From Conception to Birth! You made it! Your Baby is Finally Here!
Written by: Monica Martinez, LMFT
The introduction to motherhood can be a whirlwind of emotions. Excitement at finally meeting the newest member of the family, as well as sheer terror of having someone so completely dependent on you. During the chaos of first bringing home baby and recovering from birth brings a new set of challenges both mentally and physically. It is very common to feel overwhelmed by the experiences of labor, delivery, recovery and feeding schedules. Sometimes this time of adjustment isn’t always sweet moments or overwhelming sense of love, sometimes this adjustment can lead to PPD and PPA. It is important to recognize the signs of PPA and PPD and when to seek professional help:
Signs of Post-Partum Depression (PDD)
– Sadness, depressed mood, hopelessness (feeling of numbness, black hole, dread)
– Lack of joy/pleasure
– Persistent negative and critical statements (EX: I can’t do this, I’m the worst mother in the world, my baby is better off without me, general feelings of incompetence)
– Changes in weight (significant weight loss or gains)
– Inability to turn off mind /overthinking
Signs of Post-Partum Anxiety (PPA)
– Persistent constant worrying, intrusive thoughts, that can be unwanted and out of character. (For example: unshakeable worry that baby might slide in the bath and drown, images of baby being hurt by others or even yourself, fear baby is not breathing etc.)
– Fearful of something bad happening
– Racing thoughts (am I doing this right?, is baby ok?, what if it doesn’t get better?)
– Disturbances in sleep
– Inability to sit still (restlessness)
– Physical symptoms such as hot flashes, dizziness, rapid heart rate and nausea
When we recognize these signs of PPD/PPA it can feel overwhelming and frightening. Remember these can be a normal and often a common response to the stress that the introduction of motherhood/parenthood can bring both physically and mentally.
Here are some safe coping skills to shift our attention and focus on: sit outside and focus on your senses, move your body (when cleared by doctor), talk it out, deep breathing, find humor, meditate, journal, and most importantly practicing self-compassion.
If you witness others experiences these PPD/A symptoms here are some strategies to help them cope: expressing validating statements (I’m here with you, I am here to support you), asking if there is anything you can do to help, simply listen (let them talk without judgement or interfering with unsolicited advice), asking if they want to talk about it). It is often difficult to witness our loved ones in pain. However, it is important to be mindful that in our efforts to ease their pain we do not mistakenly invalidate or minimize their experiences. The goal of supporting them means that we are present and providing constant reassurance that we are available. This presence and availability can mean the world to the one you love. As they too might have difficulty in understanding and expressing their needs or feelings and simply having your presence can soothe the loneliness and confusion experienced during this time.
If you are struggling or believe someone you love is struggling, please seek help.
Often times it can be most helpful to have a support person ready (partners, friends, family as well as professionals’ doctors, doulas and mental health professionals).
Help is here. This is treatable. You are not alone!
Written by Monica Martinez, LMFT Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, 98443