Sweaty Mommy Survival Guide Tip #9 - The Baby Blues: 3 Things to Know About Feeling Down Postpartum
After giving birth, it can feel like your world flipped upside down. An emotional rollercoaster only begins to describe the highs and lows. Most women experience a flood of different emotions after having a baby, but there can be variety in the how intensely these emotions are felt. Here are some reasons we may feel down postpartum.
It's a biological thing. Your body just completed an amazing and intense transformation. After delivery, our body is going through more changes to adjust to postpartum life. Hormones kick into high gear to tell our body to produce milk, move our reproductive organs and other organ systems to move to a postpartum state, and adjust to the demands of having a baby to care for. These hormonal changes may impact our mood, which is why women sometimes feel their emotions are more intense during postpartum. The hormonal reset takes a few weeks to settle down.
It's a societal thing. All cultures have expectations of women as they become, or continue their journey as mothers. In the US context, there any many messages, some conflicting, about maternal roles and expectations. How we feed our babies, how we look, how fast we get back into shape, how we parent, how we multitask, how we present ourselves to the world...all expectations that even the strongest women may have trouble navigating. Feelings of pressure, confusion, and failure can send us into a tailspin, especially if you add in dealing with all of the hormonal changes.
Connecting with other postpartum moms can be one of the best ways to deal with this. Joining a new mom support group (even if this is not your first kid...you are a new Mom to your newborn), a breastfeeding support group, or a mommy and me fitness class (once you are cleared to workout!) can help with providing perspective and challenge the feelings of loneliness and isolation.
It’s an SOS thing. If the sadness is really intense, goes on for longer than 3-4 weeks after giving birth, or intense sadness begins at any point postpartum, it is a good idea to ask for professional help. Postpartum depression is not uncommon. According to the Center’s for Disease Control, 1 in 9 women experience postpartum depression.
Symptoms of depression include:
- Lasting sad, anxious, or “empty” mood.
- Feelings of hopelessness or pessimism.
- Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, or helplessness.
- Feelings of irritability or restlessness.
- Loss of interest in hobbies and activities.
- Loss of energy.
- Problems concentrating, recalling details, and making decisions.
- Difficulty falling asleep or sleeping too much.
- Overeating or loss of appetite.
- Thoughts of suicide or suicide attempts.
- Aches or pains that do not get better with treatment
Postpartum depression includes these above symptoms, along with the following:
- Crying more often than usual.
- Feelings of anger.
- Withdrawing from loved ones.
- Feeling numb or disconnected from your baby.
- Worrying that you will hurt the baby.
- Feeling guilty about not being a good mom or doubting your ability to care for the baby.
Mamas who have had additional stressors, birth complications, baby’s who have needed hospitalization, difficulty getting pregnant, loss of a child, low social support, or being mamas to multiples may be at high risk.
No matter what kind of emotions you have post-pregnancy, they deserve attention and you deserve support. Asking for help from your partner, friends, family, and members of your healthcare team will likely get on the road to helping you feel better, sooner.
While it does take time for hormones to settle down, there are a few things you can do to alleviate the baby blues:
- Sleep! Ask your partner, a friend our a parent to watch the baby for an hour or 2 while you catch some shut-eye. If a short nap can help rest and reset your body, is which may lift some of the fog.
- Get some fresh air. Going for a walk outside, or even taking a step outside the front door can help lift your mood. Baby cabin fever is real and a change of scenery can do wonders. Going for a walk, even with baby in the stroller, can help release endorphins and naturally increase mood.
- Do something that normally makes you smile. Watching your favorite movie, getting takeout from your favorite restaurant or buying a little something special may help you feel a bit better. Whatever allows you to focus on yourself for just a moment!
Staci Daniels-Sommers, MSW is a clinical social worker, Mom to a precious toddler boy, and assistant to Erin, Pump the Bump founder. She enjoys a “fitish” lifestyle and is training (slowly) for her first 10K.