One of the first things you may feel following labor and delivery is energy and excitement! Your birth experience will keep running through your mind. You tell everyone all about it. You examine every detail of your baby. You call everyone you know. You will be both elated and exhausted! This mix of emotions is very common and is in part, due to hormone changes, pain, fatigue, your childbirth experience and the support you have. These emotions, although strong and complex, are very normal.
During the first few weeks, you may experience feelings of being overwhelmed by being a mother that also could include feelings of stress, fatigue and anxiety. These feelings are often called the “Baby Blues.”
Researchers suspect that rapid shifts in the hormones estrogen, progesterone and thyroid and their relationship with the brain’s neurotransmitters are the basis for the baby blues. Combined with the fatigue and stress of new motherhood, this adjustment period may be difficult.
Beating the Baby Blues
Give yourself time to adjust. Taking good physical care of yourself is important. Eating a well balanced diet and getting some exercise does help your well being. It may help to talk to friends and family who have experienced the same feelings. Having someone with whom you can be open and honest will help to keep your feelings in perspective. As your hormone levels stabilize, and you become more secure in your abilities, you will settle into a new routine and these feelings will fade.
For a very few women, the baby blues are more intense and constant, lasting well beyond the first few post partum weeks. These prolonged feelings may be symptoms of post partum depression. If you have these intense feelings that seem to go beyond the baby blues, take them seriously. Call your health care provider for further evaluation.
Symptoms of post partum depression
How do you know if you might have post partum depression?
The common symptoms include:
- A persistent sad, anxious, or "empty" mood
- A loss of interest or pleasure in activities, including sex
- Restlessness, irritability, or excessive crying
- Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, helplessness, hopelessness, pessimism
- Sleeping too much or too little, early-morning awakening
- Appetite and/or weight loss, or overeating and weight gain
- Decreased energy, fatigue, feeling "slowed down"
- Difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions
- Persistent physical symptoms that do not respond to treatment, such as headaches, digestive disorders, and chronic pain
- Thoughts of death or suicide, or suicide attempts
If you feel like you may have post partum depression, there is help. Talk with your clinician about how you’re feeling.
Treatments for post partum depression
The most commonly used treatments for depression are counseling, medication, and sometimes a combination of the two. In mild or moderate depression, one or both of these treatment options may be useful, while in severe or incapacitating depression, medication generally is recommended as the first step of treatment. In combined treatment, medication can relieve physical symptoms quickly, while psychotherapy allows the opportunity to learn more effective ways of handling problems.