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Having a baby is one of the most beautiful and stressful moments in a parent’s life. Nothing truly prepares new parents for the joys and hardships of parenthood. Moreover, the first weeks or months are truly hard for them to cope and adjust to all occurring changes. Mothers go through a psychological, physical and emotional roller coaster: sleep deprivation, hormonal and body changes, new responsibilities, overwhelming family members and not having time for themselves because their baby preoccupies all their time. Many mothers following the birth of her baby experience mood swings and depression.

However, all these mood swings and depression are common in new mothers, they are called baby blues. Baby blues refer to the first few days after giving birth, where the mother is experiencing anxiety, mood swings, trouble concentrating, irritability, difficulty sleeping, and crying. Over time baby blues usually disappear with the support of family and friends, within a few days or in 1 to 2 weeks after birth and for this reason does not require medical assistance. Nevertheless, sometimes these feelings are more intense and can last a long time. They can make it hard for a mother to function in her daily life and take care of her baby. This is called postpartum depression. It’s a serious medical condition that needs treatment to get better.

Postpartum depression is a health problem which affects various women regardless of their age, medical history or health of their child. It can easily be mistaken with baby blues as it shares many symptoms like mood swings, crying, insomnia, and irritability. However, the difference between the two is that postpartum depression symptoms are more severe, such as the inability to care for the child, and it lasts longer.  As well as baby blues, postpartum depression is thought to be linked to the hormone changes that happen during and after birth. A new mother who feels like giving up or who has thoughts of hurting herself or her child needs to have medical and psychological assistance as well as strategies on how to cope.

Here are some guidelines on how to cope with postpartum depression:

Accept help. Many women feel ashamed of their overwhelming, irritable feelings because they are supposed to experience the greatest joy of motherhood according to society. This makes it hard for them to open up about their struggles. It takes a village to raise a child so accept help from them. Let them run errands for you, prepare food or clean. Ask for weekly or monthly babysitting time from your family or friends for you to have time to take care of yourself. Sharing your feelings, talking about what you want or what you need allows people to provide the support that you need.

Take care of yourself. Focusing on yourself and your health is important; it affects both you and your child. Try to eat healthy; a well-balanced diet will help you gain energy and inclusion of exercise will improve your mood.

Furthermore, focus on treating your body and mind. Let your doctor know how you are feeling. Doctors, nurses, all the medical staff can help you. They are familiar with the symptoms of postpartum depression and can explain what is going on or help you find the best treatment options. Moreover, you are not alone, women in your community are also suffering from the same postpartum depression. Finding a support group might help to talk more freely, give you a chance to learn from others and share your struggles in a safe, supportive space.

Most importantly, remember that it happens to many women and it will be okay. This is a normal hormonal reaction and will most likely pass. If it doesn’t or if you are not feeling alright – help is always available for you.

Key Words: postpartum depression, anxiety, irritation, mood swings, baby, newborn, depression, mother, new mother, parenthood, motherhood.

Aistė Alysaitė is Bachelor of Psychology Student at Mykolas Romeris University in Vilnius, Lithuania. She is participating in Willingness Inernational intership.

References: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Health Resources & Services Administration. (2006). Depression During and After Pregnancy. A Resource for Women, Their Family, and Friends.

retrieved from https://mchb.hrsa.gov/sites/default/files/mchb/MaternalChildHealthTopics/maternal-womens-health/Depression_During_and_After_Pregnancy_ENGLISH.pdf

Aistė Alysaitė is Bachelor of Psychology Student at Mykolas Romeris University in Vilnius, Lithuania. She is participating in Willingness Inernational intership.