Scenario 1: Becky, overjoyed at the prospect of motherhood during her pregnancy, now feels only sadness as she cradles her newborn in her arms.
Scenario 2: Lucy was so sure she would be a good mother. Now all she feels is helplessly overwhelmed whenever her baby cries for her.
Scenario 3: Sherry knew motherhood would bring its challenges, but she had no idea she would have irrational feelings of alienation, restlessness, and even anger about her infant.
What could cause a well-intentioned, loving mother to have such feelings?
Two scary words for a new mother. What is it? How do you know if you have it? And what can you do about it?
Here are five things every new mom should know about this not so uncommon condition that can happen to anyone.
- Postpartum depression is normal. It happens more often than you think, and more often than is reported. New mothers experiencing this may feel like an emotional roller coaster. Happy one day, depressed the next, with mixed or unsettling feelings–sometimes negative–about their babies. It’s not easy to admit these feelings, and most moms are reluctant to acknowledge or disclose them. It’s not just “the baby blues”. The baby blues last only a few weeks and are mild compared to the intense, overwhelming feelings brought to you by postpartum depression. About ten percent of new mothers report having these symptoms.
- Its origins are hormonal, and manifest in biological, emotional ways: Childbirth brings about a surge in hormones, which can influence your emotions. (Think PMS in overdrive!) You may have wild mood swings–the blues, crying, irritability, fear, fatigue, anxiety, aches and pains, restlessness, insomnia, oversleeping, melancholy, irrational thoughts of harming the baby–that may not go away on their own and need the attention of a professional.
- You’re not alone: Some mothers suffer silently. You think you must be bad mothers for feeling so blue when you’re supposed to feel so good. Know that there are other mothers who go through the same thing. Reaching out will help you chip away at the stigma that surrounds postpartum depression.
- Help is available: You really can do something about the symptoms. See a doctor. He or she may recommend medication, counseling, or a support group. Left undiagnosed and untreated, uncontrollable rage could place your baby at risk for neglect or physical abuse, and no one wants that.
- It doesn’t mean you hate your baby: It means your emotions are being influenced by your hormones, and that your bodies and minds are crying out for help. Seeking services is the best way to love your child.
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