Postpartum Mental Well-Being

Throughout your pregnancy and postpartum, you receive a lot of tips and advice on your physical well-being. What to eat and what not to, when to sleep, if you can use your day-to-day personal care products such as deodorants and shampoos, if you can wear heels, use the stairs and what not. But how many actually consider what you are going through emotionally?

Why does emotional well-being matter?

Having a baby is a big step in your life, physically and emotionally. In the course of pregnancy through postpartum, your body will undergo a lot of physical discomfort, your moods will fluctuate, you'll have to make a lot of changes to take care of a child. Physical discomforts leads to frustration and hormonal changes leads to mood swings. The responsibility of rearing a child and the lifestyle changes cause anxiety. Postpartum, the stress only increases. The attention and the care the mother received while carrying the baby is almost absent and everyone wants to care for the child. Say you are constantly suffering from a flu. You want to rest but you still got a lot to do. Passersby say "whats the big deal, it is just a cold". To add on, let's say you didn't have help and you have no option but to get things done. Will you be a cheerful person then? A much amplified version of this scenario is postpartum. Overnight you are expected to become the ideal mother.

The phase post delivery is the toughest. You are constantly bleeding(for about 4-6 weeks), deprived of sleep, your nipples hurt, none of your dress fits you like before, your body aches and you can’t find the right position to sleep, you have a lot of food restrictions and your baby is either always crying, pooping or suckling. All this has an impact on your mental well-being.

Baby blues

During pregnancy, your body goes through tremendous changes to accommodate the baby. Your bones expand, the uterus expands thereby pushing the organs to a corner, you gain weight, and your mammary glands are activated for milk production. The hormones are the main facilitator and they are their production changes from the time of your baby's conception till your are done with breastfeeding. All that surge of hormones causes major mood swings. There are three degrees of postpartum mood disorders. Baby blues are what you'll experience in 1-3 days post delivery. Symptoms are :

  • Weeping for no reason

  • Easily irritable

  • Sadness

  • Anxiety

  • Fatigue

  • Insomnia

  • Loneliness

  • Feeling insecure

Most of the new moms go through this and usually last for about 2-4 weeks. Not a lot needs to be done during this phase. Just spend more time with people who care and understand you. Feel free to express all the emotions you are going through. Some fresh air and a nutritional meal will help your hormones settle smoothly.

Postpartum Depression or PPD

This is the second degree of Postpartum mood disorders. About 60-80% of new moms experience PPD. Symptoms are

  • Insomnia or sleeping longer

  • Loss of appetite or binge eating

  • Feeling of worthlessness, Feeling sexually unattractive or unable to look at yourself in the mirror

  • Unable to make decisions

  • Heavy weeping

  • Anxiety

  • Feelings of Guilt and not being good enough for your child

  • Showing no or less interest in other activities

  • Loneliness

  • Feelings of regret of having a child

  • Unexplained body aches

  • Feeling no connection with the baby

  • Trouble focusing and memory problems

Any of these symptoms post 4 weeks of delivery is Postpartum Depression. There are two ways of treating this : medication or therapy. Join support groups for postpartum depression and share your feelings with other moms. Knowing someone else is also going through the same gives you closure that you aren’t battling this alone. Seek professional help for medication and refrain from using addictive substances such as alcohol which is a depressant.

Postpartum Psychosis

This degree of postpartum mood swings is rare and a serious condition. Symptoms are :

  • Suicidal thoughts

  • Thoughts of harming your baby

  • Withdrawn and lacks interest

  • Occurance of hallucinations and delusional thought

  • Feeling hysterical or manic

  • Loss of appetite, anxiety disorder, tearful and scared

These are signs that need immediate attention and medical treatment right away. Although this isn’t as common as the above two, women who have or had a history of mental illnesses are more prone to postpartum psychosis. Call your general physician who can direct you to a psychiatrist or the psychiatrist if you have been seeing one already.

Re-building Relationship with your Spouse

The period after your baby’s birth is the most vital part of your relationship with your spouse. Your spouse might not understand what you have and are going through. Even though you have taken most of the beating, they too are undergoing feelings that are new to them. Your spouse might have seen you writhe in pain and felt helpless in the labour room. They will not know what you need unless you talk to them. Educate your spouse on postpartum mental wellbeing and its importance. Your spouse would want to help you but most of the time you have to show them the way. This is the phase where you are more prone to fights so do not hesitate or feel ashamed to express how you feel. Communication is the key to turn this chaotic period into a harmonious one.

You are not alone

It is okay to feel dull, unmotivated and angry post delivery. Every new mom out there feels the same way. Even though many women out there have gone through the birthing process, YOU are still recovering from the mammothian task your body performed. Don’t generalise this herculean feat. Give yourself a pat and be proud of what you did. DO NOT COMPARE yourself with celebrity moms. As a matter of fact, do not compare yourself with any other mom. Your experiences are unique to you. Be around people who consider not only your physical well-being but your mental well-being as well. Take some time for yourself; go for a walk, cook your favourite meal, paint or read. Also don’t forget to connect with your baby. These are moments which you’ll cherish when you look back.

A little something for those who haven’t experienced childbirth, be kind to someone who is going through the process before judging their methods. Everyone is fighting their own battles.

Image credits : google and common_wild

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