Welcoming a new baby can be a truly wonderful time in the life of a family. Everyone expects the parents to be happy, which is usually the case. But sometimes mothers (and fathers too) experience unexplainable sadness following the birth. Contributing factors are traumatic birth experiences and not feeling supported and cared for. It is interesting that where postnatal support is an important part of the birth culture, women experience far less PPD than we do in the US.
“Baby Blues” are pretty common. Symptoms may include insomnia;
a depressed mood, or a depressed mood rapidly changing to elation;
headaches; poor concentration; tearfulness; and confusion. These
symptoms sometimes begin the third day after childbirth, last one day
to two weeks, and disappear without treatment. A drop in hormones at
about 72 hours postpartum could very well be the cause. Some mothers
may feel disappointed over
the fact that they have flabby bellies,
feel tired, don’t yet fit into
pre-pregnancy clothes, or that
their labors didn’t go as planned.
It’s important to let moms talk it
through. Simply getting out can
do a world of good.
Postpartum Depression is a mental
disorder that is much more
serious than the “Baby Blues.” It
may begin about two weeks to
six months postpartum, and can
last for weeks or months and require
or both. Periods of excessive crying,
despondency, feelings of inadequacy, poor self image, and inability
to cope, insomnia, anorexia, and social withdrawal may all be signs.
Women take pains to conceal their depression. Treatment is important
because PPD can lead to destructive behavior and suicide.
Postpartum Psychosis is an illness that is less common, but occurs
in some mothers two to three weeks after the birth to as long as six to
twelve months after. It is a very dangerous illness because the mother
can be both suicidal and infanticidal. A woman loses her sense of reality.
Medication and hospitalization may be necessary, and a mother
should always be observed in her interactions with the baby when she’s
Sometimes it is a woman who appears all put together and like everything is perfect actually who is suffering inwardly. Women often do not even report their emotions to their doctor or midwife, afraid to be thought ungrateful, crazy, or a danger to their child. Families need to know that help is available. (See the website below.)
What can we do to support parents who have just had a baby? A few meals taken to the home is sometimes just not be enough. Does the mother need a listening ear as she debriefs about her birth? How about some light housekeeping and tending other children? Putting the mother in touch with the La Leche League* leader in your area can help nursing to get off to a good start. At the baby shower, a “meal angel” list can be passed around to give more guests opportunities to nurture the family. Someone can be in charge of calling and scheduling after the baby’s birth. Friends can then bring in a meal and offer other assistance and care. Be sure to ask specifically what you can do to help and make some suggestions of things you are willing to do.
Also important to note, while it is estimated that 10% of new mothers deal with PPD, 5% of fathers do also. This can contribute to a disconnection of a parent from their child and spouse during a very important time of bonding.
This is an excellent site and video we highly recommend. You may wish to bookmark it for future reference. : http://www.sloalpha.org/services/ppd.html
The above is adapted from Wise Childbearing, What You’ll Want to Know as You Make Your Birth Choices.
*La Leche League is a mother-to-mother breastfeeding organization that has helped many mothers world-wide to successfully overcome special circumstances with nursing. Problems with nursing can play a role in PPD.