Emotional Wellness: What Every New Mom Should Know

For most women, bringing a new baby home is a wonderful experience, but when you’re so focused on taking care of an infant, it’s easy to put your own emotional needs aside. Being familiar with various postpartum mood disorders can help you spot the signs that more self-care and medical attention may be needed.

Caring for a brand new human being—whether for your first child or fifth—is a major life change. Many women temporarily feel sad, tired and more worried, what’s known as the baby blues. But the feelings are mild and go away on their own within a week or two.

Postpartum depression includes extreme feelings of sadness, anxiety and exhaustion that can ultimately interfere with a mother’s ability to care for herself and her baby. New parents—both dads and moms can get it—may feel an inability to bond with their baby and take less interest in spending time with people and activities they used to enjoy. At its most serious, individuals have thoughts of harming themselves or their baby. PPD is believed to be caused by several factors, including the rapid drop in estrogen and progesterone that occurs after childbirth, along with sleep deprivation, and lack of support.

The most important things to know is that you are not alone—PPD is very common, occurring in 15% of births. It is not a sign of weakness or a reflection on your ability to parent—it is a health condition that requires treatment, usually with a combination of therapy and medication. With the right help, you’ll find improved health and wellbeing.

Weaning breastfeeding causes a drop in prolactin and oxytocin, the two “feel good” hormones that increase after birth. This sudden drop, along with the emotions associated with ending the bonding experience of nursing, can bring about sadness, and for some moms, even depression. Taking care of yourself by eating right and exercising and checking in with your doctor can help ease the transition.

Emotional wellness can have a big impact on your own health and your ability to keep your baby safe. Do seek medical help if you spot these symptoms, and also, don’t be afraid to ask for help caring for the baby from your partner, friends, and family. Their support will let you take time to sleep, relax, exercise, and do things you enjoy. It’s important to remember that the feelings you have are incredibly common and can be treated. However, if you are having suicidal thoughts or feel that you may harm your baby, call 911 for immediate assistance.

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