Mental Health Guide For New Mothers

Representative Image (Photo courtesy: Reuters)

Representative Image (Photo courtesy: Reuters)

What does it feel like to have postpartum depression or postpartum anxiety?

Birth of a child can be exciting and joyous, as you finally get to meet the child who was growing inside you. However, following childbirth can be a stressful, no matter how much you look forward to it. Considering the new responsibility of being a mother added to the other social responsibility of being a woman, sleep deprivation, and lack of time for yourself, it is no surprise that many new moms feel like they are on an emotional rollercoaster. The baby blues are completely normal, this is a very crucial time for you and you need focus on how to regain your physical as well as mental health, and eventually everything will fall into place.

Here’s how to get back on the road to happy motherhood-

Baby blues are normal, but don’t neglect the symptoms of post-partum depression. You’ve just had a child. You were waiting to celebrate the arrival of your little one and bliss of motherhood, instead you feel like crying. You were all full of excitement and joy, but all you feel now is exhaustion, anxiety and weepiness. You may not have been expecting this, but anxiety, mood swings and mild depression are quite common among new mothers, they are commonly known as ‘baby blues’. Up to 80 percent of new mothers experience it.

The onset of baby blues usually occurs three to five days after the delivery and subside after your hormones begin to stabilize, they do not last for more than a week or two. However, the problem arises when you continue to experience the mood swings, insomnia or feelings of depression for more than two weeks after childbirth. Other symptoms of postpartum depression are-

1) You might find yourself withdrawing from your partner.

2) You are not able to bond well with your newborn.

3) You are not eating properly, there’s a loss of appetite.

4) You find your anxiety out of control, even when your baby is sleeping or eating properly, you are in constant fear about the child getting hurt so much that you are not able to sleep properly.

5) You might be overwhelmed with feelings of guilt or worthlessness. You may even find your existence meaningless and have thoughts about dying.

6) You should not ignore these symptoms and consult your medical practitioner as soon as possible.

Find a system where you can catch some sleep

Motherhood certainly add challenges for your sleep. Having a quality is sleep is very important for your mental health. Follow the golden rule, sleep when your child is sleeping. This may even mean prioritizing your sleep over daily chores for quite some time. Here are few ideas that can help you get better sleep:

1) Don’t spend a lot of time in bed not sleeping, get up to do some chores if you are not feeling sleepy. And try to avoid other activities such as watching TV on your bed.

2) If you have a partner or relative, ask him or her to take a shift to watch the baby. Or you can plan alternative nights, whatever suits both of you.

3) Sleep in a separate room from your baby for a night while your partner or relative is taking the shift to watch the baby.

4) If you are breastfeeding, ask someone to bring you the baby for a feed. If bottle feeding, you can ask someone to do one of the feeds.

5) Avoid caffeine.

6) Dim the lights at least half an hour before you want to sleep.

7) Do not worry about not sleeping as it will disrupt your sleep even more.

Have a self-care regime for exercise and other activities

We all know how important a healthy balanced diet and regular exercise is to maintain our physical healthy, but we easily forget that they are also important for our mental health and well-being. Self – care regime is an important step for managing anxiety, so prioritize yourself, do activities that soothes your body and mind, such as-

Making time for pleasurable activities, whatever you like to do.

1) Exercise. And by exercising it does not mean to hit the gym. Stay within your comfort zone and slowly increase your activity levels. Go for stroll with your baby or alone, do yoga, meditate, etc.

2) Do soothing activities such as massages, spa, or warm bath.

3) Eat well. Your health is just as important as your babies.

Being a new mom may add some extra challenges to eating well. Motherhood can be so consuming that you often forget to eat your meal on time or have sufficient amount of food. Not having enough food, not only lower your blood sugar levels making you more cranky and irritable, it also increases the anxiety level. Thus, the best thing for you is to eat small meals throughout the day. To ensure eating regularly, try scheduling your meals and snacks, rather than waiting to feel hungry.

You can also have on-the-go food items such as salad, fruits such as bananas or apples, wraps and shakes with some protein powder.

Keep communication channels open with your partner

Taking care of your newborn alone can become very hectic, this is the responsibility of both the parents. You can share your responsibility by dividing your tasks, such as your partner can share the night-time baby care or can bring the baby to you for breastfeeding or if you are bottle feeding, he/she can do one of the feed.

Dealing with body-image and relationship stress

Postpartum one of the biggest concern of new moms is to have their pre-pregnancy body back. However, as your body has undergone so many physical and hormonal changes it is not healthy for you to jump into a heavy exercise routine. Instead, start with 15-20 minutes brisk walks and slowly increase the exercises.

Moreover, having a baby can put strain on your relationship as well. There will be a drastic change as your world will revolve around your child and you’ll have less time for each other. Thus, it is important for you to take a break from parenting, ask your close relatives to babysit your child so that you can spend some time alone.

A woman has to live up to the expectation of everyone, she has to fulfill the role of a good mother, wife, daughter, colleague, boss, et cetera, et cetera. What’s worse is the guilt of not being able to live up to the expectation. A life of a woman is conditioned in such a way that her life should only revolve around her family and home. For working new-moms the task becomes even more difficult, as they have to manage their home and office at the same time, and not being able to afford full-time help can add up to the stress. You have to rely on your husband/partner and your families for support.

Understand one thing, you can’t please everyone and you don’t need to. Listen to friendly advice, accept what works and discard what doesn’t. Find your own way of doing things. If you have any problem, share it with your partner. Do not let things overwhelm you. Set your priorities and if your coworkers, friends or family is offering help, let them.

  • First Published: August 21, 2017, 20:12 IST
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