By Joanna Kleovoulou, Clinical Psychologist, Director and founder of PsychMatters
I have just given birth to a precious being, my little baby girl Natalia. It has been such a privilege to spend time getting to know her, meet her needs, and watch her grow. However, as a mental health practitioner, I also recognise how the risk of suffering from the baby blues can manifest with any new mom. Disrupted sleep, hormonal fluctuations, high expectations, lack of support or the continued pressures of life may impact your new, life-changing experience.
For many mommies who have just given birth, the arrival of your baby should be be such an exciting time, and everyone around you is usually overjoyed by the news. However what is meant to be a happy time, you cannot understand why you are feeling so blue.
The birth of your baby can trigger a mix of powerful emotions, from deep joy to severe anxiety and the “baby blues”. In fact about 80% of new mothers experience some form of baby blues in the first two weeks of giving birth –you may feel anxious, trouble sleeping, irritable, sad, teary, poor concentration, or moody. Should these symptoms not dissipate over time, and your ability to care for yourself or your baby gets compromised, then you are suffering from Post Natal Depression. If left untreated, it could last for months, symptoms may worsen and you are at risk of neglecting/harming yourself or your baby.
Post Natal Depression (post-partum depression) may be triggered during the first two months after birth. Symptoms include:
- Difficulty bonding with your baby
- Anger or irritability
- Difficulty concentrating or forgetfulness
- Feelings of guilt, shame or worthlessness
- Overwhelming fatigue
- Withdrawal from family and friends
- Thoughts of harming yourself or your baby
- Anxiety or excessive worry
- Headaches, stomach aches, muscle or backaches unaccounted for by a medical examination
- Difficulty sleeping
- Lack of joy in life
What causes Post Natal Depression?
There is a combination of factors that cause post natal depression, from genetic factors, hormonal and chemical changes, psychological as well as your lifestyle (financial strain, lack of support) and relationship difficulties with your partner or extended family.
How to get the right Treatment:
Post Natal Depression can be successfully treated with medication and counselling or psychotherapy. Consult your doctor to discuss which medication is best for you especially if you are breastfeeding. Access a psychologist to find ways to cope and work through any emotions and negative thoughts. In addition to getting expert help, here are some ways to take care of yourself:
What you can do to cope:
- Nurture yourself – sleep and eat well, take a hot bath, and understand that you are not a bad mother.
- Get support – you need support to alleviate this stressful time. Ask family and friends to help with chores, cook meals for you or consult a psychologist for assistance and share difficult feelings. There is no shame in lightening the load. Join a mother’s support group; by sharing in the experience you will not feel alone. Get some rest.
- Manage your expectations – attempt to do what you can each day one step at a time.
- Spend time outside – take a walk with your baby or meet a friend for a coffee.
If you think you might hurt yourself or your baby, if you feel incapable of caring for your newborn, or you cannot cope, seek professional help with a psychologist or your doctor immediately. Contact PsychMatters on 0114503576 for assistance.