What You Didn’t Expect When You Were Expecting
You have waited nine months for this day, to hold your baby and to be called mom. In preparation, you have gone to the doctor’s appointments, read all the books, eaten healthy, bought the recommended baby supplies, picked the very best name and ‘Pinterest-ed’ the perfect life you will give your baby. In the all-in-one handbook that guided you through your pregnancy and prepared you for your birth and into motherhood (or at least the blissful times), it may have overlooked the very natural, very common, and no fault of your own depression that can come with pregnancy and motherhood. The unspoken postnatal depression is referred to as the ‘baby blues’.
The baby blues can leave moms feeling emotional, weepy or crying. Moms may experience mood instability with anxiety and depressive symptoms, making it difficult to concentrate and even more challenging to feel confident in themselves. Feeling vulnerable, unfamiliar with your current reality (as this is not what you have prepared for) and oftentimes not aware of the natural body response that is the baby blues, moms don’t share their experience, leaving them to suffer in silence.
However, baby blues is not an inability to be a mother. In fact it’s the body’s natural response to becoming a mother. Hormonal, estrogen and progesterone changes are higher in pregnancy than any other time in a woman’s life. Following the baby’s birth and the delivery of the placenta, these hormone levels plummet, sending the body into extreme, immediate changes. In addition, mothers may be asked to cope with possible traumatic births, C-section recovery, breast feeding transitions, sleep deprivation, family history of mental illness, relationship changes, as well as the new responsibilities of becoming a mother. These compounding changes lead 70-80% of mothers to experience the baby blues (D’Angelo Friedman, 2017).
Baby blue symptoms typically start within a couple days following delivery, peak within the first week and taper at the end of the second week. If the symptoms persist past two weeks after giving birth, they should be monitored and be considered postpartum depression (Smith, & Segal, 2016).
Postpartum depression symptoms are “much more severe than baby blue symptoms and interfere with functioning” (D’Angelo Friedman, J., 2017). The mother may find herself feeling anxious, depressed, irritable, guilty and worthless. Due to the overwhelming feelings and thoughts, it may be difficult to concentrate, to enjoy activities she once found interest in. Mothers may experience changes in eating and sleeping habits, feeling inadequate to cope. The most disheartening struggle with postpartum, and the silencing conflict, may be the relationship alienation between the mother and the baby. She may no longer be as interested in her baby, and have thoughts of harming her baby and/or herrself (D’Angelo Friedman, 2017).
You may find yourself isolating from the people in your life that you use used to trust and lean on for support, your newly born baby . . . and worst of all, you may find you are isolating from yourself, withdrawing from the person you knew yourself to be. If this is where you have lost yourself, you have now found yourself. This is a natural process where your body’s hormonal changes and life transition has led you. There is help and hope to meet you where you are and start making the changes to create and maintain the identity, relationships, and life you wanted (Smith, & Segal, 2016).
If you believe you are experiencing postpartum depression (baby blue symptoms that have intensified and lasted past two weeks post-delivery), it is recommended you talk to your doctor for an evaluation by your ob-gyn. Your doctor may then refer you for treatment, which can include medication, mental health therapy, other types of treatments or combinations of the treatments (D’Angelo Friedman, 2017). The combination of these treatments can often be the most effective.
In mental health therapy, there are various techniques that can aid moms in treating postpartum depression. So, what should you expect when you’re expecting to make a change?
In therapy, it can often take 12-16 weeks of collaborative sessions with a therapist. The therapist can help the mom acknowledge the grief of losing her sense of self, changes in relationships and unmet expectations. Therapy will aid in role transitions, relationship changes, communication skills, social support, confidence building and healthier outlook, controlling thoughts, copings skills and relaxation. Therapy may utilize Dialectic Behavioral Therapy, which teaches mindfulness, distress tolerance, emotional regulation and interpersonal effectiveness. Specific therapies may include attachment therapies with mom and baby and couples’ therapy (Kripke, 2013).
Often prioritizing self-care can be difficult at first. But to do so, it is also taking care of your baby. So, for today, take one breath at a time, one day at a time; it won’t always be this hard. Your baby will be there, and you can know that you can have the life you expected when you were expecting.
D’Angelo Friedman, J. (2017). The difference between the baby blues and postpartum depression. Retrieved from fitpregnancy.com
Kripke, K. (2013, March, 21). Eight types of psychotherapy for postpartum depression treatment. Retrieved from http://postpartumprogress.com
Smith, M., & Segal, J. (2016, December). Postpartum depression and the baby blues: Tips to help you cope and give your baby the best start in life. Retrieved from hepguide.org
Tags: baby blues, Postpartum Depression
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Provisional Licensed Mental Health Practitioner
- Chrissy is a Provisionally Licensed Mental Health Practitioner. She graduated with her Master’s Degree in Clinical Mental Health from the University of Nebraska at Kearney in July 2016. She completed her Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology from Hastings College in May 2010. Chrissy did her internship at Wholeness Healing Center prior to joining the team full time, in September of 2016. Chrissy works in the Grand Island office.
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