I just had a baby and despite support from my husband and family, I feel completely overwhelmed. My doctor says these "baby blues" are normal. Are they?
Having a baby falls at the top of the list when it comes to major life stressors, and feeling completely overwhelmed after the birth of a baby is so very common. So rest assured that you are not alone in how you are feeling.
Many women will feel low, down, sad or tearful after the birth of a baby. Up to three quarters of women will experience these “baby blues” that typically last a few days to a few weeks. This is a very normal response to a significant life change which does resolve over time. This can feel highly confusing and upsetting to moms, though, as feeling low seems to be so at odds with the joy and happiness that one expects should be associated with having a baby.
The baby blues are attributable to a number of factors. First, there are significant hormonal changes that occur in the days following delivery (progesterone levels decrease significantly to allow milk production to begin). There is an adrenaline crash following birth. This, combined with sleep deprivation very understandably leads to changes in mood. In addition, the reality of having a baby and having full responsibility for another life can feel overwhelming and anxiety provoking.
But these are very normal feelings and they will resolve. Speak to your nurse, midwife or family doctor. Attend a parenting group where you can get the support of other new moms, or speak to a trusted friend or family member that already has had a child.
The majority of women will start to find their mood improves within a few days or weeks, as they start to get more sleep and as hormonal changes start to regulate.
About 10 per cent of women, however, will go on to develop post-partum depression, which refers to clinical levels of depression following the birth of a baby. If you are experiencing pervasive sadness or loss of interest in your usual activities for more than a month after your baby’s birth, more often than not, and this is also associated with changes in your appetite, recurrent crying episodes, and anxiety or irritability, seek help. Speak to a health professional such as your nurse, midwife, or family doctor. A referral to a psychologist or psychiatrist may help.
There are a number of risk factors that can increase the likelihood of post-partum depression: a family history of depression; your own previous history of depression; and lack of social supports.
If at any point you consider harming yourself or your baby, seek immediate help by calling 911.
Send psychologist Joti Samra your questions at firstname.lastname@example.org. She will answer select questions, which could appear in The Globe and Mail and/or on The Globe and Mail web site. Your name will not be published if your question is chosen.
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