You just gave birth to your beautiful baby, and, instead of being thrilled as you expected, you’re crying, irritable and feeling sad. Add to that tiredness, anxiety, anger and mood swings and there you go: you have the baby blues.
The thing is that unfortunately most mothers keep these feelings to themselves. Therefore, you might have the impression that none of your friends who’ve had babies have experienced what you’re going through, which in turn reinforces your feelings of guilt and isolation. However, you’re not alone. This form of post-partum depression is very common and hits the majority of moms, especially those who are mothers for the first time.
But don’t worry, here are a few tips to help you cope with the baby blues.
Why do women get the baby blues?
Although we still don’t know exactly what causes the baby blues, there are several explanations. First, the hormonal shift that occurs during pregnancy and again, after the birth, could provoke mood swings and depression. In fact, estrogen and progesterone drastically drop after childbirth.
Also, the fatigue following labor and delivery, the disturbed sleep, the new routine, the demands of the baby, difficulties breastfeeding as well as that feeling that your life won’t ever be the same again, can all affect your mood.
Add to that feelings of guilt or pressure to instantly bond with your baby, and perhaps fear that your relationship with your partner won’t be the same after childbirth. Maybe you also don’t feel happy with the way that you look.
However, luckily, these negative feelings should reduce in intensity and eventually disappear within two weeks of childbirth. By this time, you will have gradually adjusted to your new routine and finally gotten some rest.
What are the symptoms of the baby blues?
The baby blues is more common that we think, as it strikes 70 to 80% of women after the birth of their child. In general, the symptoms occur 4 to 5 days after the delivery, but some women start to feel mood swings a little earlier.
When it occurs, new mothers might experience unexpected crying, anger, frustration, restlessness, sadness, feelings of loneliness, mood swings, anxiety, sleep difficulties as well as general fatigue.
Depending on the individual, some will experience these symptoms for a few minutes each day, while others will endure them for a number of hours.
How to cope with the baby blues?
The best way to cope with the baby blues is to talk about your negative feelings to someone, whether this is your partner, your co-parent or your sister. Many women keep their feelings to themselves, which only increases the sense of isolation. Family, friends or your hired birth doula can take care of you and help you to recover. Say yes if someone offers you a hand, whether this is with the cooking, the ironing or tidying your house. This is important, so that you don’t go through this difficult time alone.
Paying attention to your diet could also help you cope. What you eat can have an effect on your mood. With this in mind, try to maintain a healthy and balanced diet. Don’t worry, you can treat yourself too, and yes, a little bit of chocolate (or cake) is fine, as long as it’s not too often!
Another way to feel better is to get your head out of the diapers and go outside. Being away from home for a while can do a world of good. Take your baby for a walk or go visit your friends, it’s up to you, but try to go out at least once a day. Getting some fresh air and enjoying a new environment for a while can wonderfully improve your mood.
Also, treat yourself. After all, you gave birth to a human being! Choose anything that could make you feel good, whether this is a nice dinner with your partner with candles and everything (at a restaurant or ordered in), a new purse (bought on the internet or at the mall), a massage (from your partner or a professional), or even just a long, hot shower.
Finally, don’t put too much pressure on yourself. Remember that it’s okay if things are not perfect. There is no such thing as perfect parenting, nor a perfect baby. You need some time to recover from childbirth, as well as time to learn your new role as a mom and adjust to your new tasks, for instance, breastfeeding.
You’ve been feeling depressed for more than two weeks? It might be more severe than the baby blues: talk to your practitioner!