The Importance of Postpartum Mental Health

Author: Sana Boghani

While pregnancy is an exciting and transformative period for several mothers, it can also generate various emotional concerns. These include feeling stressed, anxious, and overwhelmed. Although these emotional shifts are pretty common during and after pregnancy, persistent negative feelings can induce risks in a mother’s overall mental health. Some challenges that new mothers often face are postpartum blues and/or postpartum depression.  

The Postpartum Blues or “Baby Blues”

This condition is typically characterized by mood swings that result from high hormonal fluctuations when a mother gives birth and is seen in about 80% of new mothers. Postpartum blues generally begin to emerge three to five days after delivery and should diminish as hormone levels begin to stabilize. Symptoms of postpartum blues can be characterized by the following: having trouble sleeping, feeling disconnected from friends and family, having a poor appetite, and feeling overwhelmed when taking care of the baby. 

These symptoms often go away on their own; therefore, postpartum blues are not classified as a mental health disorder and do not have any particular treatment. However, if a mother continues to experience mood swings and depressed feelings for more than two weeks, then she may have to reach out for help; this could also signify the beginning of postpartum depression. 

Postpartum Depression 

According to PhD psychologist Sheryl Kingsberg, “postpartum depression differs from the baby blues in that the symptoms are more severe and last longer.” Although postpartum depression is less common than the baby blues, about one in nine new mothers develops postpartum depression. Diagnosis is critical because it is very essential for a mother to be able to deeply bond with and feel connected to her baby. Severe depression can cause a mother to become less responsive to her baby’s needs, which could hinder the child’s physical and intellectual development. 

If a mother is experiencing any of the following symptoms, she should not hesitate to contact her health care provider:

  • Having thoughts of hurting the baby or oneself
  • Losing interest or pleasure in activities that were previously enjoyable
  • Experiencing drastic changes in sleep or appetite
  • Feeling restless and irritable
  • Having trouble forming an emotional attachment with the baby
  • Having difficulty making decisions
  • Withdrawing from friends and family
  • Having persistent doubts in one’s ability to take care of the baby

How can mothers take care of their mental health after delivery?

There is no single treatment for all mothers who experience postpartum depression or other serious emotional problems after delivery. Solutions range from medication and professional counseling to joining a support group of other moms who are going through / have gone through similar experiences. Nonetheless, mothers should continue taking care of their minds and bodies not only to cope with the challenges of motherhood, but also to have a fulfilling journey as a parent.

  • Connect with other moms in the local community or online to learn from their circumstances and to have a comfortable space in sharing feelings or concerns.
  • Take some time for yourself, whether that’s through a hobby or taking a walk outside. Along with taking care of the baby, self-care is essential to get refreshed. You have to be able to take care of yourself before taking care of others. 
  • DON’T BE AFRAID TO ASK FOR HELP. Whether that’s from a family member, a friend, or a health professional, do what is necessary to encourage optimal care for the baby. 
  • Get enough sleep. It is often a good idea to sleep when the baby sleeps, as a lack of physical rest can intensify stress levels and negative emotions. 
  • Consume nutritious food – this is essentially for recovery after childbirth and particularly important for breastfeeding mothers.
  • ABOVE ALL, BE KIND TO YOURSELF. Parenting is a demanding exercise that cannot be expected to be perfect. It is important to be realistic, to know that being a parent is not an easy task, and that the adjustment can be a memorable experience.

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