The birth of a child is often a celebrated event. However, this event is followed by an adjustment period for all members of the family, but most especially the new mother. It is common for her to experience a large range of emotions such as happiness, joy, feeling overwhelmed, or even sadness. Feelings of sadness are popularly referred to as the baby blues, which are characterized by symptoms such as crying, worrying, anxiety, and mood swings.
Please note that these feelings are normal following childbirth. According to the Texas Children’s Hospital and Pavilion for Women’s Department of Psychiatry, 80% of women develop feelings of sadness in the days, or weeks, following childbirth. So, when do the blues become something to take more seriously?
It is recommended that women who experience feelings of sadness that persists longer than two weeks, seek help from family members and/or a professional. The extended period could indicate the presence of Postpartum Depression (PPD) or Perinatal Depression. Also, 10 to 20% of new mothers may exhibit symptoms that indicate PPD.
Barriers to Getting Help
In addition, new mothers who are unable to seek help for themselves need advocacy. Many factors affect the rate at which help is sought after. These factors are generally referred to as ‘barriers to care.’ According to the Texas Children’s Hospital/Baylor College of Medicine’s Department of Pediatrics, the main barriers are the following:
- Fear of the mental health stigma
- Lack of awareness and education on PPD
- Mismatched or limited treatment options
- Treatment accessibility issues
- Lack of familial or provider support
What can YOU do to help?
To conclude, the best intervention starts with becoming a nonjudgmental and empathizing advocate if you find yourself interacting with a new mother with these symptoms. Your role and support could make a world of difference.
The following are common symptoms associated with Postpartum Depression and Postpartum Anxiety:
|Postpartum Depression (PPD)||Postpartum Anxiety (PPA)|
|▪ Sadness||▪ Inability to relax|
|▪ Short temper||▪ Constant sense of worry or dread|
|▪ Crying||▪ Sleep disturbance|
|▪ Sleep disturbance||▪ Change in appetite|
|▪ Feeling more tired than usual||▪ Difficulty sitting still|
|▪ Change in appetite||▪ Dizziness|
|▪ Thoughts about death||▪ Nausea|
|▪ Persistent, intrusive thoughts|
|▪ Compulsive, repetitive behaviors to feel better|
(source: Mental Health America of Greater Houston, Texas Children’s Hospital and Pavilion for Women- Department of Psychiatry)
For questions relevant to maternal mental health topics, please contact the Amy Wine Counseling Center at (832) 421-8714.