This week we wanted to talk about maternal mental health and what happens after giving birth. It can be a really emotional time: one moment you’re feeling overjoyed and full of love with your newborn baby, then all of a sudden you can’t stop crying. But what is going on?
WHAT ARE THE BABY BLUES?
You might have heard the expression ‘Baby Blues’ before and these are a real experience that affect around 80% of new mums. At Planet Mama we aim to normalise all aspects of pregnancy and motherhood and shed some light on these often taboo and neglected subjects. So if you are feeling blue and worried that you are not overjoyed at what you think ‘should’ be the happiest time ever, please know that you are not alone.
Your body has undergone an amazing transformation: your hormones go from an all time high before you give birth to an all time low directly afterwards. In fact oestrogen levels drop 100 fold within just three days after giving birth!
This dramatic drop in hormones, combined with the stress of birth and the new pressure of now being a mum and little to no sleep, can lead to the following feelings, grouped together as the baby blues.
They might manifest as:
- Feeling irrational or overwhelmed
- Tearful without knowing why
- Feeling irritable and moody
- Feeling low or anxious
They can start anywhere between 3 to 10 days after the birth of your baby and usually pass within 10-14 days.
Although unsettling, these feelings usually pass. The most effective treatment is support from your partner, family and friends. Never be afraid to ask for help and support from those closest to you.
However if these feelings last longer than 2 weeks, become more severe or include manic symptoms, definitely reach out to your healthcare provider or GP and let them know what’s going on. This might be a sign that something more serious is going on.
Postnatal depression can develop at any time during the first year after having a baby. Between 10% and 20% of women have depression and anxiety in pregnancy and after birth. PND is the most common perinatal mental health disorder women experience in the first year after having a baby.
There are many signs that someone may be struggling with postnatal depression. Some of the more common ones include:
- having a very low mood
- feeling inadequate and a failure as a mother
- having a sense of hopelessness about the future
- feeling exhausted, empty, sad and teary
- feeling guilty, ashamed or worthless
- feeling anxious or panicky
- having trouble sleeping, sleeping for too long or having nightmares
- worrying excessively about their baby
- feeling scared of being alone or going out
But please seek help if you’re experiencing any of the above. PND is an illness and help is there for you.
These emotions can be really isolating and can be coupled with fears of being a bad mum and a fear that your baby might be taken away. But these emotions are a chemical feeling triggered by the change and stress your body has and is experiencing. Like with any depression, there are treatments that can help you. The best thing to do is to keep talking and chat to a professional.
In some rare instances new mums can develop Postpartum Psychosis. It’s serious and can be life threatening, so should be treated as a medical emergency. For the small number of women who experience this, it usually occurs in the first three months after birth, and usually within two weeks of birth.
Early symptoms can include feeling excited, elated or high. Not being able to sleep or in fact not needing to sleep. It can evolve into mania, loss of inhibitions, delusions and hallucinations, or severe depression and suicidal thoughts.
Postpartum psychosis should be treated as a medical emergency so call 111 or 999 if there is imminent danger. However it is important to add that in these rare instances, it’s unlikely that the woman herself will recognise the symptoms, so it’s mostly up to partners, friends and family to get help for her.
LET’S END THE STIGMA AROUND MOTHERS AND MENTAL HEALTH
I wanted to conclude today by talking about the stigma surrounding mental health and motherhood. Sadly, 30% of new mums don’t talk to a professional when they’re experiencing these symptoms. This means SO many new mums are suffering in silence.
By speaking out we’ll start to break down the stigma surrounding mental health in motherhood. Postpartum depression and postpartum psychosis are medical conditions which require medical help.
However there is a normal amount of anxiety and negative thoughts that one will feel as a new mum. Through reaching out to others and talking about the more serious conditions it paves a way for a discussion around what is normal. Having bad thoughts does not make you a bad mother!
There are two great resources that I have recently been introduced to which aim to normalise the emotions that new mums feel.
- POSTPARTUM STRESS BLOG: They started a wonderful campaign called #speakthesecret. The aim is to obliterate the stigma attached to scary thoughts which are so common in new motherhood. Lots of mums have contributed to a list, disclosing their scary thoughts. Breaking down the stigma around these scary thoughts and new mum anxiety.
- Good Moms Have Scary Thoughts Is a great compilation of scary thoughts that mums have too.
Please do get in touch firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions if you need some support during or after your pregnancy journey.
Lettie, Founder of Planet Mama x