One of the biggest transitions someone can experience in life is going from being childless individuals to becoming a parent. This is an incredibly huge transition to go through. It is true what they say: having a baby changes everything. Our bodies, relationships, careers, finances, schedules, and sense of identity all shift once a baby enters the picture! We experience significant shifts, some throughout pregnancy and into parenthood, and some overnight.
It’s a beautiful and exciting time, filled with love and joy, but it’s also incredibly stressful. This is true even under the best of circumstances. When more intense circumstances accompany becoming a parent, the risk for postpartum depression increases. Some common situations include health complications for the mother and/or baby, life stressors such as major life transitions in other areas that occur simultaneously, the birth of multiples, single parenting, or if there’s loss of another significant relationship, just to name a few.
What are the Baby Blues?
Most people have heard the term “the Baby Blues.” But what many people don’t know is that Baby Blues and Postpartum Depression are two different things. Baby Blues is the term referring to the normal ups and downs in the first few weeks after the arrival of a child. Up to 80% of new mothers experience the Baby Blues. However, with support, rest, and good nutrition, the Baby Blues will naturally go away in a few weeks after the baby’s born.
Is it more than just Baby Blues?
If a new parent (this includes fathers and adoptive parents, not just mothers) experiences emotional distress or impairment in daily functioning that is severe or doesn’t get better after a few weeks, it might be perinatal depression or anxiety. Perinatal depression and anxiety are much more common than one might expect. In fact, according to Postpartum Support International, about 20% of all new mothers will experience moderate to severe anxiety or depression during the perinatal period (during pregnancy through the first year of the child’s life).
The myth of mommy-hood
Sadly, most new parents don’t receive the help and support they need. It’s not because it isn’t out there. Unfortunately, perinatal mental health isn’t talked about a lot. The new parents experiencing these feelings often feel they need to “put on a happy face.” After all, it’s supposed to be such a joyful time. They are supposed to be in love with their babies. There is a myth that still exists in our culture of the “joyous and selfless mother,” that many of us have internalized.
Many new parents feel guilty for admitting to themselves, let alone others, that they’re feeling overwhelmed, sad, irritable, frustrated with their babies, scared to death of being inadequate as a parent, etc. This only leads to feelings of isolation and shame. Most depressed moms don’t even realize that what they’re feeling is depression; they feel that they are failing. This, of course, only makes the situation worse.
All of this is to say if you are experiencing any of these feelings:
You are not alone.
Postpartum depression can make you feel isolated. You may feel like you are defective or a bad parent. This is not true. You are not a failure.
There is help and support.
There is help and support available to you. Seeking help is more than ok – you must receive support during such a challenging and stressful season of life. It’s unrealistic to expect yourself to be able to just suck it up and deal with all of it on your own.
For more information regarding information and support for perinatal mental health, I encourage you to check out the following websites:
Lastly, if you need more personalized, face-to-face, professional support in navigating the challenges of new parenthood, it may be a wise idea to start seeing a therapist who treats perinatal mental health issues. Yes, it can be a scary step to take, but it could make all the difference in the quality of your experience as a new parent.
If you’d like help through this challenging season of your life and would like to feel better and less alone, click here to schedule an appointment. We’d love to help.