The arrival of a baby should be a source of utter joy for a new mother, but for many women, the first weeks following childbirth can be a difficult time. All of a sudden, they are responsible for a tiny human being, on top of having to cope with massive hormonal changes and a new way of relating to the people around them! Many may feel overwhelmed by the event and can even become depressed. Is this simply a normal period of adjustment or symptoms of a more serious problem?
Many new mothers suffer from the “baby blues” in the first few days after giving birth. This momentary feeling of lethargy usually appears between the second and tenth day following childbirth and spontaneously disappears after a few days. Support and comfort from the people around them is usually sufficient to bring relief to the new mom.
However, it is important not to confuse the “baby blues” with postpartum depression (PPD), also known as postnatal depression (PND).
Postpartum depression affects one in ten women and can occur at anytime during the first year after the child is born. It can happen progressively or, on the contrary, appear quite suddenly.
It is a depression like all the others. However, the feelings of incompetence and culpability these women experience can affect the bond there are weaving with their newborn. The manifestations vary from one woman to the next. Some women can feel discouraged, dejected, feel they are inadequate mothers or have panic attacks. Others have trouble sleeping, lose their appetite, have crying fits, have sudden mood swings, are irritable, have difficulty concentrating or are incessantly tired. Some women may even experience physical symptoms such as stomach cramps.
The needs of a newborn are extremely demanding on new mothers and it is a period of radical changes. Here are a few tips to help alleviate stress while you are adjusting:
You must learn to be a new mother! The care required by a newborn is not a matter of instinct. This is why it so important to participate in prenatal courses and to get as much information throughout your pregnancy as you can by speaking with your physician and by reading books. Concentrate on what is essential. The diaper has been changed, baby has been fed and is now sleeping and you are thoroughly exhausted? The dishes can certainly wait!
Get together with other new mothers with whom you will be able to share tips but especially, talk about your experiences, feelings and what you are going through. Never be afraid to ask for help from your partner, your friends and family. Your local CLSC can also recommend support groups for new parents.
If the feelings of lethargy and sadness do not resolve on their own after a few days, you must seek help! It is essential to speak with your physician, local CLSC and the people close to you about how you are feeling. There are treatments that can be rapidly initiated and are usually very efficient at bringing relief.
Never forget that everyone needs help once in a while but especially during times of great change. You need not go through it alone.