Think back to that moment when you first found out you were expecting! Maybe you just had "that feeling", had been trying for years, or perhaps this baby came as a complete surprise and you took 18 different pregnancy tests just to be sure (trust me Dollar store pregnancy tests are perfect for this lol). You then spend months decorating the nursery, picking out the latest in baby fashion and accessories, read all the right books, enroll in the best childbirth classes, interview different OB’s or midwives until your find your favorite, pick out the perfect baby name and then suddenly you're home from the hospital, have this adorable little human and you're alone and it’s that “oh crap” moment, “now what???” Maybe it's that feeling of I have this adorable cute little human but I'm not bonding with by baby, or I've had a traumatic birth, the sleepless nights are kicking in, the baby blues have hit and you might as well feel as though you have hit a brick wall. I just want to say it's going to be okay. I write this not as a Doctor or clinical therapist but as a Mom who has been there and struggled and as a Doula who loves supporting her postpartum clients and hopefully can share some things that can help in those early few weeks after having a baby!
Communicate Postpartum Expectations
One of the most important things in my opinion is communicating your postpartum expectations with your Spouse/Partner and other close Family and Friends! During pregnancy (not when the sleep deprivation and postpartum nerves are running high) is the time to talk about your vision for the postpartum time! Do you envision this time filled with family and friends or do you desire quiet and only a couple close connections. Are you expecting your spouse to be able to take off a set amount of time off from work or are they needed back soon after delivery. Do you envision breastfeeding or formula feeding? How do see yourself being supported both physically and emotionally? What are your expectations for household chores, meals and care for other children? Take some time to have you and your spouse each write down your own list of postpartum expectations. Now share them and work through any differences, striving to have unity. Doing this in advance will save you a lot of headache and frustration later on.
Setup Your Emotional & Physical Support System
Now that you and your partner are on the same page about expectations talk about your support system. Do you have friends or family willing to help with meals and keeping the house clean or do you plan to hire support? Most of the time friends and family are more than willing to help, but we Mom's like to be superhero's and don't want the vulnerability of asking for help! Believe me I was there! With the birth of my first friends had asked my husband if we wanted meals after the birth of our baby and my husband misunderstood what I wanted and told our friends we didn't want any help! This couldn't have been further from the truth and I am so grateful for the couple friends who looked past this and brought meals anyway! (Another reason to clearly communicate your postpartum expectations with your spouse or partner).
Baby Blues VS Postpartum Depression & Anxiety
The final thing is understanding the difference between baby blues vs postpartum depression & anxiety. If it's any consolation, baby blues affects approximately 70- 80 percent of all women. “Feelings of unexplained sadness and lethargy are quite normal, especially during the early weeks. That's because levels of estrogen and progesterone drop”, says Psychologist and Clinical Director Dr. Margaret Howard. She continues "At the same time, there is a rapid increase in the levels of prolactin, which enables milk production. Until these hormones balance out, new moms can expect to feel down from time to time." In addition to hormones trying to balance out, you're not thinking well from the lack of sleep, you are periodically stressed, plus balancing other kids with new baby bonding...the list goes on and on! The good news is: it's just the baby blues! You can expect to be feeling much better within a few weeks.
In contrast postpartum depression & anxiety affects 11-20 percent of women, is more extreme and persists beyond a couple of weeks after delivery. Warning signs include: feeling detached from baby, not enjoying the things that normally bring you joy, feelings of self harm or harm to others and feelings of anger. This is the time to talk to your care provider about these feelings, seek treatment and begin feeling well!
Postpartum Tips, Tricks & Other Resources
1. Continue taking prenatal vitamins & omega supplements while breastfeeding. Look for quality Omega-3'S with DHA. Garden of Life, New Chapter, Nordic Naturals are all great choices!
2. Make sure you are getting an adequate amount of vitamin D ~ Most new research suggests consuming 4,000IU-6,000IU but talk to your provider for an exact amount needed. High levels of vitamin help have been shown to reduce postpartum depression
3. Sleep! I know we think we're superhuman sometimes but our bodies really do need sleep and especially REM sleep the kind where we dream and our bodies repair our cells so we walk up refreshed and energized!
4. Connect with other Mom's! Facebook is great for finding support. Seek support from the Mom's who have been there before! And it's okay to vent and sympathize with each other too!
5. Exercise--talk a walk, get some sunshine, meditate, practice yoga, deep breathing, etc. Physical exercise releases endorphins (that happy hormone we all love). Some research has suggested that exercise both during pregnancy and continuing afterward reduces postpartum depression.
6. Make time to connect with your spouse/partner. Most likely they were pretty involved with the creation of this baby so be sure you don't leave them out!
7. Seek professional help if needed! It's always okay to seek help. When the feelings of depression persist or become more intense reach out to those professionals and begin healing.
Autumn Alyssa, CHD is a Birth and Postpartum Doula serving women and families from Bountiful to Provo in Davis, Salt Lake & Utah Counties