You’ve just had a baby, but instead of celebrating, you feel like crying. You may not have been expecting it, but mild depression and mood swings are common in new mothers–so common, in fact, that it has its own name: the baby blues.
Nearly 80 percent of new mothers experience a few of the baby blues symptoms, including: moodiness, sadness, difficulty sleeping, irritability, and concentration problems. These indications typically show up within a few days of giving birth and last from several days to a couple of weeks. “If they do not go away or become more intense, this may be a sign that it is more serious than the blues,” says Dr. Rochelle Christensen, OB/GYN. “Postpartum depression can interfere with the ability to care for your child, so it’s important to get help.”
The best thing you can do after your baby has arrived is to be aware that the blues (or depression) is possible. The more you care for your mental and physical well-being, the better you’ll feel.
Talk to someone who understands. “Admitting there is a problem is incredibly hard,” shares Cadey Reisner, Rapid City mother of two boys, Grady (5) and Grant (3). “Terror and guilt rush over you and can make symptoms worse. Have an honest conversation with your spouse, girlfriend, or mom and tell them how you’re feeling. Then, call your doctor.”
Ask for help and accept it. When people say, “Let me know what I can do”–they mean it. So, gratefully ask them for what you want, whether it’s watching your baby so you can nap, taking your older child to the park, helping you make a meal, or doing some laundry.
Eat healthy foods. What you eat has an impact on mood. Dr. Christensen says, “The risk of postpartum depression can be minimized by eating a healthy diet, avoiding caffeine, alcohol, unnecessary drugs, and continuing to take prenatal vitamins.” And don’t forget to drink water and other healthy fluids, especially if you’re nursing. Dehydration can cause fatigue, anxiety, and headaches.
Get some sleep. “Rest is my number one recommendation,” says Shannon Church, CD (DONA). “It’s the most undervalued aspect of the postpartum period with the highest consequences. I always tell my clients to savor this time with their new little baby and spend a good two weeks allowing their bodies the time it needs to heal.”
Make time for yourself. Having a baby is a huge adjustment, but your well-being should remain a priority. Continuing to do the simple things like taking a shower, doing your nails, and making lunch plans with a friend are small ways to make a positive impact on your spirit.
If your symptoms don’t go away after a few weeks or get worse, you may have postpartum depression. Knowing it will help other women, Cadey openly shares: “I knew something was wrong with me and I decided to call my OB, who put me on a dose of anti-anxiety medications to help. It was a lifeline and I started to feel back to normal in a few weeks. I was a better mom for my kids, a better wife, and no longer felt I was on the one-way train to crazy town.”
Sources and Credits for Battling the Baby Blues: American Academy of Family Physicians; Dr. Rochelle Christensen, Rapid City Obstetrics and Gynecology; Shannon Church, Vintage Doula; and Cadey Reisner.