easily (often for no apparent reason), irritability, fatigue, difficulty sleeping, and sometimes anxiety or worry. The blues symptoms are mild and should be gone by 2 to 3 weeks after the birth.
- Most women experience a normal period of adjustment to the demands of motherhood, as they work to create a new balance in life. This adjustment period can challenge the couple relationship and family as you to adjust to the new demands and life circumstances. There is no such thing as a “perfect” mom, so give yourself credit for the endless hours you will spend holding your baby, feeding, and changing diapers. Even though it may feel like you’re not getting anything done, you are parenting your child. It is a very time consuming job.
- It is now believed that up to 20% of women (that’s 1 out of every 5) experience a worsening of symptoms and develop postpartum depression and/or anxiety. Symptoms may include feeling unable to cope, irritability, anger, sleep disturbance (often unable to sleep), fatigue, appetite changes, loss of interest in activities, worry, feelings of doubt (of parenting, self-worth, etc.), and panic attacks. Some women have frightening thoughts or mental pictures. These symptoms may develop any time in the first year. If you have a history of depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, postpartum depression, or even a family history, you have an increased risk of developing a postpartum mood problem. Teens and moms with babies in the NICU are also at increased risk of mood or anxiety problems. Get help early—it’s not good for you or your family to suffer in silence, and, treatment works!
THE BOTTOM LINE
- Expect to be tired. Try to nap to make up for lost sleep. Night time sleep is the most important. If you need to, get someone to watch the baby while you sleep, or take shifts. Try ear plugs if necessary. Accept offers of help, and be specific in what you’d like done, for example; a meal, a load of laundry, or someone to watch the baby while you shower. Don’t take on more than you can handle. Say NO if you need to!
- Eat! You need to take care of yourself, so you can take care of the baby. Try frequent snacking on fruit, cheese, or anything simple, fast to prepare, and healthy. Keeping a steady blood sugar level helps reduce moodiness. Drink water.
- Anticipate and work on communication problems. Use “I” messages (I want, I need, I’ve noticed…) instead of “you” messages (you never, you didn’t…). Don’t expect anyone to be able to read your mind!
- Find ways to give yourself and your partner specific positive feedback. We all need to hear we are doing a good job. Try: “You are doing such a good job feeding her!” or, “look how happy the baby is, what a good job you’re doing!”
- Find company and support with friends or in local moms groups. If you have postpartum distress or depression it is helpful to join a postpartum depression group, to get support from
- women going through a similar experience. A new baby can contribute to feelings of isolation and loneliness. Find people to hang out with; at home, in the park, mall, etc. Laughter is good medicine!
- Create a REALITY based idea of what a “good mom” and “good dad” is. Evaluate your expectations of yourself and your partner. There is no such thing as the “perfect parent.” Being “good enough” is often good enough. If it’s not an issue of safety or health, than it may not be worth stressing about.
- If you’re unsure, get help. Find a therapist who has training in postpartum issues (check on www.postpartum.net or www.MedEdPPD.org)