Bringing a new baby into the world causes a lot of changes in your life — regardless of whether you are a first-time parent or recently added to your brood. Daily routines of your past are shattered and now dictated by the needs of another person. The mundane and repetitive duties of changing diapers, cleaning bottles, and folding laundry go on without an end in sight. And the person staring back at you in the mirror may be as unfamiliar as a stranger. Your new normal can feel isolating, confusing, and lonely.
For many, the journey to becoming a parent begins as a birth mother, but it can also include fostering, adoption, fertility treatment, and surrogacy. While every family’s story is unique, most new parents share the challenge of prioritizing their own health and wellness while taking on the responsibility of caring for a child. Below, we explore common signs and symptoms of postpartum depression among birth mothers and folks who identify as the mom of an infant, and also offer mental wellness tips for all new parents.
If you are experiencing any mental health concerns after welcoming a new baby, help is available. Reach out to your primary care physician or a mental health resource to discuss next steps.
Remember: In order to be a loving parent, you also need to take care of yourself.
Why Do New Moms Feel Sad?
During the first weeks after a baby is born, it is easy to understand why a new mom might feel sad or lonely. There is no way you can truly anticipate how much having a baby will change your life, and it is okay if things don’t feel blissful.
While you are adjusting to life with an infant, some of the challenges you may experience are:
- An interrupted sleep schedule and/or sleep deprivation
- Feeling stressed out or worried about your baby’s health
- A lack of time for self-care, such as taking a shower or brushing your hair
- Taking on a major change in your identity
- Physical pain and hormonal changes after childbirth
The term “baby blues” is used to describe the period of time beginning shortly after birth when a mother may feel sad, anxious, irritable, or overwhelmed by the stress of raising a newborn.
These somber feelings may only last for a week or two after the birth of the baby. If they persist, or if they are preventing you from caring for yourself or your baby, it may be a sign of postpartum depression, postpartum anxiety, or a rare and severe condition called postpartum psychosis.
Common Signs of Postpartum Depression
After months of hoping and waiting for your baby to arrive, it can be very difficult for a new mom to grapple with feelings of depression. It is important to know there is no shame in voicing your feelings or asking for help at any time. In fact, guilt or fear of judgment can serve as barriers that prevent new parents from seeking help sooner.
Common signs and symptoms of postpartum depression (PPD) can include:
- Withdrawing from your spouse/partner or loved ones
- Difficulty bonding with your baby
- Insomnia or oversleeping
- Mood swings
- Changes in appetite
- Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, depression or anxiety
- Inability to care for yourself or your baby
Severe symptoms of distress, such as hallucinations, paranoia or intrusive thoughts of self-harm or suicide may indicate a more serious condition called postpartum psychosis. Seek immediate medical care if you believe you or a loved one are at-risk.
Connecting with a mental health resource can help you through the challenges and changes of adjusting to postpartum life. Talk to a loved one or health care professional if you are experiencing signs of postpartum depression, postpartum anxiety or another concern.
Mental Wellness Tips for New Parents:
1. Make time for social connection with other adults.
A FaceTime session with a friend or cup of coffee with a relative can fill the need for deep conversation or a good belly laugh. It can also be helpful to connect with other folks who are on a similar parenting journey to yours: through support groups, your adoption agency, a church or religious organization, or a childcare facility.
2. Practice self-care.
As much as possible, try to carve out time to do something for yourself. For example:
- Take a nap when the baby is napping.
- Make time to meditate or ease back into a gentle exercise routine.
- Pamper yourself with a bubble bath, a face mask, or a fresh coat of nail polish.
- Go for a mindful walk outside, when the weather allows.
- Give yourself permission to skip occasional household chores.
3. Bond with your baby.
Focus on activities you enjoy doing with your baby to help deepen your bond: whether that is cuddling, reading, pushing them in a stroller, or playing with toys.
If you are struggling to enjoy certain activities, such as breast or bottle feeding, talk to your primary care doctor to help identify possible solutions or new methods to try.
4. Ask for support from loved ones.
There is a lot of wisdom behind the old saying “It takes a village to raise a child.” Don’t be afraid to lean on family members, friends, and loved ones when you need help — even if you just need someone to watch the baby so you can take a shower.
5. Get help from a licensed professional.
Individual and family therapy can help parents cope with intense emotions associated with becoming a new parent. A clinician can also help determine if you might benefit from an antidepressant medication or hormone therapy.
Find Nonjudgmental Support for New Parents at Places for People
At Places for People in St. Louis, we are passionate about helping all kinds of families on their journey to find hope and healing: by navigating the experiences of childbirth, foster care, adoption, blended families, and LGBTQ+, and nonbinary parenting. The mental health professionals on our outpatient therapy team are trained to offer compassionate, evidence-based treatment in a safe environment. Places for People also offers flexible payment options and a sliding fee scale to ensure help is available to folks who are in need.
To speak directly and confidentially with a member of our treatment team, please call Places for People at (314) 615-9105 Extension 402.
If you or a loved one are in crisis and need after-hours support, please call 1 (800) 811-4760 for a 24-hour Crisis Support Hotline.
This article is provided for general informational purposes only and should not be considered a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment from a licensed health care professional. Always seek the advice of a licensed professional for any questions or concerns regarding your physical or mental health, or the health of a loved one.