Becoming a mother is life changing. It is a very exciting time and can also be a stressful time as you adjust to a new normal. In the midst of caring for your baby, it’s easy to neglect yourself. After all, that baby needs you all the time. Don’t forget that you need to take care of yourself in order to meet the needs of your child. When you nurture your own mental wellbeing, you’ll be in the best position to care for your child well and enjoy this fleeting stage.
Postpartum Mental Health Challenges
Many women experience changes in their mental health postpartum. There is not one underlying cause to “blame” for these changes, but factors like hormone fluctuation, sleep deprivation and physical recovery combined with taking care of a new baby can all impact our mental health.
Most commonly, mothers can experience anxiety or depression. According to the American Psychological Association, postpartum anxiety affects approximately 10% of new mothers and postpartum depression affects approximately 10-20%. Symptoms can include feelings of hopelessness, guilt, sadness, or extreme fatigue, among others. You are more likely to experience anxiety or depression if you’ve had a history of these conditions prior to pregnancy and/or if you lack social support; however, anyone is susceptible to experiencing them.
A more uncommon condition that affects approximately 1-2 per 1,000 new mothers (per the APA) is postpartum psychosis. Postpostparum psychosis can include delusions, hallucinations, losing touch with reality, and extreme confusion. Moms who experience this may not be in a mental state where they can identify it to seek help themselves. If you notice these symptoms in a loved one, consider it a medical emergency and seek help immediately. The mother could be at risk of harming herself or her baby, so medication and/or another intervention may be necessary.
You may have heard about “the baby blues,” which typically are short-lived in comparison to postpartum depression. A mother experiencing the baby blues may be anxious, cry often, and feel restless or overwhelmed. This is very normal! If “the blues” last longer than a few weeks, it may actually be depression. Postpartum depression can extend beyond your child’s first birthday if left untreated.
How to Encourage a Healthy Mind as a New Mom
If you’re experiencing any of the conditions above, you may be wondering what to do next. In between sleepless nights, feedings and diaper changes, try to incorporate some of these suggestions to improve your mental state. You may have to really push yourself but you can do it (and it will be worth it)!
Get outside. Put your bundle of joy in a stroller and get some fresh air. Even 5 or 10 minutes of walking is worth the effort.
Ask for practical help. There is no award for doing this on your own! Enlist the help of someone you trust. Better yet, have multiple people in your back pocket that can bring you a meal, fold the laundry, keep your pet for a few days, clean your house or hold the baby while you sleep. If someone offers to help you, don’t turn them down!
Take a few deep breaths. Put your baby down in a safe place when you’re overwhelmed. As long as your child is safely laying in the crib, you can take a couple of minutes to recenter yourself, close your eyes and take a few deep breaths.
Talk to your OB. You will likely be given a mental health questionnaire at your postpartum appointments. Take those questionnaires seriously. Talk with your doctor if you think you need help.
Connect with other moms. Find a community of other moms who “get it” – the highs, the lows, the joys and the hardships. Being a new mom is isolating. You’re at home all the time! You may be isolated for a season, but you’re not alone. Talking with other moms will remind you of that.
Embrace the “both and” aspects of motherhood. Remember that feelings are not mutually exclusive. It’s okay to…
- Deeply love your child AND get frustrated with them
- Love being a mom AND need a break from time to time
- Enjoy taking care of your child AND be drained by the demands of it all
Reach out to a counselor. Here at Wellspring, you don’t need a doctor’s referral to schedule an appointment. You can see one of our counselors at our office near Greenville, SC. If it’s easier for you to be at home, we offer telehealth options as well. Even if you need to squeeze in a session during naptime, it’s worth it to prioritize your mental health!
Seek Help if You Need It!
Despite the prevalence of postpartum mental health conditions, many women do not seek treatment or support. It’s a busy and overwhelming season, so seeking help requires intentionality. Even if you feel like you don’t have the time, we encourage you to make the effort. It’ll be worth it!
Explore the Possibility of Counseling
It can be very helpful to gain the insight and tools provided by a professional therapist. Counseling can help bring clarity, improve ways of coping, strengthen your sense of self, and help you gain the bravery to deal with the difficult things in life. If you wish to know more, read about our team of experts or contact us today to learn how our Greenville, SC counseling office helps people overcome the challenges anxiety and depression.