Postpartum Mental Health
“I’m so overwhelmed. I don’t know what to do.”
“I can’t stop crying. I will never feel happiness again.”
“I am so angry, and I don’t know why.”
“I will lose it if I’m not able to sleep tonight.”
“I feel so alone.”
Does this sound familiar? Mood swings, worries, difficulty sleeping, sadness, and hopelessness after having a baby may be signs of postpartum depression or anxiety. These feelings may be overwhelming and can be scary for some mothers.
Obsessive thoughts about the infant can be another symptom and affects about 91% of new mothers. These thoughts can sound like:
- “I have to stay awake all night or something bad will happen.”
- “What if I drop the baby?”
- “What if my baby gets sick because of something I did?”
- “I’m a terrible mom for having these thoughts.”
Even though these thoughts are common, many mothers may think that they will be judged or be told they are not fit to care for their child if they tell anyone about them. They can make a mother feel like something is wrong or something bad is going to happen. These thoughts can be focused on the health of the infant, doubting things, and about possible harm or injury occurring to the infant.
Some women feel that constantly checking on the baby, washing their hands or bottles, seeking reassurance, or avoiding triggers may help relieve the scary thoughts.
Some mothers may begin to doubt their ability to care for themselves or for their child and can become overwhelmed. Many women do not seek help because they are afraid of being seen as imperfect or not a good mother, worry about the stigma of mental health, fear being viewed as “crazy”, or feel like they do not have enough time.
When a mother is not able to be honest about how she is feeling, she may not be able to receive the right diagnosis or treatment.
Many women feel like if they can just wait it out, things will get better. However, untreated postpartum mental health can last months to years.
There are a few things that can be done to begin to heal:
Tell someone: Choose someone in your life that you trust and share how you have been feeling. This can be your spouse, sibling, parent, friend, spiritual leader, doctor, midwife, or therapist, whoever is able to listen and offer you support. Speak with your OBGYN or midwife for more information about whether or not medication may be recommended.
Take care of yourself: It is very important to get enough rest, water, and healthy food during the postpartum period. Asking for help from your friends and family is a great way to allow yourself to prioritize your basic needs. Advocate for yourself and be specific about what is truly helpful. You may ask for help cleaning your home, picking up groceries, cooking dinner, doing the dishes and laundry, or caring for your other children.
Be gentle and kind to yourself: Give yourself grace when you start feeling overwhelmed. Although you may set high expectations for yourself, it is impossible to be a perfect mother. If needed, let the unnecessary things on your to-do list be left for another day or for someone else. Focus on relaxation and caring for yourself.
Reduce stress: Find things that you enjoy doing to help minimize your stress. This could include activities like exercise, going for a walk, taking a bath, watching a TV show, or reading a book. Simple things like leaving the bed unmade or ordering meals to be delivered to your home can also help eliminate the stress of keeping up with everyday tasks.
Connect with others: Joining a support group, mother and baby group, or online chat group can be great ways to connect with other parents who are going through similar struggles. Sharing your story and listening to others can help validate your experience and help give you encouragement and reassurance.
1 in 7 mothers experience depression or anxiety during pregnant or after birth. Although it is common, when mothers have symptoms of postpartum depression or anxiety, it can leave them feeling like they are going through it alone. Isolation and low self-esteem can overtake confidence in motherhood causing women to believe that they are not good mothers and that something is wrong with them.
It is important to remember that you are not alone and that there is support available to help you better understand your mental health and how to begin to feel better.
If you or someone you love is struggling with symptoms of depression or anxiety during pregnancy or after birth, please reach out to schedule a free phone consultation with our perinatal mental health specialist.
To learn more about postpartum mental health, visit www.postpartum.net or www.postpartumstress.com.
Interested in getting support? Learn more about our mom’s online support group and in person counseling here.
Stay Connected with Us!
Subscribe to our newsletter for the latest updates, insights, and events from Connections Child & Family Center.