Perinatal Mental Health
You aren't alone and it's not your fault.
Pregnancy, birth, motherhood, and parenting are some of the most stressful times in a woman’s life. They can be beautiful and joyful, while also being overwhelming and scary. The transition into parenthood often comes with sleep deprivation, new responsibilities, isolation, recovery from birth, and the stress of learning how to be a parent. It’s impossible to avoid dips in your mood when you're exhausted. No matter how much you love your baby or looked forward to pregnancy and parenthood, the transition is stressful and is often a huge adjustment for you and your partner. I know how hard pregnancy and adjustment to motherhood can be, I get it and I can help you.
Over half of new mother’s experience, the “baby blues” within the first three days to two weeks of motherhood. It’s normal to be tearful, emotional, cranky, or moody during the first few weeks of postpartum. If these symptoms persist or worsen it’s important to be screened for a postpartum mood disorder. One in seven women is diagnosed with postpartum anxiety or depression. Rapid shifts in hormones, brain changes, body changes, and societal pressures in pregnancy and postpartum can lead to difficult thoughts and feelings. Some common symptoms of perinatal mood disorders are:
Sadness, anxiety, panic, tearfulness, scary thoughts (dropping the baby, fear the baby will choke, worry you'll forget the baby, etc), obsessive thoughts, increase or loss of appetite, difficulty connecting with your child or partner, difficulty concentrating, feeling foggy, insomnia, irritability, anger, rage, hyper-vigilance, nightmares, flashbacks from pregnancy or birth, feelings of guilt, shame and hopelessness, extreme fears (including health and safety of the baby), avoiding thoughts related to delivery, needing little sleep, hearing voices or seeing things that aren’t there, and possible thoughts of harming yourself or your child
Other signs you might be struggling:
This is not what you expected motherhood to be like, you don’t feel like yourself or feel overwhelmed with responsibility, you feel someone else would be a better mother for your child, you feel guilty that you don’t feel the euphoria of motherhood, feelings of guilt and shame that motherhood is not fulfilling, feeling trapped, or desire to run away.
It feels shameful as a mom to admit that motherhood is not all rainbows and butterflies while continuing to push harder to meet society's expectations of a good mother. The reality is it feels wrong or bad to talk about the hard and sometimes dark moments in motherhood, so new parents suffer alone. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms reach out for support. You don’t have to suffer from these scary and overwhelming feelings alone. It’s not your fault, you can have the motherhood you want and there is hope to feel better.
Postpartum Depression (PPD) – Feeling overwhelmed, lack of connection with partner and baby, feeling nothing, I don’t feel like myself, not taking care of yourself or your family isolation, social withdrawal, irritability, and increased physical pain (Upset stomach, headaches, back pain, GI issues). Depression often pairs with anxiety.
Postpartum Anxiety (PPA) – Difficulty controlling worried thoughts, intrusive and anxious thoughts about yourself and the baby, feeling on edge or restless, difficulty sleeping, increased somatic symptoms (heart palpitations, muscle tension, GI issues)
Post Partum Panic Disorder – episodes of intense fear related to going crazy, dying, and of losing control, hot and cold flashes, chest pain, feeling like you can’t breathe or feel like you are choking, dizziness
Postpartum PTSD – an experience of a trauma including but not limited to: pregnancy trauma, medical trauma, Hyperemisis Gravardium, traumatic birth, NICU stay, medically fragile child, etc. You may be experiencing hypervigilance, insomnia, avoiding things related to pregnancy or delivery, flashbacks, nightmares anxiety, and fear.
Postpartum OCD (PPOCD) – Overwhelming intrusive thoughts related to fear of germs, baby getting sick, fear of dropping baby, fear you will harm the baby, engaging in behaviors or thoughts to reduce anxiety, and feel shame about thought content. PPOCD thoughts can be very scary and
Postpartum Mania/Psychosis – poor concentration, elevated mood, increased energy, decreased need for sleep, racing thoughts, can be highly productive. Postpartum psychosis usually onsets within 2 weeks of birth, paired with cognitive and behavioral changes such as rambling speech, lack of self-care, elated mood, and irrational thoughts content leading to bizarre behavior.
Pregnancy, Eating Disorders and Body Image
Pregnancy and birth rapidly change your body in a way that is out of your control. Pregnancy and infertility can be a major trigger for people who have struggled with Eating Disorders and Disordered Eating. Some women feel out of control as their body gains weight in pregnancy. Women who struggle with infertility may experience a sense of disconnection, blame, brokenness, and hatred for their bodies, leading to poor body image, body dysmorphia, and/or issues with sexual intimacy. Anorexia and Bulimia in pregnancy can impact the health of the mother and baby while contributing to higher risks of postpartum depression and anxiety. 5 to 8% of pregnant women have an eating disorder. Pregnancy-induced complications such as gestational diabetes, endocrine disorders, and hyperemesis gravidarum can also be triggering events for eating disorders. Not to mention, societies extremely unrealistic standards for mother's to 'bounce-back' rapidly after birth. Pregnancy is a time where doctors can highly emphasize weight and weight gain, which can feel shaming. Specifically, pregnant mother's of size or plus-size pregnancies are at risk to face excessive weight shaming, weight patrolling, and recommendations from professionals that induce fear in the mother and decreased autonomy in making medical decisions.
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