postpartum adjustment

The changes that are involved in becoming a parent are tremendous. No new mother or father can be completely prepared for having their life turned upside down by a tiny gorgeous creature that is completely dependent and evokes intense feelings and responses from them. If they could figure out how to find time for therapy, many new parents could benefit from either individual or couples therapy to process and adjust to all the changes. I urge you to check out the resources I have gathered including websites and organizations as well as books on postpartum adjustment.

There are hormonal changes that happen in a woman’s body following birth that make her particularly vulnerable to mood changes, but there is a crucial difference between normal baby blues and postpartum mood problems. This distinction will be especially important for the woman who feels that something is not quite right emotionally for her since the baby was born. Because motherhood carries with it such strong cultural pressures and ideals, it is especially difficult for someone suffering from postpartum mood problems to get help. You might feel that you are under internal and external pressure to be “the good mother” and the sudden onset of mood changes can be difficult to figure out and get support for.

The “baby blues” are common after childbirth. They are a brief period of feeling moody, frustrated, anxious, overwhelmed and exhausted that can occur a few days after giving birth and may last for hours or up to a couple weeks. If two weeks have passed since your baby was born and you are continuing to feel anxious, worried and not yourself, it is probably not the baby blues and you should call your doctor to check in. At this point, if you are unable to sleep even when your baby is sleeping, this is not caused by the baby blues. If you are having repetitive thoughts that feel oppressive or intrusive, you may be experiencing a chemical imbalance brought on by hormone shifts and other factors.

You may worry a lot about your baby, or worry that your spouse or partner may abandon you, even when reassured this is not the case. You may not feel like being around people and may worry that your feelings about your baby aren’t like other new mothers’ feelings. If this is what is going on, you need to know there is help available to you. You are not alone in this. The first thing to do is let your spouse or loved ones know the extent of your anxiety and schedule a medical exam. Call and set up an appointment with your therapist if you have one already or seek out a therapist who has experience with postpartum issues.

Right now it is unknown exactly why some postpartum women get mood disorders, but it is thought to be a combination of complex hormonal changes, emotional, environmental and genetic factors. Some postpartum mothers suffer from having intrusive thoughts that harm may come to their baby or that in some way they may be involved in harm coming to the baby. These thoughts probably feel very scary and most mothers will be afraid to tell anyone about them, but these thoughts can be alleviated greatly through therapy and medical intervention.

Understanding and learning techniques to stop intrusive thoughts can be extremely helpful, as can be getting understanding support from your spouse or others involved your baby’s care. Medications are available by prescription from a psychiatrist that can alleviate some of your mood or obsessive thoughts and symptoms, if that is needed, and studies have been done regarding which medications are the safest for breast-feeding moms.

There is a very rare type of postpartum problem that needs immediate attention. Obsessive thoughts are not the same as the bizarre and delusional thoughts of someone experiencing postpartum psychosis. If you are the spouse or loved one of someone who has had a drastic change of mood within days of giving birth, including bizarre, delusional thoughts such as the baby being from another planet or conspiracies involving herself or the baby, you should take her to the ER immediately, as postpartum psychosis is an emergency and may require hospitalization. To reiterate, this type of psychosis is very rare and is not the same as the obsessive thoughts of a non-bizarre nature that are common to some postpartum conditions.

In the more common situation, the mother may be aware of having thoughts that harm may come to her baby, or even that she might harm the baby herself, but she is aware of her fear of this happening. Psychosis, on the other hand, is a detachment from a sense of reality and someone suffering from this condition needs help immediately.

There is more information available now about postpartum mood problems than there ever was in the past. Remember to check out the resources I have gathered including websites and organizations as well as books on postpartum adjustment.However there is still a great lack of awareness in the general community and it is worth the time to seek out practitioners who have training with postpartum mood issues. See your doctor as soon as possible and call to set up an appointment for therapy.