You’ve been planning, dreaming and longing for nine months, sometimes longer, and finally your baby is here. Everyone is excited; everyone that is, but you. You find yourself crying all the time and unable to perform the simplest of tasks. You may be irritable and moody and notice your family is tiptoeing around you. You may even be aware that you are unable to connect with your new baby. Are you asking yourself, “Why didn’t anyone warn me it could be so hard?”
Becoming a parent is overwhelming, frightening, and draining for most of us.
In fact, almost 80% of new mothers experience some form of “baby blues.” This is a normal emotional reaction beginning a few days to a week after delivery and generally lasting no more than two weeks. However, when your negative feelings take over and become more dominant than feelings of well-being, it is not normal. You may be like one in seven women who experience postpartum depression. It is important to know that postpartum depression isn’t a weakness or character flaw. Sometimes, it’s simply a complication of being a new parent. Prompt treatment can help you manage your symptoms and enjoy your baby.
Symptoms may include:
- Irritability or hypersensitivity
- Difficulty concentrating; brain fog
- 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
It is not necessary to experience all these symptoms to be diagnosed because each person’s experience is unique. This is more than just having a “bad day.” The symptoms persist and make it very difficult to function daily. If you are concerned that this is your new reality and you have lost yourself forever, please do yourself a favor and seek help.
It may be difficult to overcome your fear of judgment by others, but don’t try and wait this out.
Remember postpartum depression is temporary and treatable. Your healthcare provider can diagnose your symptoms and prescribe medication, if appropriate. Additionally, getting assistance from a professional counselor and support group is beneficial.
One last but very important thing: If you are having moments where it seems like you can see or hear things no one else does; if you are feeling paranoid as if others are out to get you; if you are concerned you may hurt yourself or your baby; or if you feel incapable of caring for your newborn, seek professional help immediately. You could be experiencing symptoms of postpartum psychosis, a much more rare illness as compared to postpartum depression. It is temporary and treatable, but it is an emergency requiring stabilization from a medical professional.
Ann Sheerin, MA
Asheerin @ GROWcounseling.com
Photo Credit: Public Domain