Life in the Postpartum Lane

October 26, 2011
OBGYN.net Staff

Expect to have feelings; about the labor, the birth, towards the baby, about nursing or not, about responsibility, about your partner, etc.

* Expect to have feelings; about the labor, the birth, towards the baby, about nursing or not, about responsibility, about your partner, etc.

REMEMBER: feelings are feelings! They are not logical, rational, right or wrong. Allow yourself to feel them, and find someone safe to talk to about them.

* Up to 80% of women experience the "baby blues," a mood change which can occur 24 to 48 hours postpartum. It is believed that this mood swing is related to the rapid hormonal changes of labor and childbirth. Symptoms of the blues can include crying easily (often for no apparent reason), irritability, fatigue, difficulty sleeping, and sometimes anxiety or worry. Usually these symptoms are gone in 2 weeks, but sometimes they linger for up to 6 weeks.

* Most women experience a normal period of adjustment to the demands of motherhood, as they work to create a new balance in life. This adjustment period impacts the couple relationship as it works to accommodate the new changes. Moodiness and symptoms may persist, sometimes for several months.

* It is now believed that up to 20% of women experience a worsening of symptoms and develop postpartum depression and/or anxiety. Symptoms may include crying, irritability, anger, sleep disturbance (often unable to sleep), fatigue, appetite changes, loss of interest in activities, worry, feelings of doubt (of parenting, self-worth, etc.), and panic attacks. If you have a history of depression, postpartum depression, or even a family history of depression, you have an increased risk of developing postpartum depression. Very often there is a great deal of shame about these feelings. Get help early--it doesn't benefit you or your family to suffer in silence, and, treatment works!

THE BOTTOM LINE

* Expect to be tired. Try to nap to make up for lost sleep. If you need to, get someone to watch the baby while you sleep. Try ear plugs if necessary. Accept offers of help, and be specific in what you'd like done, for example; a meal, a load of laundry, or someone to watch the baby while you shower.

* Eat! You need to take care of yourself, so you can take care of the baby. Try frequent snacking on fruit, cheese, or anything simple, fast to prepare, and healthy. Keeping a steady blood sugar level helps reduce moodiness.

* Anticipate and work on communication problems. Use "I" messages (I want, I need, I've noticed...) instead of "you" messages (you never, you didn't...). Don't expect anyone to be able to read your mind!

* Find ways to give yourself and your partner positive feedback. We all need to hear we are doing a good job. Try: "You are a great mom!" or, "look how happy the baby is, what a good job you're doing!"

* Find company and support with friends or in local moms groups. If you have postpartum distress or depression it is helpful to join a postpartum depression group, to get support from women going through a similar experience. A new baby can contribute to feelings of isolation and loneliness. Find people to hang out with; at home, in the park, mall, etc.

* Create a REALITY based idea of what a "good mom" and "good dad" is. Evaluate your expectations of yourself and your partner. There is no such thing as the "perfect parent."

* If you're unsure, get help.

References:

PEC INDMAN Ed.D, LMFCC, has a Doctorate in Counseling and a Master's Degree in Health Psychology. She is a Licensed Marriage and Family Counselor and formerly a Physician Assistant. Specializing in issues related to reproductive health, pregnancy and postpartum, Pec is a member of Depression After Delivery, Postpartum Support International, The Marce Society, and Postpartum Health Alliance. She is the mother of two girls.