For many mothers, pregnancy and childbirth involve more than joyful anticipation. This is also a time of extreme physical and mental strain. Tears and distress often occur after childbirth. If this turns into postnatal depression, professional treatment is advisable. The mother needs the advice and assistance of her medical examiner or midwife.
Tears, anxiety or irritability: around one half of all mothers experience mood swings – otherwise known as the baby blues – in the days after giving birth. This emotional roller coaster is caused by hormonal changes in the body. The baby blues usually pass after a few days without the need for any medical treatment. Women can generally rely on the help of their partners, families and friends to get them through this difficult period.
Often unrecognised – postnatal depression
It is a different story, however, when it comes to postnatal depression, also known as postpartum depression. This tends to develop gradually in the first year after giving birth. The symptoms are similar to those of "normal" depression: persistent sadness, fatigue, a lack of motivation, anxiety, loss of sex drive and physical complaints such as headaches, back pain or stomach problems. Women affected by this often have ambivalent feelings towards their child and feel guilty because they believe they can't love their child properly.
The signs of postnatal depression often go unrecognised. Mothers who feel the baby blues are lasting for longer than normal should not hesitate to ask their doctor or midwife for advice. Postnatal depression is an illness requiring treatment and it is nothing to be ashamed of.
Often overlooked – the need for downtime
Even without postnatal depression, the first few days and months with a baby cause a lot of strain. The body and mind need time to recover and adjust to this new situation. New mothers should therefore make sure they also take care of their own well-being.
- Make allowances for yourself and be patient. No mother is perfect, and nobody says you have to be constantly happy when you have a baby.
- Talk about your feelings or fears. That will take the weight off your mind and give you the feeling that you are not alone with your problems.
- Make sure you get some time to yourself. Let someone you trust look after the baby now and again, and make good use of the free time.
- Sleep as much as possible. Use the time when your child is sleeping to take a break yourself.
- Make sure you eat a balanced diet. Now is not the time to embark on a radical diet to get your old figure back.
- Take as much physical exercise as possible. You can also go for a walk or a jog while pushing the baby.