Becoming a mom can be overwhelming
The journey through motherhood typically begins around conception and continues for the duration of the child's life. There are so many different seasons that you will experience and some can be easier to navigate than others. Like most "careers" the more exposure, training, support, and guidance you have, the more effective you will become in your role, and your confidence and resilience will improve along the way. Below, we will share some of the most common challenges for mothers and share appropriate interventions and how to find them in the event you begin to experience anything discussed in this article. We want you to understand that you are never alone, and there are a variety of options available to you, specifically for the postpartum period.
Some of the most difficult parts of motherhood happen within the first 24 months after giving birth also known as the postpartum period. While there is no "finite" end point to the postpartum period, the first 1-3 years is where you are exposed to the most challenges with very little guidance and support. This can be a vulnerable period for you and your family. You are trying to navigate your new role with minimal information, understand and learn about your new baby, and make decisions about things such as nursing, childcare, boundaries, all while trying to maintain a sense of self and possibly your marriage. You might be in a space wondering if you need professional help and we will outline a few ways for you to assess this below.
Challenges for Postpartum Mothers
Nursing / Breastfeeding - this can have a significant impact on your mental health regardless of choice. The psychological effects associated with nursing or breastfeeding (or not) along with the physical demands will impact you and your family. Things will vary based on your choice, and it is important to note that sometimes you may "want" to nurse and "can't" and vice versa. There is judgment associated with your choice which can lead to you isolating and keeping your feelings bottled up.
Sleep deprivation- impacts the entire family. If you are not getting adequate rest you will struggle trying to keep up with the physical demands of caring for yourself and your baby. Sleep is a protective factor when it comes to the onset of perinatal mood and anxiety disorders. The less sleep you are getting the more susceptible you can be to developing perinatal mood and anxiety disorders.
Anxiety- Having a generalized level of anxiety as a new parent is expected. Some anxiety that you experience in the first 12-24 months can be debilitating and impact your ability to care for yourself and your baby. Navigating your new role, providing care to a new baby, maintaining the home, and setting boundaries can send anxiety into overdrive presenting as a challenge to your emotional and mental health.
Depression- With the hormonal drop after childbirth, you could experience a wide range of emotions and increased periods of sadness. These tend to be most commonly reported. These feelings can be intense and feel unfamiliar to you, especially if you have never experienced symptoms of depression. You may begin questioning yourself, wondering if you are capable of being a mom, and being responsible for another human life. This can feel overwhelming for you and cause you to withdraw a bit from taking care of your family and yourself
Childcare- Whether it is the cost of childcare, finding childcare, or providing childcare in the house, this decision can weigh heavily on a new mother and her family creating stress and potential discord between partners who may feel differently about options.
Medical complications - Childbirth can go as planned, or could result in a Cesarean Section or other unplanned interventions that "could" potentially have an impact on you, or the baby's physical capacity. You don't go into pregnancy and childbirth focused on the "what ifs", so when something happens that is unplanned; it can put additional stress on you in the postpartum period. Going into labor early can also stress you mentally and physically.
Relationship changes- There are a lot of changes happening quickly in the postpartum period and there will be times where both parents may not be on the same page, or understand the best way to support one another. Bringing a baby home puts stress on your relationship and does require conscious effort to maintain
When to seek professional help:
If you are experiencing any of the following:
- Suicidal or homicidal thoughts (please text the National Suicide Hotline at 988)
- Thoughts of wanting to hurt yourself or your baby
- Intrusive thoughts.
- Inability to discern from reality
- Inability to sleep
- Experiencing excessive fear/worry preventing you from engaging in your daily routine Inability to leave your house
- Fear of being alone, or left alone with your baby
- At any point in your experience when things feel like they are too much to handle
- Onset of panic attacks
- You think you need to seek professional guidance. It would be challenging to list every possibility related to when you might need support, so, if you feel like you might benefit from some guidance you are always encouraged to speak up and ask for referrals and resources.
Identifying the challenges ahead of time can assist you in preparing for upcoming stressors that could increase anxiety or depression during the postpartum period. It is important to note that even with preparation some of these challenges combined with hormonal fluctuations and personal characteristics could be too much for you to manage and will require specialized treatment providers to apply appropriate interventions.
Oftentimes, you are the only person who truly knows what you are feeling and how it is impacting your mental health and activities of daily living. This is why you are encouraged to speak out openly about what you are feeling and experiencing in the postpartum period. There are practitioners specially trained in perinatal mental health that can offer a variety of services depending on your current need. Treatment interventions are most successful when applied early, so the sooner you can be open and honest about what is happening the more likely it is that you will be linked to the appropriate provider and begin receiving services:
A variety of services
- Talk therapy is an effective intervention used for mothers dealing with stressors related to PMAD's. You can be easily linked with a therapist through your OB, or by connecting with Postpartum Support International helpline services 1.800.944.4773.
- Group therapy is another intervention used for new moms in the form of support groups that offer community as well as treatment interventions. You can find group support through your local hospital, fertility center, churches, the Postpartum Support International website, or their helpline 1.800.944.4773.
- Medication is another option that is available to mothers, sometimes in combination with talk therapy for some additional support. Medication can only be prescribed by a trained medical practitioner and requires ongoing assessments and management.
*** One of the most important things to keep in mind is that each mothers’ experience will be different, requiring different treatment interventions, if any at all. You do not have to stay quiet, suffer, or be alone during this time. You are encouraged to speak up so that those around you can assist you in effectively managing your mental health.***
This site is intended for informational purposes only and does not provide medical advice. Please consult your physician or other health-care professional.