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Depressed Unhappy African American Woman With Newborn

New Mom Feelings: Let’s Talk About It

Your new baby is a bundle of joy. So why are you in tears? New motherhood comes with plenty of challenges, and the emotional lows can be surprising. What women who’ve been there would say, if you asked them:

  • “It’s okay to not love every moment. Sometimes it’s hard, and you’re in survival mode.”
  • “There’s a lot of pressure to have the ideal pregnancy and delivery. Sometimes there are complications or things don’t go the way you envisioned. It’s okay to grieve that process and be disappointed.”
  • “There can be a lot of pressure around breastfeeding. It’s easy to take it personally if breastfeeding is hard or it doesn’t go well.”
  • “Social media makes being a new parent look easy. It’s hard not to feel jealous or not as good as other moms.

If you find yourself relating any of these feelings, know this: You are worthy. You are enough just as you are. Those unsettling emotions are natural and can happen to anyone, regardless of your education, economic status or level of support.

Don’t hesitate to talk to your provider if you’re struggling. We can determine whether you’re having the baby blues, which typically resolve after two weeks, more severe postpartum depression that can happen even a year after giving birth, or something in between.

Hormones Shift Postpartum

All new mothers go through physiologic changes that directly affect their emotions. There’s a large shift in hormones, which occurs right after birth. There can also be thyroid issues in addition to hormonal changes.

By six weeks after giving birth, you might feel more like yourself physically. But there’s often a disconnect between how you feel emotionally and how you feel physically. Hormones can take weeks to get back to normal. Put simply, you don’t snap back like a rubber band.

Emotional Spectrum

People associate sadness and depression with baby blues and postpartum depression, but you can experience a wide range of emotions and mood changes, including:

  • Overwhelm/sadness/depression
  • Heightened fears
  • Paralyzing thoughts
  • Obsessive compulsive tendencies
  • Scary thoughts about self and baby
  • Rage

We don’t always have an accurate sense of ourselves. We tell ourselves we’re doing okay, or we’ll feel better after a nap.

Signs that you should seek help include:

  • You don’t feel like yourself
  • You have more downs than ups
  • You have scary thoughts
  • Loved ones say you seem different

Treatment Options

If you’re struggling, I urge you to talk to your provider right away and keep those fourth trimester appointments at two and six weeks - even if you feel fine. It’s not unlike how airlines instruct you to put your oxygen mask on first in an emergency. Your ability to care for your little one improves if you take care of yourself.

Depending on the severity of your symptoms, you may benefit from seeing a counselor or therapist specially trained in postpartum depression. There’s also a variety of safe and effective medications.

Just knowing that these emotions are normal can make a difference. There’s a lot of shame around feeling anything but joy - and there shouldn’t be. As a physician and a mother, I want every mom to know they’re not alone - and there is help.

For more information, reach out to a CHI Health OB/GYN provider.

Sarah Schultz, MD
Sarah Schultz, MD

Sarah Schultz, MD is an OB/GYN provider at CHI Health.

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