Q: [Adult] I’ve been really sad after giving birth to my daughter three weeks ago, and I cry all the time. Is this normal?
A: Having a baby can be one of the most joyous experiences a woman can go through; it can also be one of the most difficult. Having emotional highs and lows are very common in the postnatal time period and can be caused by many things, including hormonal fluctuations, fatigue, and adjusting to the demands of a newborn baby. Typically during this time, a mom may experience mild fatigue, irritability, sadness, low energy, and nervousness within the first 2-3 weeks postnatal, which is commonly referred to as the “Baby Blues.” However, if you are noticing that your moods are more severe and/or have lasted longer than 2-3 week postnatal period, you may be experiencing postpartum depression or anxiety.
Postpartum mood disorders are more common than you may think, are experienced by approximately 1 in 7 women, and can occur at any stage of the perinatal period (pregnancy through the first year postpartum). Many women do not disclose their struggle with anxiety or depression due to lack of knowledge, feeling of shame and guilt, or fear of judgment. While women suffer in silence, their attachment with their child and relationships with others are also suffering. It’s important to know the warning signs of postpartum depression and anxiety so that you can get the help you may need.
I know you’re worried and it feels scary. How you are feeling is treatable and you will feel better! Take special care of yourself right now. Listen to your body, trust your instincts, and do what’s best for you. For some moms this may mean focusing on getting more sleep, while for others it may be exercising or joining a local moms group to build connections with, and get support from, other moms. No matter what you do, don’t dismiss or ignore how you’re feeling. Talk about it! Whether that’s to family or friends, or seeking support from a trained professional, the goal is to feel better and there are lots of ways to do that.
Kris La Fave Smith, LMFT, is a Licensed Psychotherapist and owner of Mother Warrior Counseling. Her practice is dedicated to helping moms have easier access to treatment and raising awareness of maternal mental health. www.motherwarrior.com