The Baby Blues

Postpartum DepressionPostpartum…What? It May Not be Depression, but Something’s Going On

Your new baby is beautiful, perfect. Motherhood is great. So why do you feel so out of sorts? Every new mom has been through it: the “baby blues.” Perhaps it’s not full-blown post-partum depression, but something’s definitely going on inside you. You’re tired, irritable, and have mood swings that rival a circus performer’s antics on the trapeze: one moment weepy, the next high-as-a-kite happy. What’s going on? Consider it a triple-threat experience.

First of all, there is the physical aspect: your body just went through a mind-boggling process. You managed to grow and expel a fully-functioning human being in a few months’ time, so you likely feel slightly fatigued, achy…that’s an understatement. Whether you’re breast feeding or not, your chest hurts; your nether regions probably feel like they’re on fire. Your body, mind and spirit are in turmoil.

Second, there’s the hormonal aspect. Pregnancy is a heady emotional time, due in part to the hormones flooding your body, allowing you to sustain the pregnancy. An excess of estrogen and progesterone can and will cause those mood swings. After birth, more hormones enter the picture, bringing in your milk, helping your body to recover from birth, “attaching” you to your baby. Consider your bloodstream a veritable hormone soup. That’s enough to make anyone alternate between giddy happiness, tearful explosions and angry outbursts. This must run its course naturally.

Third, your life will never be the same, and your mind has truly begun to comprehend that fact. If you’re a first-time mom, you’re suddenly cognizant of the concept that you’re responsible for that baby’s needs. ALL of them. A tiny human being depends upon you to raise it properly and turn it into a productive member of society…sheesh. You can never be truly carefree and spontaneous again, although you don’t have to give up everything you love in order to cater to your child’s whims. Still, this is a major transitional experience. It is the end of an era of your life, and the beginning of a new one, and it can be a scary time. If you’re already a mother, you’re realizing just how much more work you have given yourself with the addition of another child to your family. There are all kinds of stressors, from finances to personal fulfillment. It’s normal to feel out of sorts and down, as you come to grips with all the new thoughts and feelings careening around your head.
It’s perfectly normal to feel “out of it.” You have plenty of reasons to be a bit down, so don’t beat yourself up about it—all of us go through it in some way. However, if you find you’re feeling seriously depressed, physically ill, or have frightening thoughts of hurting yourself or someone else, get in touch with your doctor immediately. These things could mean you’ve crossed into formal post-partum depression or post-partum psychosis, both of which mean you’ll need some help from an outside source, such as a therapist, and perhaps medication to get those body and brain chemicals back in synch.

Otherwise, the baby blues will pass on their own with a bit of time. What’s the solution in the meantime? Be kind to yourself. Don’t feel bad about letting the dishes sit in the sink or the laundry in the basket for a while. Take a nap when you can. Shower. Put on some clean clothes and try to get out into the sunshine, which has been proven to help lift the mood. Enlist some help from your partner, a friend, a family member—there’s no shame in asking for or receiving a hand. Be honest about your thoughts and feelings, so you can deal with them in a healthy fashion. And most of all, enjoy your new baby, and be proud of yourself. You’ve accomplished something wonderful and important, and you have a right to feel good about that.

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