Mental health with a newborn
For most women, having a baby is an exhilarating life event – but it can also be exhausting, overwhelming and stressful.
If you’ve been feeling a range of mixed emotions after childbirth, you’re not alone.
It’s entirely normal to experience mild feelings of depression in the week or two following childbirth. In fact, according to advocacy group Mental Health America, up to 80% of new moms experience the baby blues.
The baby blues
Hormonal changes, lack of sleep and the pressures of taking care of a newborn can make you feel sad, anxious and irritable. These feelings should subside within a few weeks.
In the meantime, be kind to yourself. Rest as much as you can, try to get outside for some fresh air every day, talk to your friends and family about your feelings, and accept their help with the baby and household chores.
If you still feel sad or anxious several weeks after giving birth, or if your depression deepens and you feel hopeless, you may be experiencing postpartum depression (PPD). This is nothing to be ashamed of, and it certainly doesn’t mean you’re a bad mother or you don’t love your child. Mental Health America estimates that around 10-20% of moms will experience PPD, so although most women experience the baby blues briefly, PPD is not as uncommon as you may think. You might simply need some professional counseling or medication to help you through. The good news is that there is a lot doctors and psychologists can do to help moms (and dads) going through this, so the first step is to ask for help.
Talk to your doctor as soon as possible about getting help, particularly if you or any of your immediate family members have a history of depression.
Having a baby can change your relationship in many ways. Bonding with your new addition can bring you closer together and allow you to see sides of each other you never knew existed. But even the strongest of couples are likely to feel the strain of sleepless nights and endless diaper changes.
You’ll probably have less time and energy to devote to your relationship for a while, and your sex drive might dwindle due to exhaustion and hormonal changes. But as long as you communicate openly about how you’re feeling and you’re patient with each other, things should go back to normal once you’ve adjusted to your new reality.
Having a baby isn’t a small deal, it’s a really big deal, and feeling sad or anxious when you “should” feel happy isn’t a reflection on you or your abilities. If you would like to read a real mom story on what it was like for mom Lydia* to experience PPD, and how she sought help, read our article One mom’s story: Postpartum Depression.
Helpful Postpartum Resources:
- American Psychological Association
- Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance
- National Alliance on Mental Illness
- National Institute of Mental Health, NIH, HHS
- Postpartum Support International
- PPD Moms
- Office on Women’s Health
More on Postpartum Maternal Health
Psychologist Dr. Hannah Cassedy details the often-overlooked condition, postpartum anxiety, in her article Understanding Postpartum Anxiety.
Postpartum OCD, postpartum PTSD, and postpartum psychosis often get overlooked. Psychologist Dr. Hannah Cassedy details each disorder and explains how to get help in her article Postpartum OCD, postpartum PTSD, and postpartum psychosis: What they really look like.