While becoming a parent can be an amazing experience in so many ways, it is also exceptionally demanding, both physically and emotionally. This is a time of great change when you and your partner suddenly have to cope with the demands of your new baby. These problems can be multiplied if you have another child or children who need care and attention. Not only on the outside may you feel that you body has taken a battering, there may also be times when you feel low. These postnatal mood swings – often caused by tiredness – are felt by almost all new mothers. But they generally won’t last long.
- During the first week after birth, up to 80% of mothers will get 'baby blues' (external). That means, you may feel quite sensitive, and you may burst into tears, or have mood swings, feel irritable or anxious. This occurs because your body is withdrawing from the placental hormones.
- These symptoms tend to peak 3-5 days after delivery and generally resolve themselves in approximately two weeks. If your low mood lasts more than 2 weeks you may be experiencing something more than the baby blues, such as postnatal anxiety or postnatal depression (external, KEMH). It is important for you to talk to your GP as soon as possible in order to nip it in the bud.
- Anxiety occurs in 8-10% of women after birth and postnatal depression occurs in 13% of women. But these figures may be higher as not all mothers seek clinical help. Many women feel embarrassed and ashamed, and try to hide the fact that they are struggling.
The exact causes of postnatal depression are still not known, some contributing factors might include:
- Physical changes - even a relatively easy
birth is an overwhelming experience for the female body. In
addition, the sudden drop in pregnancy hormones affects brain
chemicals (neurotransmitters). Broken sleep and exhaustion can also
contribute to depression.
- Emotional changes - adapting to parenthood is
daunting. The new mother has to deal with the constant demands of a
baby, a different dynamic to her relationship with her partner and
the loss of her own independence. Such changes would be hard at the
best of times, but are even more overwhelming when a woman is still
physically recovering from childbirth and coping with broken
- Social changes - society puts lots of demands and expectations on a new mother, which a woman may feel she needs to live up to. She may find herself less able to keep up contact with her friends and workmates. Adapting to living on one wage may also be difficult.
- Physical changes - even a relatively easy birth is an overwhelming experience for the female body. In addition, the sudden drop in pregnancy hormones affects brain chemicals (neurotransmitters). Broken sleep and exhaustion can also contribute to depression.
For more information go to Postnatal Depression (external, Better Health Channel)
If at times you are finding the going tough, perhaps you may like to consider the following tips:
- Ensure you take time to eat and drink through the day. It is amazing how all consuming baby care can be and if you’re not careful it may be midday before you realize you haven’t had breakfast. Always have a drink hand when you feed your baby and make your meal times a priority – a healthy meal can be as simple as you care to make it.
- Don’t rush around performing any number of household chores when your baby is asleep. Devout some time to resting yourself, even if you simply lie back in a comfy chair and close your eyes for a power nap.
- Try to get outside for a little fresh air and exercise every day. This is especially important if you baby has been unsettled. Take your stroller or position your baby safely in his sling and have a change of scenery.
- Assign yourself for a little ‘me’ time each day. Even if it is just enough time to shower and blow dry your hair. It could make all the difference to how you feel.
- If you are having difficulty with some aspects of baby care, aim to take control of the issue by implementing strategies which are appropriate to your baby’s age. Your Child Health Nurse may be a great support here, or you may decide to enlist the help of an organisation such as Ngala.
- Consider taking up offers of help. It is a great idea to enjoy a break from caring for your baby from time to time and close family and friends will relish the opportunity to get to know your baby better.
Go to the Ngala Healthy You Healthy Baby
Track your health and wellbeing during pregnancy and the early stages of your child's life as well as receive tips on how to improve or maintain your health.
Ngala Books & DVDs
For families of babies and
young children who reside or work in W.A.,
if you need further assistance contact the Ngala Helpline
Telephone 9368 9368 or Country Access 1800 111 546
8am to 8pm 7 days a week or
or get support online via the My Ngala Forums
When: 19 Jun, 10:00am
Birth to 12 months. Covers the impact of nutrition on brain development in the first year of life. Topics include when to introduce solids, variety, quantity and strategies to establish and encourage long term healthy eating patterns.