After giving birth, it’s normal for the focus to be on your baby getting the care it needs with appointments and regular checkups. What’s not so common is making sure that mothers get the mental health care they need postpartum. After childbirth, it’s completely normal to experience emotions that are extremely difficult to manage on top of taking care of your new family. More recently, the American College of Gynecologists has put greater importance on postpartum mental health care for new mothers, so here’s what to know about getting the help you need.
It’s perfectly common to experience what’s called the “baby blues” in the first few days after childbirth. This usually subsides on its own after a couple weeks and it’s often attributed to the sudden change in hormones that women experience as their body adjusts to a postpartum state. Postpartum depression, or PPD, comes about in the first few weeks after childbirth. This can be a more long-term mental health concern.
Postpartum depression has similar symptoms to the baby blues, but it can manifest later in your postpartum stage and also last longer. The most common symptoms of PPD are a lack of motivation and excitement about your baby, problems bonding or completing tasks, inability to sleep when your baby does, and even trouble caring for yourself or your baby. Postpartum depression affects about 10% of postpartum women.
It can be difficult to diagnose postpartum depression since it is common for new mothers to feel like these symptoms are normal or that they should simply push through them. The mother’s family members will be very important and must watch for any signs that the mother is not coping well. The family members should contact a physician if any concerns arise. The American College of Gynecologists recommends screenings during pregnancy, at six weeks postpartum, and as needed if you show symptoms or have a history of anxiety or depression.
It’s important to remember that the stigma around asking for help if you’re struggling with your new baby is just that— stigma! The best way to cope with your symptoms and improve your mental wellbeing is by making sure to be honest with yourself and your maternal fetal medicine specialist who can help. New parents often already have trouble sleeping, eating, exercising, and taking care of their emotional health, which leads many people to think the symptoms of PPD are part of the package. This isn’t the case! Your postpartum team can help you manage your symptoms and get the treatment you need so you can take care of yourself and your new baby.
Maternal Fetal Medicine blogs are intended for educational purposes only and do not replace certified professional care. Medical conditions vary and change frequently. Please ask your doctor any questions you may have regarding your condition to receive a proper diagnosis or risk analysis. Thank you!