Babies a New Life : Will We Ever Get Better at this? New parents’ highs and lows (part 3) - Baby blues & postpartum depression Why am I upset?

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Baby blues & postpartum depression Why am I upset?

Your baby has just arrived, and you’re feeling on top of the world. So why are you crying? You are simply at the mercy of your hormones as they adjust. Like the majority of new moms, you’re going through a tearful phase and may feel overwhelmed by the thought of your new responsibilities as a parent. But be reassured, this is known as the “baby blues” and happens to most mothers about three days after the birth, as hormonal changes wreak havoc on your emotions. It should ease within two weeks, but if you continue to feel upset, you may be experiencing postpartum depression.

Postpartum depression

Feeling distressed as the weeks go by, having a sense that other mothers can cope but you can’t, or feeling low during your baby’s first year means you may be experiencing postpartum depression. This can continue from a few weeks to several months, but getting professional help will shorten the time you feel depressed and make your recovery smoother.

You may be feeling
  • Exhausted even when you’ve just woken up.

  • Empty, sad, and tearful often.

  • Guilty and ashamed that you’re not happy or that you don’t love your baby enough.

  • Anxious for yourself or fearful for your baby.

  • Scared of being alone or going out.

  • Irritable, angry, and agitated.

Q: Who gets postpartum depression?
A: You may think you’re the only one feeling this way, but it’s not true. One or two mothers in 10 will go through postpartum depression. You’re more likely to suffer if you’ve been depressed before or had a stressful pregnancy or labor. Seek help from the following:
Health professionals

Your pediatrician will ask you how you are feeling at your well-child check-ups—speak openly about your emotions and fears. Your doctors are trained to recognize postpartum depression and know how to get you help; they may link you into local services to support new parents. Your doctor may also recommend that you take medication such as antidepressants, and will need to know if you’re breastfeeding in order to choose the best ones to suit you and ensure that the medicine does not affect your baby. He or she may also recommend you attend some psychological therapy. This usually involves meeting one on one, or in a small group with other new moms, with a qualified psychologist or counselor who will try to help you understand why you are feeling this way.

Wider family and friends

These people can support you by listening to your worries. Let them know you simply need to talk, and ask them to avoid treating your concerns as trivial—this can become frustrating when it doesn’t match how you feel at that time. They could also help you make and get to appointments with doctors and assist with day-to-day tasks such as shopping and cleaning. Helpful relatives may be tempted to take over the care of your baby to give you a break. However, this can deepen your sense that you’re not good enough as a parent, so ask them to keep you company and help with practical tasks rather than whisk your baby away.

Your partner

As well as offering you love and commitment, a partner can care for your baby while you take a little time to care for yourself. Partners: Remember that depression is an illness and people can’t just “snap out of it.” If others are likely to take this view, you can help by defending your partner from such unwanted and unsympathetic “advice.”

Different types of therapy

Your doctor may recommend that you attend some psychological therapy. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) or interpersonal psychotherapy (IPT) are common approaches. These usually involve meeting one on one with a qualified psychologist or therapist about once a week. Appointments are usually held in private at a doctor’s office, since it is easier to speak openly away from the usual interruptions of home life. Another option is to have non-directive or listening support from a counselor who will encourage you to talk and help you express yourself. This can happen at a clinic or in your home if you prefer. This is an opportunity for you to explore any worries that come to mind.

Q: What does each therapy offer?
  • CBT is based on the idea that how a person thinks affects her emotional reactions. It aims to help people challenge their current thinking patterns, therefore altering how they feel and behave. It is often effective after four to six meetings.

  • IPT focuses on the relationships in a person’s life, and is based on the belief that social context can affect psychological difficulties, so working with people on their history and interpersonal skills will assist their recovery. The exact length of treatment varies from person to person.

  • Non-directive therapy (also known as client-centered or Rogerian therapy) is based on the premise that through exploring your thoughts and feelings with a warm and empathic listener, you can understand and resolve your difficulties. Little advice or direction is given during this therapy, and it is your choice what areas you consider. The length of treatment varies considerably; when to finish is a personal decision.

Don’t suffer alone

Postpartum depression can get in the way of your relationship with your baby and your partner. Ask for help as soon as you can.

Get enough rest

Let your partner, or friends and family help out while you recover from the strain of giving birth. Getting enough sleep will help your body and hormones recover more quickly.

Sympathetic ear

Talking to a counselor or therapist is an effective way of tackling depression. Look for state licenses or certification when choosing your listener during this challenging time.

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