Sure, babies smell good. Their skin is crazy soft. Their tiny toes are unbelievably adorable and bringing a little human into your life is magical and life-changing. But sadly, even the teeny tiniest of adorable feet can't combat Postpartum Depression on their own. Or the host of other mood disorders that new mother's can experience - anxiety, OCD, Bipolar Disorder, psychosis - known collectively as Perinatal Mood Disorders or PMADs.
Preventing and treating PMADs is a process best started during pregnancy, or even before. Developing a PMAD is a complicated set of history, biology, circumstances, personality, and timing. Check out my first post in this series about identifying your risk factors before the baby comes. Taking the necessary steps to put a postpartum plan in place, and get the help you need before the baby comes, can go along way in helping prevent a PMAD.
But what about after the baby arrives? How will you know if you are at a greater risk of developing a postpartum mood disorder? What should mamma, partner, and community look out for once the baby is home? Check out the list of risk factors below. Call a compassionate, well-informed mental health care provider if you or someone you know is experiencing sympomts of a perinatal mood disorder. Check out the PSI website for more resources and the number of a local coordinator who can help connect you.
You don't make time for self care. With the demands of a new baby, self care can take the furthest back burner. But mammas who don't carve out a little time to care for their own physical and emotional needs are at a much greater risk of developing a mood disorder.
You have trouble bonding with your child. We assume that we will feel an immediate and deep bond with the tiny being we just brought into the world. However, many mothers have a difficult time developing a bond with their babies. In addition to adorable tiny toes, babies also cry, sometimes all day and night. Sometimes, they have trouble breastfeeding. Sometimes they have health problems or allergies or excessive blowouts.
You aren't getting enough sleep. It seems so simple and straightforward, mothers who get enough sleep can prevent a whole host of emotional and physical health problems. But with a new baby in tow, getting enough sleep is anything but simple. It can take some new moms months, or years, to finally find a way to get enough sleep.
You aren't eating enough, or you aren't eating healthy foods. Your body just gave birth, to a human. It needs healthy, regular nourishment to replenish and heal. Under-nourishment is a big issue for new moms and can leave them feeling sad, irritable, and anxious.
You are exercising too much or too little. Your body will need gentle movements to return to it’s normal level of functioning and health. A lack of exercise, or exercise that is too extreme and doesn’t honor the healing process, can leave you feeling depleted, anxious, and depressed.
You are experiencing financial struggle. Life is expensive. And so are babies! The added financial stress of an extra human in the house can leave mom and partner feeling overwhelmed and anxious.
You and your partner are having trouble. Your partner can be your greatest ally in preventing the development of a PMAD, but if your relationship is struggling, this can create additional emotional distress that can lead to a mood disorder.
You aren't getting enough love or attention. Often, partners and family members will shower a new baby with love and forget that a new momma just went through a major phsycial feat, and just had her life turned upside down. New mommas need lots of love, physical affection, and appreciation.
You returned to work too soon, or you are missing your work and peers. For some mommas, having to return to work before they are ready, and before their body has healed, takes a heavy toll on their mental health and well-being. Conversely, some new mommas experience loss and sadness when they take a long break from the satisfaction of their work and the social connections in the work environment.
Your social relationships have changed significantly. Maybe your friends are all still out at the bar while your at home with your baby. Or maybe you are having a bit too much time alone with your mother-in-law. Friendships, romantic relationships, and familial relationships can all change significantly when a new baby comes home.
Your body is different. There is nothing worse for a new mom’s self-esteem than seeing another new mom in a yoga pose on the top of a sunlit mountain, her baby belly flattened back to it’s pre-pregnancy washboard. The truth is, your body is going to be different, and that can be very difficult to deal with in addition to all of the other changes you are experiencing.
Luckily, there are many healthy, effective ways to help treat a Perinatal Mood Disorder. To learn more about how counseling can help create a more peaceful, healthy postpartum period, call today for a free consultation.
Jane Thatcher Hahn is the founder of Grit Therapy. She lives in Denver and engages the community as a social worker, therapist, creative arts instructor, and wellness enthusiast.