The joy of bringing home a new baby can be one of the happiest moments in a new parent’s life. Bringing home a new baby requires so many adjustments to our regular routines and daily life, and it’s not uncommon for new parents to feel overwhelmed and lost on what to do next. In addition to adjusting to a new way of life, an alarming one in seven people is affected by symptoms of postpartum depression after the birth of a new baby. Living with postpartum depression can make even the simplest tasks seem daunting, and in severe cases, can impact a person’s ability to care for themselves and their new baby.
Postpartum depression, sometimes called the “baby blues,” is caused by sudden changes in hormone levels that occur after childbirth. Severe drops in estrogen and progesterone levels in conjunction with changes in certain thyroid hormone levels can result in postpartum symptoms like anxiety, fatigue, irritability, trouble sleeping, and a hard time focusing.
Living With Postpartum Depression – Understanding the Causes
In a recent study conducted by Johns Hopkins University, researchers identified that persons living with postpartum depression symptoms were also found to have lower levels of the hormone allopregnanolone, a hormone known for its anti-anxiety effects. This hormone, a metabolite of progesterone, is impacted after a new baby is born when progesterone levels decrease. These decreased levels of progesterone and allopregnanolone can cause postpartum depression symptoms. While these symptoms commonly go away on their own soon after giving birth, in some cases, the symptoms can persist and even turn into postpartum psychosis.
However, not all postpartum depression symptoms are linked to these drops in pregnancy and thyroid hormones. A few factors that may have been occurring before giving birth may impact postpartum mental health. Some of these factors include:
- Exhaustion and physical fatigue due to giving birth
- Feeling overwhelmed about having a new baby
- Lack of confidence due to your body’s physical changes
- Stress from work and home environments and routines due to bringing a new baby into the family
- Feelings of loss of oneself or changes in daily routine
- Personal doubt about being a parent
- Lack of personal or free time
Postpartum Depression from National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
Combatting the Baby Blues – Self Care
It’s most important to note that if you, or someone you know, are living with postpartum depression, you are not alone. After giving birth, these changes in our mental and physical state can leave us feeling lost, incapable, and inadequate. While it is common for all new parents to feel overwhelmed in the days immediately following bringing a new baby into the world, these symptoms should pass within the first 3-5 days after giving birth. If symptoms persist past the 5-day mark, it’s important to reach out for help.
Speak to a medical professional if your symptoms persist after more than a week. Symptoms to pay attention to include:
- Feelings of self-doubt persist
- Symptoms of depression get more intense
- You are having trouble caring for yourself or your newborn
- You feel a lack of motivation or interest in things you found joy in
- Thoughts of self-harm or harm towards your baby or others
To combat the symptoms of postpartum depression, it is sometimes necessary to seek professional help, and that’s ok! While awaiting your appointment to speak to a medical professional, taking steps to care for yourself and your mental health can be pivotal to feeling better. Below are few things you can do to help alleviate some of the stress that bringing home a new baby can add to your life:
- Ask for help – Anyone experiencing a mental health crisis understands that this can be easier said than done. Asking for help caring for your baby or completing normal daily tasks can seem daunting and feel as though you’re failing. This is, of course, simply not true. Lean on your loved ones for help. Take them up on offers to watch your new little one while you run an errand or get some much-needed sleep.
- Get out of the house – The benefits of Vitamin D on mental health have been well documented, and in one of our blogs, we discuss how levels of direct sunlight can combat seasonal affective disorder. When you have a new baby at home, it can seem impossible to step outside for a breath of fresh air. If you don’t have someone to watch your new little one, bundle them up and take a stroll around the block.
- Get sleep when you can – It’s a slippery slope; a new baby means interrupted sleep patterns, but depression symptoms include erratic sleep behaviors. These two issues tend to compound and create more undue stress on your physical and mental health. The old saying “sleep when the baby sleeps” may seem helpful in nature, but any new parent knows it isn’t that simple. For many new parents, nap time for babies means catching up on chores and attempts to feel productive. Laying down for a nap during these times doesn’t make you lazy or unproductive, and let’s face it, a well-rested new parent is much healthier than one who tries to get everything done to the detriment of their mental state.
- Get support and talk about it – New parents know it’s hard asking for help, and in so many cases, it may make someone feel weak to reach out and discuss the challenges they’re facing. You aren’t weak, you aren’t alone, and it’s ok to ask for help. Seeking support through local mom groups, mental health advocacy groups, and relying on the support of your family and friends can help you navigate these challenging times.
- Give yourself time to adjust – With a new baby in the house, your life has had to change drastically to accommodate the needs of you and your new baby. Don’t try to take on that new kitchen renovation just yet, and keep your goals simple and attainable. Being able to ease yourself into this big lifestyle change will help you adjust more successfully and keep your mental health safe.
If you or someone you love is experiencing signs of depression or have overwhelming feelings of self-doubt, please don’t be afraid to reach out for support. There are many resources and support groups available to help you combat the feelings you are experiencing, and you are so important to so many people.
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