Parents, friends and relatives often believe that mothers ought to be feeling well and return to their pre-baby routines just a few weeks after delivering a new baby. This may be true for some mothers, but many mothers (and fathers) feel overwhelmed, fatigued, anxious or sad following the birth of the baby.
These feelings, often called the “baby blues", can be the result of life stress associated with pregnancy, hormonal changes, worries about the baby, or restlessness after being housebound or on bed-rest during pregnancy. The challenges of caring for a newborn baby can also feel overwhelming to parents.
In most instances, the “baby blues” resolve themselves within a few weeks. But for some mothers these feelings do not just go away, or they may reappear after she has felt fine for a period of time.
Postpartum depression can occur up to a year after the birth of a baby. Commonly experienced symptoms can include one or more of the following:
- Continued feelings of anxiety, fear, sadness or irritability
- Ongoing problems with insomnia, or sleeping too much
- Racing thoughts
- Feelings of intense worry (often about the baby)
- A sense of not being useful to the baby
- Lack of appetite
- Persistent guilty thoughts, especially thoughts of being a bad mother
- Thoughts of wanting to harm yourself, your baby or others
Strategies for parents
- Get support: Ask for help with the many demands of caring for a newborn. Find someone to help with household chores.
- Communicate your needs to others.
- If you are breast-feeding, consider pumping for nighttime feedings, and ask your partner to handle some of those feedings.
- Try to sleep when the baby sleeps. Lack of sleep makes everything worse.
- Exercise. As little as ten minutes of physical activity a day can have beneficial effects on your mood, self-esteem, and energy level.
- Try to manage your stress.
- Eat a well-balanced diet.
- Spend time with your partner and with supportive friends and family.
- If you have thoughts of hurting yourself, your baby or others, talk to someone immediately.