Speak Up When You’re Down

During pregnancy the joy and anticipation of motherhood is celebrated with all the people excited for your new baby. The actual experience of motherhood is often a lot more demanding and exhausting than anyone ever told you it would be. The shift in hormones, the lack of sleep, and the changing responsibilities and relationships often create a sadness and feeling of loss that very few people talk about. The early childhood staff of Hopkins want to support the important conversations around post-partum depression and perinatal mood disorders. Only through talking honestly and openly can we reach out to and help the mothers and families dealing with these mental health issues.

According to Pregnancy and Postpartum Support Minnesota (PPSM), eighty percent of mothers experience the “baby blues” during the first weeks after giving birth. These episodes of mood swings and weepiness can resolve on its own, without further medical help. However, within the first year after a woman has a baby – and some experts in the field now look for symptoms during the first two years – there is a possibility that you will experience more significant symptoms. Fifteen to twenty percent of women experience a deeper depression or anxiety. It is not difficult to see why anxiety or depression can occur during these difficult early parenting years. Often, parents are not getting enough sleep or healthy nutrition. There is a great physical and mental strain on a mother as she cares for her infant. It is possible that even the most well-intentioned partner can’t find the best way to support mom when the caregiving is often so focused on just the pair: mother and child. The strain can have effects for months, these issues are not easily resolved. Whether you have had a history of anxiety or depression before pregnancy or not, because of the hormonal shift you are experiencing through pregnancy, birth, nursing, and even weaning you can be susceptible to perinatal mood disorders.

Talk to the people who care about you, and remember that having heightened anxiety or depression does not make you “crazy”. It means that your body and mind are reacting to the incredible stress involved in raising a child. Do not hesitate to seek medical help if you feel you need to better understand your concerns. Remember that it is typical to have anxiety around your parenting and it is normal to feel a level of sadness as you adjust to motherhood. If these feelings are disrupting your day to day routine, if these feelings or anxious thoughts are getting in the way of enjoyment, or stopping you from carrying out your daily tasks, then you may benefit from talking to a health care practitioner. If you need to talk to someone, contact the free PPSM helpline at 612-787-PPSM (7776) and leave a message; a mental health professional will call you within 24 hours to answer questions, suggest resources, or connect you with a volunteer who has been in the same situation and who can provide support.

The first step in dealing with the symptoms of perinatal depression or anxiety is to talk about it. Speaking up when you are feeling down is a necessary way to keep your support network aware of what you need. Speak up for your need to take care of yourself, so that you can best take care of your baby.

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