The first few weeks of motherhood can be stressful for anyone. I am now three months into parenthood, and I have found myself feeling more lonely, worthless, and aggressive than normal. My husband and I faced infertility issues before we finally conceived our son. So now I have a healthy and beautiful little boy. Why am I feeling this way?
Some new moms experience a period of time known as the “baby blues” when their hormones are all over the place. Sometimes, however, it can be more serious. While there are various mental health issues that can arise postpartum, Postpartum depression (PPD) is the most well known. Two lesser-known postpartum issues include postpartum anxiety and obsessive compulsive disorder. Postpartum depression occurs in about one in seven moms.
Sometimes, it will feel as if you're completely isolated from the rest of the world. Photo by Pixabay/Free-Photos.
It was the screening at my son’s pediatric appointment that convinced me to get help. I had debated whether or not to select the “right” answers — the ones that would declare that I was just fine, thank you. I was terrified of admitting that I had a problem to a medical professional or the social worker at the pediatric office because I had heard stories about women with PPD having their children taken away from them. I was worried that people would think that I was not able to function. And possibly my biggest fear was that people would think that I didn’t love or appreciate my son.
Here are some signs of PPD. If you're experiencing any of these symptoms, or otherwise feel “off," speak to a medical or mental health professional, or to a social worker. Keep in mind that symptoms, treatments, and severity vary woman to woman. My experience may not be the same as yours or that of your loved one.
• Less pleasure or interest in things you once enjoyed.
• Significantly increased or decreased appetite.
• Anxiety/panic attacks
• Uncontrollable scary thoughts.
• Feeling so overwhelmed that you just “shut down”.
• Guilt or feeling worthless
• Mood swings and aggressiveness.
• Difficulty sleeping even when/if your baby is sleeping.
• Withdrawal from your baby, family, and friends.
• Being more forgetful or indecisive that normal.
• Thinking about self-harm, suicide, risky behavior (such as turning to drinking), or thoughts of hurting your child or other people.
Talk to a social worker, medical professional, or mental health professional if you or a loved one is experiencing these symptoms postpartum, I urge you to seek help from a professional. While medication has helped me a little, there may be more natural ways to manage your condition- separately or in conjunction with medication.
If you have PPD, here are some recommendations:
• Join a support group.
• Ask a relative or close friend to help care for your child if you are having a difficult moment.
• Don’t take on more than you can handle with work, chores, or personal projects. Your priority is to make sure that you and your child are healthy and cared for each day.
• Avoid isolation. My workplace is my sanctuary. Being cooped up at home may allow you to focus more on negative thoughts than being surrounded with people and engaged in conversations.
If a loved one has PPD, here are suggestions of what you can do for them:
• Cook them a meal/ bring them something so they don’t have to worry about cooking.
• Offer to help with small errands/chores/watching the baby.
• Complement and actively encourage them.
• Remind them that they are not bad mothers.
• If you are a survivor of PPD or another mental illness, share your story with them. Let them know that they’re not alone.
• Check in on them. Ask them how they’re doing. They’re likely not going want to bother you, so please reach out to them.
• Take them seriously. Don’t tell them that it will all be fixed with a bit more sleep, or if they eat certain foods, or when the after-birth hormones wind down. Although there are things that can help, they need to know that their feelings are validated.
• Actively offer help in whatever form they need it, because chances are that they will not want to burden you.
Marissa is a Digital Content Assistant for Ogden Publications, a freelance digital marketing consultant, and a new mother. In her free time, she enjoys snuggling her son, learning to sew, and spending copious amounts of time on Pinterest.