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Why do I feel unhappy after having my baby?
It's very common to feel weepy and moody shortly after giving birth. Having a baby can be both exhilarating and exhausting. It can bring much joy, but it can also challenge you in ways you never expected.
You may feel exhausted, worried, unhappy, or trapped, and find yourself crying over things that usually wouldn't bother you. Your appetite may increase or decrease, and you may be unable to sleep. You also might be irritable, nervous, worried about being a good mother, or afraid that motherhood will never feel any different than it does right now.
Rest assured: All these feelings are normal. Up to 80 percent of new moms experience these "baby blues." The baby blues usually begin to lift within two weeks, but they don't always go away completely.
What causes the baby blues?
The baby blues can be triggered by physical changes, emotional factors, or both. After birth, your body changes rapidly. Your hormone levels drop, your breasts may become engorged as your milk comes in, and you will most likely be exhausted. These physical realities alone can be enough to bring on the blues.
Emotionally, you may be anxious about your baby's well-being, the transition to motherhood, or adjusting to your new routine. Your new responsibilities can feel overwhelming.
What can I do to feel better?
Rest and support from your family and friends can make a big difference in helping you feeling better.
Even though you're adjusting to the daunting new reality of having to meet a tiny human's every need, it's important not to neglect yourself in the process. This is easier said than done, of course, so don't be shy about asking for help. Sleep deprivation can make the baby blues worse, so make an effort to rest whenever you can. Even a 10-minute nap can help.
Also try to get some light exercise each day – a leisurely walk in the fresh air can do wonders for your mood. (If you had a c-section or still feel sore from your delivery, you may want to check with your healthcare provider first.)
Lean on the people who care about you. If you have a partner, share how you've been feeling and what you would find helpful. A trusted friend or relative can also offer a sympathetic ear as well as hands-on help with the baby or housework.
Other new moms can be another great source of comfort. See if your hospital or birth center hosts groups for new mothers, where you can find emotional support from women going through a similar experience. BabyCenter's community of moms can also help you through the challenging newborn period.
How can I tell if I have postpartum depression?
It's easy to confuse the baby blues with postpartum depression (PPD) because they have symptoms in common. But while the baby blues ease with time, PPD is more intense, persists, and should be treated as early as possible. Take our postpartum depression quiz to see if you have signs of depression.
If you're in the first couple postpartum weeks, expect some emotional upheaval. But if you continue to feel this way for longer than two weeks after giving birth, call your provider. Call sooner if you also have severe anxiety or a personal or family history of depression.
If you have thoughts about harming yourself or your baby, seek professional help immediately.
When someone you know has the baby blues
Partners, friends, and relatives: The best thing you can do is reassure the new mother that it's okay to feel this way and that many women feel this way after giving birth. She's probably exhausted and unsure of herself, and if it's her first child, she's never done this before. No wonder she feels overwhelmed!
Just be there to listen, help out, and offer emotional support. Encourage her to cry if she needs to. Tell her she's doing a great job. Keep visitors to a minimum, and remind her that she doesn't have to send thank you cards right now.
Give her permission to take care of herself. Insist that she rest as much as possible, and volunteer to care for the baby while she naps. Help create a schedule and set priorities of the things that must be done versus things that can wait, and lend a hand with daily responsibilities, like doing the laundry or making dinner. Above all, let her know you're there for her and the baby, no matter what.