Handle New Moms with CareBecoming a mother is the biggest life change a woman can experience, and for many women the transition can be accompanied by postpartum adjustment and mood disorders. A bit of baby blues, exhaustion, and overwhelming feelings are to be expected. But when anxiety increases or feelings worsen and extend beyond the first few weeks after birth, it could be a sign of postpartum depression.
Know the symptoms“Baby blues are caused by a shift in hormones in the first few weeks after giving birth. With baby blues, symptoms like weepiness and anxiety come and go,” explains Virtua licensed clinical social worker and certified child-life specialist, Alice Jannini, LCSW, CCLS. The baby blues gradually go away as hormones level off.
“Postpartum adjustment and mood disorders are more serious in how they affect the way women feel about themselves and their ability to function. Women describe the feeling as ‘this isn’t me and the way I want to be.’ Anxiety and depression affect their daily functioning and activities,” says Jannini. Symptoms include:
- Difficulty sleeping
- Mood shifts
- Difficulty concentrating and focusing
- Obsessive-compulsive symptoms
- Anxiety (including panic attacks)
- Thoughts of harming yourself or your baby
Risk factorsJannini explains that along with the hormonal changes linked to pregnancy and birth, postpartum depression risk factors include:
- A history of anxiety and depression
- Stressful life events such as a loss or trauma
- Lack of social support
- Problems with pregnancy, the birth, or with the baby after birth
Bonding with babyThe process of bonding with a new baby can be complicated for women experiencing postpartum adjustment or mood disorders. When women start to feel concerned about feeling tired and overwhelmed, this can translate into feeling that they’re not bonding with their babies.
“In the beginning there’s the adjustment of getting to know your baby and defining yourself as a mom. Sometimes, women feel like they’re bonding with their babies, and other times, they just feel tired and overwhelmed by it all,” says Jannini. “This is an important time to support new moms who are experiencing postpartum adjustment symptoms, and help them manage feelings and expectations about bonding.”
RecoveryWhen a woman doesn’t seek or get the proper care, recovery from postpartum adjustment can extend beyond her baby’s first year of life.
“Recovery is a unique process for each woman,” says Jannini. “It’s important for women not to be isolated, but rather assemble a system of support with help of family, friends and professionals,” says Jannini, who holds group meetings at Virtua for new mothers experiencing postpartum adjustment. “I believe that coming to a postpartum adjustment support group, or even a mommy and me or breastfeeding support group, is helpful for women because these groups provide a safe place for women to share feelings and realize that they’re not alone in the way they’re feeling. Coming to these groups also helps new moms form relationships with other moms who are experiencing similar feelings,” she adds.
Jannini also recommends individual therapy to women so that they have their own time to respond to the unique symptoms and difficulties they’re experiencing. And she stresses the importance of nutrition and exercise in recovery as well.
Getting help“At Virtua, screening for postpartum adjustment and mood disorders takes place in the hospital and at follow-up visits with the OB/GYN,” says Jannini. “At these appointments, a woman should feel safe to share the way that she’s feeling with her doctor so she can get the help and support she needs to recover.”
If you’re a new mom experiencing postpartum symptoms, don’t keep those feelings to yourself and, most importantly, remember you’re not alone. You can call Virtua’s postpartum depression telephone support at 1-866-380-2229 to speak to a professional who can help.
Updated June 6, 2016