What’s a mother to do when the afterglow of childbirth is anything but glowing? Social media, well-meaning friends, and family expectations can cloud your expectations around parenthood. When your initial exhaustion starts to normalize, you may be surprised at how you feel. Postpartum depression is one of the most common things new mothers experience, impacting millions of women worldwide each year.
Loss of appetite, insomnia, and feeling like you don’t connect with your baby are common symptoms to be aware of. Your body and mind have gone through a lot — pregnancy wreaks havoc on your hormones, physical state, and mental acuity.
If you suspect that the way you’re feeling may be postpartum depression, you should reach out to someone for help. Remember, you’re not alone: Many moms experience these feelings, and there’s no reason to suffer through them. Experts can help you navigate this season of life, and there are treatment options to help you feel your best.
1. Get an Assessment From a Professional
Suspecting that something is “off” is a good indicator that you should speak with someone about how you’re feeling. Exhaustion, moments of feeling overwhelmed, and worry are normal in early parenthood — to a degree. If your feelings are taking over, it may be time to speak to your doctor about how you’re doing.
Most mothers meet with their obstetrician at the six- or eight-week mark post-birth. At this appointment, an assessment is administered to identify potential symptoms of postpartum depression. Complete this assessment honestly, as your transparent responses can help you have a complete discussion with your provider.
It’s possible that your condition may require medication. If you prefer, you can seek mental health treatment online. Once you’ve got the baby down for a nap, look at options for care to help you through this period.
2. Call in a Support System
Suffering in silence may feel easier, but without an SOS, well-intentioned loved ones simply won’t know what you need. Every generation’s parenting experience is different, so what’s perceived as needed or wanted help will vary. Your needs are unique, and if you’re navigating postpartum depression, the way you experience parenthood will be more different still.
Send out the call for help to trusted family and friends with confidence, knowing that they want to assist you. Admitting you need support, especially when you think you should be able to do all the things, can be tough. Do your best to give yourself permission to request support when and how you need it.
Have someone watch the baby while you rest or meet with a therapist, knowing that they are in good hands. Letting someone else shoulder the load can give you much-needed time and reassurance during this season of life.
3. Prioritize Self-Care
The beauty industry may have brainwashed you into thinking that self-care is all face masks and beauty routines. In reality, the act of self-care is simply that: caring for yourself. The “how” of self-care is entirely up to you, so spend some time considering what your ideal would be. Generally, the feelings achieved by preserving time for yourself can help you function at your best.
As you’re managing postpartum depression, setting aside time to relax and recharge is imperative. Reserve time each day to pursue self-care alongside your more traditional PPD treatment. Medication may help regulate your feelings on a chemical level, but leading a life that fills you up is a necessary complement.
You can’t be the mom you want to be when you’re down to empty, so protect your time so you can refill your cup. A walk, reading a chapter of a book, or a quiet bath may be all that you need to recenter and recharge. Leverage the support of your parenting team — your partner, family, and care providers — to protect this time in your day.
4. Manage Your Diagnosis Long-Term
Postpartum depression may be associated with recent birth, but mothers diagnosed with it can be more susceptible to depression’s recurrence. While this season of life is intense and deserves focused, intentional treatment, managing your mental health for life is essential.
The early months of motherhood are like a tornado in a small town — some foreshadowing, but little projection of intensity. As your child gets older and you get into a groove, some things will come easier. However, each new milestone brings its own set of stressors and challenges, so continuing to monitor your mental health is important.
Identify a long-term treatment plan with your provider that considers counseling, medication, and self-directed efforts. Aim to understand what situations pose the greatest challenge for you and communicate your needs with your partner. Use tools, experts, and your support system to navigate postpartum depression, knowing that your well-being and your baby’s are paramount.
Get the Support You, and Your Baby, Deserve
Motherhood is arguably one of the most over-glorified and under-supported roles available. Given that society has work to do in appropriately recognizing care work, it’s imperative that you advocate for your needs.
During pregnancy, your role as an expectant mother was revered. Now it can be easy for your needs to fade into the background. Instead, reframe your thinking to view your health and well-being as the foundation of your baby’s.
A healthy, happy, and supported mom can translate into a more loving, confident, and thriving child. So acknowledge your needs and seek treatment through both traditional and self-directed methods. Share your concerns with your partner and a trusted healthcare provider. With their support and a treatment plan, you can enjoy early motherhood, even amidst the sleepless nights and laundry piles.