The transition to parenthood is referred to as a normal “life crisis.” Life will never be quite the same again!
You will redefine who you are (a mother or father), and you will find that you are expected to put your baby’s needs before your own. It sometimes feels as though caring for a totally dependent infant is a heavy burden. It is common to feel that life is over and all that’s left is feeding, changing and soothing an infant.
If you have other children at home, you may feel sad that they have to wait for attention and that you have less time for them, the baby, your husband or partner and yourself.
The depth of your feelings may be related in part to the enormous hormonal changes that occur after birth, or to fatigue and pain of incisions, swollen breasts or sore nipples. It also may be related to the support you have at home, your feelings about your childbirth experience and the individual needs of your baby.
What to Expect:
It is normal at first to feel exhilarated, even “wired,” and to have a difficult time resting or sleeping. You may find yourself reliving the birth experience.
Once you are at home, the enormity of the 24-hour a day responsibility of caring for a baby who knows nothing about day or night sets in. You may feel overwhelmed, not really knowing what it is that your baby needs, and find you are more irritable than usual or cry easily. These feelings are called the “Baby Blues.”
“Baby Blues” occur in 50 to 80 percent of new mothers. They usually start on the second or third day after birth and last no more than 10 days.
- Accept the help of those around you, for baby care, food preparation and housework.
- Nap when your baby naps to avoid fatigue.
Postpartum depression (PPD) occurs in about 10 percent of new mothers. PPD can occur anytime in the first year after birth. Women with PPD often feel inadequate, hopeless and unable to cope with everyday life. Other symptoms include:
- Having great fears about their baby’s health or their own.
- Headaches, chest pains, panic attacks, inability to sleep and loss of appetite (or overeating).
- Feeling irritable, anxious, not wanting to be with people or fear of being alone.
Women at risk for postpartum depression include those who have, or have had the following:
- History of previous depression
- Depression during pregnancy
- Anxiety during pregnancy
- Lack of social support
- Dissatisfaction with partner
- Life stress (recent loss, change)
- Child care stress
- Low self-esteem
- Fussy, irritable baby
- If these symptoms occur frequently enough to cause you to be unable to care for baby and/or yourself or last longer than a week, call your health care provider.
- If you have PPD, you can be helped to get well with medication and counseling. The most important step is to take your symptoms seriously and ask for help.
If you need help dealing with postpartum blues or depression, the following resources can help:
Postpartum Support Information
- Postpartum Support International (PSI)
Provides support information, book referrals and telephone numbers of local telephone support volunteers.
Address: Postpartum Support International
927 North Kellogg Avenue
Santa Barbara, CA 93111
Phone: (805) 967-7636
Web Site: www.Postpartum.net
- Connecticut Coordinator for PSI
The Coordinator for PSI can provide information on postpartum support groups and care providers available in the area.
Coordinator: Maureeen McBride
Phone: (203) 866-1998
- Mood Disorders Program at Hartford Hospital's Insititute of Living
The Mood Disorders Program is a unique consultation and treatment program where we can assess, evaluate, and treat people with a variety of treatment-resistant mood disorders including post-partum depression and premenstrual syndrome.
Phone: (860) 545-7015
Web Site: www.harthosp.org/InstituteOfLiving/MoodDisorders