Being pregnant and consequently delivering a baby is one of the most challenging moments in a woman’s life, both physically and psychologically. The amount of changes associated with welcoming a new family member can be overwhelming, especially during the first pregnancy, when you do not know exactly what to expect. Once the baby is born, new challenges arise, often with no break in between. Hormonal and physical changes might began to take its toll: you feel stressed, tired, irritated. Feelings of sadness might emerge soon after, which can also induce guilt, as according to many, being a mother is often associated with stories of joy. This mixture might make you moody, where you find yourself easily aggravated. This situation is understandable and occurs more often than you might have expected: around 80% of women experience baby blues within the first week. What should be alarming is when the symptoms do not subside and postpartum depression unfolds.
Postpartum depression differs from baby blues in several ways. Firstly, it is characterized by longer duration (4 weeks and more) and higher severity of symptoms. Accordingly, if you go through prolonged sleep deprivation, change in eating patterns and have trouble concentrating even weeks after the delivery, it could also be a signal of this mood disorder. Lastly, a loss of interest in baby as well as in activities while experiencing feelings of helplessness, guilt and sadness might also suggest depression. If after two weeks of baby blues you do not notice an improvement, it is recommended to see a specialist, as this condition can be improved when treated by a skilled professional.
How can you make these first weeks easier and tackle the adaptation process? Start with acknowledging you should find some time for yourself and take a good rest. If you want to relax, visiting a spa or beauty parlour can make you feel well-groomed and while taking your mind off things. You might also try to minimize your stressors by introducing a new routine around your baby, as well as involving family members or childminders. Moreover, do not be afraid to turn to your friends if you have a need to discuss what is happening in your life and how you feel. Social support makes a huge difference when it comes to our well-being. Sharing your thoughts can help you feel understood and see yourself in a different role than the motherly one. Most importantly, remember that getting a postnatal psychological check can be helpful even if you do not suspect depression. Seeing a professional can help you understand what is happening in your mind and how you can deal with it efficiently. If your partner also struggles with these changes, it might be worth considering seeing someone together, as untreated depression has consequences both for the child and parents. Admitting that things are difficult takes courage, but the sooner you face the problem, the quicker you can reach recovery and enjoy your motherhood. After all, this period in your life is unlike any other and making positive memories that you will want to look back to is something you can try to aspire to while reaching out to others.
Bibliography: Lee, & Chung. (2007). Postnatal depression: An update. Best Practice & Research Clinical Obstetrics & Gynaecology, 21(2), 183-191.
Gosia Cybulska is a Clinical Psychology Master student at Leiden University and an International Intern at Willingness. Besides her extensive love for Psychology manifested by volunteering at various facilities as well as pursuing a second degree, she also strives to learn more about what makes cats such adorable creatures.