Postpartum Support International is an organization that has wonderful resources and supports for new parents. Click here to connect with them.
Women experience many physical, hormonal, sleep, and relational changes while pregnant and after giving birth. With so much going on it is VERY common for women to have many different feelings in the weeks and months after having a baby. Most new mothers experience feeling down, cry easily, and/or feel very worried during this time. For some women these feelings last only a few weeks and may be difficult but manageable. For some women these feelings are very intense and overwhelming. They may feel out of control and upset that what is supposed to be the “happiest time of their lives” is actually sad, scary, and full of worry. People around them may be concerned or impatient with them. They may hide how they are feeling because they don’t think they SHOULD be feeling this way or may worry about being seen as “bad moms” by others.
While we don’t have exact numbers as many women don’t talk about it, the experience of “baby blues” is common. There is a bit more data for women who experience significant postpartum depression and/or anxiety, estimated at 15% or more than 1:10 new mothers in the U.S. The percentages are higher for women who are also dealing with poverty. Depression is the most common complication of childbirth. You are not alone. Don’t wait until your postpartum appointment if you need help. Call your health care provider now. The sooner you get support, the sooner you’ll begin to feel better. Postpartum Support International has an extensive network of support – click here for the HelpLine and lots of resources. If you feel like you are in a crisis call for help immediately.
From Postpartum Support International: Symptoms can start anytime during pregnancy or the first year postpartum. They differ for everyone, and might include the following:
- Feelings of anger or irritability
- Lack of interest in the baby
- Being overly worried about the baby
- Not being able to eat or sleep well
- Crying and sadness
- Feelings of guilt, shame or hopelessness
- Loss of interest, joy or pleasure in things you used to enjoy
- Having headaches, chest pain, numbness, hyperventilating (fast and shallow breathing) and heart palpitations (the heart beating fast and feeling like it is skipping beats)
- Possible thoughts of harming the baby or yourself
Research shows that all of the things listed below put you at a higher risk for developing perinatal mood and anxiety conditions. If you have any of these factors, you should discuss them with your provider so that you can plan ahead for care. That way, support is lined up in advance and you can use it to the extent it is helpful.
- A personal or family history of depression, anxiety, or postpartum depression
- Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD or PMS)
- Inadequate support in caring for the baby
- Financial stress
- Relationship stress
- Complications in pregnancy, birth or breastfeeding
- A major recent life event: loss, house move, job loss
- Mothers of multiples
- Mothers whose infants are in Neonatal Intensive Care (NICU)
- Mothers who’ve gone through infertility treatments
- Women with a thyroid imbalance
- Women with any form of diabetes (type 1, type 2 or gestational)
Perinatal mood and anxiety disorders are temporary and treatable with professional help. If you feel you may be suffering, know that it is not your fault and we are with you.
Terms to Know
Baby blues is used to describe the worry, sadness, anxiety, and big emotions that almost all new moms experience in the first weeks after having a baby. With time, the feelings of sadness, frustration, anger, anxiety, etc. will begin to subside as hormones balance and postpartum healing has begun to happen. Postpartum depression and baby blues share many similar symptoms, like mood swings, sadness, insomnia, irritability, but if it doesn’t ease up, it is time to find support.
Postpartum depression (PPD) is the most common of the postpartum mood and anxiety challenges (there are six types). PPD is often caused by major hormone and lifestyle changes after childbirth – add lack of regular sleep, irregular meals, health issues, etc., and PPD can be made even worse. PPD is 100% treatable but it won’t go away on its own, so recognizing symptoms and getting help will generally help manage. Click here to learn about PPD symptoms, treatment, and support.
Postpartum anxiety is also common. This can also go undiagnosed or mislabeled as postpartum depression. If you feel anxious, have a prolonged nervous energy, feel out of control / overwhelmed, or have constant feelings of worry, talk to a health provider. Click here to learn more about postpartum anxiety, symptoms, treatments, and finding support.
Things to do that might help
- Talk with your health provider!
- Therapies, such as support groups or professional therapy sessions can be great
- Medications are available that can make a big difference
- Self-care techniques, such as deep breathing, walks, reading, and exercise when it is deemed safe by your provider can help. Sleep has many healing properties. It is so hard to get for new moms but so very important for mental and physical well being. Mindfulness matters! Dr. Karen Sheffield-Abdullah has created a video series of mindfulness exercises to view and practice.
- Taking a break – from the baby, your home, whatever you need by stepping away for a few minutes or hours (be sure to leave your baby with someone who is safe first)
- Check out Postpartum Support International
- Talk with your partner, family, and friends about how you are feeling and what might help. – see the “Building My Village” section of our site.
- Read the experiences of other mothers and how they found support to manage their postpartum challenges in our “Mamas Stories” section.
- Read our sections on Preparing for Postpartum Care and Health Communication
Resources to Explore:
- Postpartum.net has a lot of really important information about the different types of mood issues for new moms and many great resources, including a toll free number to call.
- Don’t wait for the 6-week check-up
- Office of Women’s Health on Postpartum mood, depression, and more