The truth is, motherhood is an adjustment. Bringing a new baby home can be a lot to handle, whether you're a first-time mom or balancing your attention with other kiddos. No matter how much you read and learn from others, you never know what it’ll be like for you until you’re in the throes of postpartum yourself.
Frankly, the postpartum period isn’t talked about enough and by doing that, we do a disservice to the women transitioning into this phase of life. They’re often unaware, undereducated and completely unprepared for this phase of life. Especially when it comes to mental health.
We all know that mental health doesn’t pick and choose. Research tells us that about 13-19% of new moms will develop a perinatal mood disorder. However, Birdie Myer, local perinatal mood disorder expert, believes that up to 40% of these disorders go unreported and therefore undiagnosed.
Most people are unaware that perinatal mood disorders can manifest in ways other than depression, and that women can show signs up to a year after baby is born!
So let’s unpack them a little bit:
Baby Blues: Fleeting and sometimes rapid ranges of emotions that come and go for the course of a few weeks. Usually present right after labor/delivery and fade away with the initial hormone shift newly postpartum. Symptoms include crying, mood swings, anxiety, sadness, irritability and trouble sleeping.
Postpartum Depression: PPD signs are usually more intense than the baby blues, and don’t usually come and go. With PPD, women sometimes feel a lack of appetite, extreme fatigue or insomnia, difficulty bonding with their baby, guilt and shame and sometimes thoughts or feelings of harming their baby.
Postpartum anxiety/OCD: Women may experience high anxiety or frequent panic attacks or compulsive behaviors. Other symptoms can include being overprotective of the baby or being afraid to be alone with the baby in fear that something might happen.
PTSD: This can manifest if mom had a particularly traumatic birth or postpartum experience, or experienced a traumatic event earlier in life. These symptoms come with re-experiencing/imagining/living the experience, insomnia or trouble sleeping, anxiety and irritability.
Postpartum Psychosis: This condition occurs in about 1-2 of every 1,000 women and is a more urgent and emergent diagnosis. Symptoms include paranoia, confusion and disorientation, hallucinations and thoughts or attempts of hurting self or baby. While it’s the most rare or perinatal mood disorder, it’s likely the most serious and time sensitive. If you or anyone you know is showing these signs, it’s so important to get medical attention right away.
Now that we know what to look for, let’s talk about ways you can prepare for the possibility of perinatal mood disorder.
- Working with a labor doula
- Having a doula at your labor has been linked to a 31% decrease in the risk of being dissatisfied with the birth experience, according to Evidence Based Birth
- Labor doulas oftentimes stay in contact with clients up to a year postpartum, and can help assess your mental health and act as trusted source to get help if needed
- Building a strong support network
- Whether you have a close group of friends and family members, or join an online support group, having others to lean on and talk to is crucial
- Talking and educating yourself about these disorders before you’re in the postpartum phase
- It helps mom and her support system be educated of the different disorders so they can be aware of the signs of each
- It enables you to have a plan in place if any of these symptoms present themselves
- Postpartum Prep
- A service offered to help prepare the family for the postpartum phase
- Includes postpartum education and a trusted professional to reach out to before and after labor
- Self Care
- You have to take care of yourself too
- If you feel like you don’t have the energy for self care, keep it easy and simple- eat something nourishing, take a nap (even if it’s a short one), go outside and get fresh air, drink water, take a shower
- Working with a postpartum doula
- Postpartum doulas can help lighten the stress of adding to your family and can give you the extra support you may need
And at the end of the day, if you (or someone you love) end up needing help, ask for it. Know that you’re not alone and know that you don’t have to deal with these emotions and feelings by yourself. There are people, places and things available to you. Even if you’re not sure exactly what may be going on with you or your loved one.
We know our new babies need a lot of attention and support, and sometimes moms do too. So reach out. We’re here for you.
Erin Brier Birthing provides individualized support for women in all phases of family planning from trimester zero to the fourth trimester. Whether the goal is to nurture hormones, try to conceive or grow your family, ebbirthing is here to empower women to truly be themselves by supporting and encouraging them through birth, postpartum and doula support.
Café Baby provides health-conscious parents with a convenient, long-lasting range of fresh, handmade baby food and lactation products. These mom and baby friendly foods are fresh-frozen for easy access and are shipped to your doorstep. Shop their age-based menus at www.cafebabytogo.com.