Baby Blues & Postpartum Depression

This is a guest post written by Priscilla Gilbert, a Licensed Mental Health Counselor in Camas, WA. She specializes in supporting people through perinatal and postpartum distress, grief, anxiety, depression, life transitions, and identity enrichment. You can contact Priscilla by email priscilla@lacamascounseling.com, phone 360-975-0512, or through the website at https://lacamascounseling.com/counselors/priscilla-gilbert-lmhc/

Baby Blues is a common experience among 80% of moms and parents. There is a normal pattern of adjustment after the birth of the baby that includes times of sadness, tears, disrupted sleeping, and difficulty thinking and concentrating. Baby Blues symptoms will naturally subside after the first two weeks postpartum (after the birth of the baby). Many moms and dads experience a normal level of distress as they transition to caring for the life of a new baby in their house.

Postpartum Depression is also a common experience, affecting 15 to 20% of moms and 10% of dads. Postpartum depression is a reference to more significant levels of sadness and anxiety that disrupt normal aspects of functioning in work, home, and relationships. Symptoms can include: depression, tearfulness, anxiety, panic, fear, racing thoughts, difficulty concentrating, irritability, anger, inability to sleep, constant fatigue, noticeable changes in eating, intrusive memories and thoughts, obsessions, worry, compulsions and ritual behaviors, lethargy, apathy, lack of care or interest, thoughts of escaping or leaving, or thoughts of harm to yourself or others.

The symptoms can be distressing and alarming, especially when the parent already feels taxed from the pregnancy, birthing, and parenting process. Many moms and dads experiencing these unexpected symptoms feel shame or frustration; choosing to remain quiet for fear of being judged by family, friends, or medical professionals.

If the symptoms are left untreated then postpartum depression can continue for several years. However, the symptoms can be treated and relief is possible.

Immediate recommendations for someone experiencing distress is to contact their doctor and connect with a counselor; both of these professionals will create specific strategies for symptom relief.

Other supporting recommendations include: asking friends and family for help, hiring help, drinking lots of water, eating appropriate meals and snacks, exercising, connecting with supportive friends and family, participating in parent groups, practicing assertive communication, taking time outs for personal self-care, letting go of standards of perfection, laughter, doing any previous normal activity or routine, journaling, deep breathing, and personal reminders. Personal reminders include phrases like: I’m doing the best I can, this won’t last forever, everybody experiences difficult days, it’s ok that I don’t know, and I will feel like myself again.

The transition into parenting is an adjustment, and all adjustments (good and bad) come with stress in learning new skills and creating new routines. Amongst the new skills and routines and complicated decisions related to feeding, diapering, and sleeping, there is also a heightened amount of urgency to keep the baby alive.

Parents can prepare for the distress of postpartum depression by knowing their own predispositions. Predispositions include: sensitivity to hormonal changes in premenstrual cycle (PMS), any personal or

family history of postpartum depression, any personal or family history of mental illness, tendency towards perfectionism or excessive worry, limited social support, difficult marriage or partnership, a difficult pregnancy, or other significant stressful experiences like moving, death, illness, financial hardship, or job changes.

Some preparation is possible, and it’s also important to remember that we are all doing the best we can with what we know.

 

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