The challenges that come with first-time motherhood are abundant. But one thing that can compound these challenges even more, is the onset of anxiety and depression. From the “baby blues” to postpartum depression, there can be mental, emotional, and psychological effects of childbirth and being a new mom. If you’re a new mom now or are expecting to become one soon, here are a few tips to managing depression and anxiety. Knowing what to expect and what to do can be a huge, new-mom relief.
Signs & Symptoms to Recognize
The first step to adapting and managing any anxiety or depression as a new mom is recognizing symptoms when they present. There’s a difference between being a little nervous about caring for a tiny human life and having anxiety. And there’s also a difference between being tired from lack of sleep and falling into a depression.
The ‘Baby Blues’ Are Real
The phrase may have been coined generations ago, but everyone knows about the “baby blues.” This term is used to classify and describe the subtle mood changes that women sometimes experience after giving birth. There are mild changes in personality, making moms feel a sudden onset of unhappiness. There are random bouts of exhaustion and fatigue, as well. Usually, the not-so-serious versions of the “baby blues” can present before the baby is born and through the first few weeks after the baby arrives. Pregnancy and delivery can wreak havoc on a woman’s body physically. But these “baby blues” represent the emotional and mental effects that new moms can expect, too. And in many cases, these changes are entirely normal.
How to Differentiate True Anxiety
Having feelings of anxiousness from time to time is entirely normal and to be expected. After all, new moms have plenty of new life-altering experiences that, by nature, can be nerve-wracking. But if your anxiety starts lingering for longer and longer or becomes more intense, it might be time to ask for help. True anxiety can be debilitating, whether you develop it as a new mom or any other time in life. If you find yourself feeling anxious more frequently or for longer periods of time, be mindful. If your daily tasks or routines seem impossible, it’s definitely time to consider you might be suffering from something far more serious than the occasional “baby blues.”
Signs Depression May Be More Than the Traditional ‘Baby Blues’
Depression has many levels, including variations attributed to new moms. There is perinatal depression, which is an official diagnosis for women during and shortly after a pregnancy. Those with symptoms during pregnancy may be told they suffer from prenatal depression. If the baby is born and the depression sets in, a professional might call it postpartum depression. In any of these scenarios, feelings of extreme sadness, more than usual fatigue, and increased anxiety can all be signs. When these feelings seem to take over daily life or ongoing thought patterns, it’s best to seek a doctor’s assistance.
How to Cope & Find Peace
Once you have recognized potential challenges with anxiety and depression as a new mom, you can move forward with the next steps. Here are a few new mom tips to help you adjust, cope, and ultimately find peace to enjoy motherhood.
Health Changes Can Make All the Difference
As if life isn’t already different and challenging enough. The last advice you probably want to hear is to make more lifestyle changes. But oftentimes, mild anxiety and depression can be improved with health, rest, and dietary focus. Exercise, for example, increases the release of endorphins, the body’s natural mood-booster, and stress reducer. Grabbing carrot sticks instead of the chocolate chip cookies can ensure you’re feeding your body much-needed nutrients and not processed sugars that will result in a mood crash later.
Taking a Break When You Need It
Time for yourself to enjoy a bath and taking a family member up on that offer to babysit can offer just the break you need to recharge your emotional and mental batteries. Anxiety and depression can become burdensome if you’re not allowing yourself time to recoup and recover. Whether it’s a much-needed nap or a date night out for a meal, taking a little time for your own mental well-being can make a world of difference in your stress levels.
Sleeping When the Baby Sleeps Isn’t Always Enough
As an extension of taking that much-needed break, you will also have a need for good sleep and adequate rest. Sure, every new mom advice column out there tells you to sleep when baby sleeps. But when combatting anxiety and depression, that may not be enough. Not getting enough sleep with a newborn is par for the course. However, sleep deprivation can cause and intensify any mood issues or negative feelings. Make intentional time to nap or bring in help to relieve you of overwhelming new mom duties.
Resources to Help
Yoga, meditation, and vitamin water will only offer so much relief from the stresses of anxiety and depression. As a new mom, you may need to reach out for help and guidance to see you through these first few months with a baby.
Talking through difficult issues with a new baby can’t always offer relief when those conversations are with friends or family. Consider reaching out to a professional therapist, either locally or via an online health platform with virtual options. The professionals can help you identify triggers and work through challenges that often lead to anxiety or depression. Therapists can also coach you on how best to cope with routine stresses and to be mindful of when things are in danger of becoming more serious.
Contact Your Physician
If the idea of therapy isn’t appealing or realistic for your situation right now, you can always start with a call to your physician. Your doctor can be a great first step resource. Your general practitioner can direct you to other professionals if necessary, and help you make decisions for treatment and relief based on your unique health history.
Medications May Help
Anxiety and depression aren’t new diagnoses in today’s age. This means there are a host of pharmaceutical options, many of which are safe for even new moms. Taking the edge off of your anxiety may require a more chemical approach, considering hormones right after birth can be abnormal. Some antidepressants are safe even for breastfeeding moms and can be the welcomed relief you need.
Congratulations on your newfound motherhood! Enjoy every moment, but don’t be afraid to admit your struggles with anxiety and depression if you have them. For emergencies, you can always call the confidential helpline of the Substance and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) at (800) 662-HELP. And as always, for your health insurance questions or to add your new baby to a health insurance plan on the Marketplace, browse with W3LL.