Having a baby is stressful—no matter how much you've looked forward to it or how much you love your child. Considering the sleep deprivation, new responsibilities, and lack of time for yourself, it's no surprise that a lot of new moms feel like they're on an emotional rollercoaster. The baby blues are perfectly normal, but if your symptoms don't go away after a few weeks or get worse, you may be suffering from postpartum depression. Here's how to get back on the road to happy motherhood.
You're not alone. Some degree of emotional vulnerability is natural and expected after childbirth. Up to 80 percent of new mothers experience the baby blues, an emotional reaction that begins a few days to a week after delivery and generally lasts no longer than two weeks. If you have the blues, you may be weepy, anxious, and unable to sleep. You may also be irritable or moody.
Moms often feel better after getting some rest and a helping hand with the baby. But if your blues – or those of someone you love – have lasted more than two weeks, read on.
If you're concerned, talk to your healthcare provider. She can diagnose your symptoms and refer you to a counselor if needed. About 10 to 15 percent of new mothers experience clinical depression, anxiety, or obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).
If you think you might hurt yourself or your baby, or if you feel incapable of caring for your newborn, seek professional help immediately.
What is postpartum depression?
Postpartum depression can begin any time during the first two months after you give birth. Symptoms may include:
· Irritability or hypersensitivity
· Difficulty concentrating
· Anxiety and worry
· Crying or tearfulness
· Negative feelings such as sadness, hopelessness, helplessness, or guilt
· Loss of interest in activities you usually enjoy
· Difficulty sleeping (especially returning to sleep)
· Fatigue or exhaustion
· Changes in appetite or eating habits
· Headaches, stomachaches, muscle or backaches
Some women with PPD believe they can't adequately care for their baby or may harm their baby.
In addition to getting expert help, here are some ways to take care of yourself when you're dealing with postpartum depression, anxiety, or OCD:
Be good to yourself. Make sure your own basic needs are met: Try to sleep and eat well, and try not to feel guilty about the way you feel now. Just because you have PPD doesn't mean you are a bad mother or don't love your child. Once you feel better, these feelings will diminish.
Don't expect so much of yourself. If you have clinical depression, anxiety, or OCD, it is enough just to get out of bed and face the day. Focus on taking good care of yourself. If you can do this each day, you'll be doing well.
Ask for support. Part of being a good mother is knowing when to ask for help – so don't be afraid to ask for it during this difficult time. Help comes in many forms, ranging from friends who cook meals and fold your laundry to therapy. You need support from others so you can get better.