Emotions of Motherhood
Becoming a mother can be an exciting time and a life changing experience. Many mothers may feel overwhelmed by a blend of physical, hormonal and emotional changes while learning new tasks and skills of motherhood. These changes range from the "baby blues" to a spectrum of feelings known as "postpartum mood disorders."
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What are the Baby Blues?
"Baby blues" begin the first few days and up to two weeks after birth. Moms may feel very sad or tearful for no reason. They may also feel restless, cranky, sad, discouraged, or helpless. These feelings may be due to hormonal changes, lack of sleep, and the stress of being a mother to a new baby.
The baby blues often go away when mothers eat healthy, get plenty of sleep, receive emotional support and have others help with tasks at home. After the first two weeks mom may still feel tired, but may feel much more like herself.
If you just had a baby and these feelings don't go away after two weeks, or get worse, you may have a postpartum mood disorder.
What are Postpartum Mood Disorders?
These feelings involve physical, emotional and hormonal changes that affect her moods, behaviors and how she feels. Symptoms can begin after giving birth or anytime during the first year. They can be mild, moderate or severe.
These spectrums of feelings are called "postpartum mood disorders." Postpartum mood disorders are one of the most common complications of childbirth. This is a real disorder that can happen to any mother.
- You did not do anything to cause these feelings.
- It is not your fault and does not make you a bad mother.
- It is treatable.
With proper help, mood disorders are 100% treatable. However, without treatment, symptoms may last weeks, months or even years. The earlier you seek help, the easier it will be to recover and the better the outcome for both mom and baby.
What are the Various Types of Postpartum Mood Disorders?
The most common postpartum mood disorder is Postpartum Depression (PPD). About 1 out of 5 mothers get postpartum depression.
Women with postpartum depression and other mood disorders may describe feeling:
- Guilty, worthless or helpless
- Restless or out of control
- Depressed or sad with or without tears
- Anxious or overwhelmed
- Worried that nothing will get any better
They may also describe:
- Having little appetite or over eating
- Being unable to fall asleep or waking up too early
- Feeling unable or unwilling to care for baby
- Thinking about bad things that could happen to the baby
- Feelings of harming herself or her baby
- Crying spells for no apparent reason
- Difficulty thinking or concentrating
- Not caring about anything
- Trouble remembering even simple things
- Unexplained pains or headaches
- Being unable to cope with daily tasks
- Repeated thoughts, ideas or images that are uncontrollable or cause her to feel anxious, guilty or shameful
Do Postpartum Mood Disorders Affect My Baby?
Yes. Postpartum Mood Disorders can affect your baby. They are serious illnesses which, if not treated, can have long term effects for both baby and mother.
Depressed mothers may not interact with their baby as much as mothers who are not depressed. The baby of a constantly depressed mother may not form a secure bond to their mother. A poor baby- mother bond can put children at risk of learning delays, relationship dysfunctions, trouble expressing emotions, and future mental health disorders.
Mothers who are depressed are not always able to handle the tasks of being a mom. They may be able to provide basic care, like food and shelter. However, depressed mothers may only respond to fussing and crying, while ignoring positive actions like smiling. Babies are aware of how their mother feels.
Women whose PPD is not treated may go on to develop a chronic mental illness. If a mother with PPD has psychotic symptoms, she may be at risk of hurting herself or her baby.
Does Having Postpartum Depression Mean I Want to Hurt my Baby or Me?
One severe type of postpartum mood disorder is called "postpartum psychosis". This is not the same as postpartum depression. Postpartum psychosis is very rare (affects 1-2 in 1,000 women). Postpartum psychosis can have a sudden start often in the first days or weeks after birth.
Women with psychosis may hurt themselves or their babies. Take this seriously. Women may say things like, "You would be better off without me."
- be quiet or have a very strong lack of hope
- want to be alone
- unable to sleep for a couple of days
- do or say strange things
- talk about suicide or harming the baby
- hear voices or see things that are not really there
Note: If a mother feels she may harm herself or her baby, do not leave her alone or alone with the baby for any reason. This is an emergency. Take her to the Emergency Room or call 911.
What Do I Do if I Think I Have Postpartum Depression?
Ask for help. Contact your healthcare provider or a mental health professional. They can help you. Tests may be done to rule out medical problems. There are no lab tests for postpartum depression.
You Are Not Alone.
There are others who can help you get through this tough time and help you to feel better as soon as possible. The sooner you get proper help, the easier it will be to get well. Having you feel better is best for both you and your baby.
What Kind of Help is Available?
There are two ways to get help: medication and therapy. Some moms find one way is enough and some use both forms of help.
Counseling or Therapy
Call your insurance carrier to see what counseling services are covered. Some companies have Employee Assistance Programs (EAP) that provides free counseling. Please see other resources listed in this brochure.
Some medications (antidepressants) can be safely taken if you are breastfeeding. Contact your health care provider or lactation consultant for more information.
How Can Family and Friends Help?
- Be aware of the signs and symptoms of the spectrum of postpartum mood disorders.
- Help moms and dads get the help they need and deserve.
- Provide emotional support.
- Help with daily chores at home.
- Prepare meals and healthy snacks.
- Call for help if the new parent is not able to call.
What Can I Do to Help Myself?
- Make time to sleep or rest both day and night
- Eat healthy
- Make time for yourself
- Set realistic goals for yourself
- Keep all healthcare appointments
- Don't be afraid to ask for help with household chores or errands
- Talk to your doctor about how you are feeling