Think about the last time you moved to a new city, or began a new job, or perhaps when you got married. You probably experienced a range of emotions. You might have been eager and excited to begin a new stage of your life. But at the same time, you might have felt uncertainty about the future: did you make the right choice? Were you ready for the path ahead? Becoming a parent is a tremendous life change. It is common for parents to have a rollercoaster of feelings with their new baby. You might have expected to feel like you were in “new parent” bliss or celebrating with your friends and family, and confused as to why you might be feeling sad, worried, or stressed. Almost every parent will go through this, and you are not alone.
Your thoughts might be partly rational and realistic, but partly irrational and disturbing as well. You might feel guilty that even as you gaze at your new baby, you feel worried about things you can’t anticipate or things that might go wrong. You might even find yourself frightened about the ways that your baby could be injured or if you yourself might accidentally harm your baby. You might experience regrets, like “If I didn’t have to take care of this baby, I could have done so many other things!” Recognizing and accepting these thoughts as natural will help you to better cope with your worries.
Sometimes, however, you might find your feelings and doubts overwhelming. You might find that they consistently interfere with your ability to care for your newborn. New mothers and fathers commonly experience either the “Baby Blues” or postpartum depression, as described in the following video.
As you can see, almost as many as 8 out of 10 mothers experience the “baby blues”; these will often disappear between one to two weeks after delivering. Fathers are also at risk of experiencing these emotions. However, if you find your sadness and worry to be crippling and persistent, you may be experiencing signs of what is called postpartum depression. It is unclear why some new parents experience postpartum depression while others do not, but many scientists believe it can be attributed to the rapid change in hormones accompanying pregnancy and delivery for mothers, as well as a prior history of depression and anxiety. If you believe you may be suffering from postpartum depression, you should consult your obstretrician or pediatrician. They are usually familiar with the potential for depression and can provide you with the appropriate recommendations and referrals.
Welcoming a new child into the world can be as wonderfully happy as it is incredibly worrisome. You, as a caregiver, are your child’s primary window into the world, and your baby can notice when you are sad. Thus, partners and family should be alert for symptoms of Baby Blues or postpartum depression, and should take steps to alleviate symptoms rather than suffer through them.
For additional information and resources, take a look at the following.
1. For the first time, a national health panel has recommended a way to prevent depression during and after pregnancy. Here is very interesting New York Times article about what they said, what to look for, and how to get help.
2. Caring for a new baby is undeniably stressful, but you can take steps to alleviate the stress and to feel less overwhelmed! Check out this page on WebMD for a list of steps on how to effectively handle the stress of a new baby.
3. With or without a baby, there are a number of small ways that you can help yourself relax when you feel anxious or overwhelmed. Check out this article on Huffington Post for 20 ways you can try, to feel a little more relaxed.
4. As much time as you might spend taking care of your new baby, don’t forget to also take care of yourself as well! Take a look at these tips by the Australian department of health on how to maintain your emotional and physical wellbeing after childbirth.
5. Having a new baby also changes the dynamics of your relationship with your partner. Both mothers and fathers are susceptible to “baby blues.” Don’t forget to support your partner and maintain your relationship! Here is some information from AboutKidsHealth on how having a new baby commonly impacts your feelings in relation to your partner, and on how you can both support each other.
Mayes, L. C. & Cohen, D. J. (2002). The Yale Child Study Center Guide to Understanding Your Child: Healthy Development from Birth to Adolescence. Boston: Little, Brown, and Company.