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Beginnings: Pregnancy, Birth & Beyond

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Your recovery at home: Your emotions

You may have had a rush of feelings just after your baby was born that included joy, relief and amazement. Although you may still have these emotions at home, you may also start to feel overwhelmed, uncertain, frustrated or anxious.

Tips

  • Rest as much as you can.
  • Don't put pressure on yourself to do everything.
  • Ask for help with chores and night feedings.
  • Talk with family and friends about how you are feeling.
  • Get out of the house.
  • Spend time with your partner.
  • Talk with other mothers.
  • Join a support group.
  • Avoid other major life changes during this time.

Source: Minnesota Hospital Association (mnhospitals.org)

Caring for an infant is hard work. It can be hard to adjust to the disorder a new baby brings to a household. Constantly focusing on your baby's needs can be exhausting.

Regardless of how prepared you were or how much you looked forward to caring for your baby, the first few weeks and months will include some lows as well as highs. Limiting other commitments and accepting all offers of help can make this time of adjustment easier.

Most women feel they have to make a major adjustment. Postpartum involves more than becoming comfortable with the role of mother. It is a time of great emotional and physical changes, and changes in all of your important relationships. As a result, you may find some additional support helpful.

Postpartum 'baby blues'

More than half of all new mothers have a feeling of feeling down after giving birth.

The "baby blues" occur during the first few days after birth, usually appearing on the third or fourth day. They are usually over by two weeks postpartum.

You may feel tearful, impatient, irritable, restless or anxious. These periods are fairly short and don't last all day. The feelings come and then go away by themselves.

You may also feel extremely fatigued due to a lack of sleep. Getting a nap can make you feel better.

Postpartum depression

During the first 24 hours after birth, the levels of estrogen and progesterone in your body drop back to levels before you were pregnant. This quick drop may lead to depression.

It is estimated that at least one in 10 new mothers experiences various degrees of postpartum depression. This often appears around the fourth week after birth. It can also begin just before your period returns, after weaning or anytime in the first year.

During your recovery you may feel tired, overwhelmed, stressed, feelings of loss of your identity, and have less control over your time. These can also add to the postpartum depression.

About depression

Depression can occur after an event in your life such as a death, changing jobs, giving birth, moving, or a major illness. Depression can affect anyone at any age. It can also run in families.

Left untreated, depression can affect how you care for yourself and your baby. This can lead to feelings of guilt and lack of confidence, which makes the depression worse.

You may have one or several of these symptoms:

  • nervousness, anxiety, panic, restlessness
  • sluggishness, fatigue, exhaustion
  • sadness, depression, hopelessness
  • eating and sleeping problems
  • poor concentration, confusion, memory loss
  • over-concern for your baby
  • crying a lot, irritability
  • lack of interest in your baby
  • feelings of guilt, inadequacy, worthlessness
  • exaggerated highs and/or lows
  • fear of harming your baby and/or yourself.

Symptoms can be mild or so severe that you can feel like you're "going crazy." With depression you may have "good" days and "bad" days. These feelings don't go away by themselves. You need to get help and support.

Symptoms are treatable with medicine and/or talk therapy. Talk with your health care provider about what you are feeling.

For information about support groups call Allina Health Postpartum Depression Support at 612-863-4770.

If you are wondering if you have "baby blues" or true depression, use the
PDF iconPostpartum depression worksheet.

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Source: Allina Health's Patient Education Department, Beginnings: Pregnancy, Birth and Beyond, sixth edition, preg-ahc-90026, ISBN 1-931876-25-8

First published: 10/04/2002
Last updated: 01/23/2013

Reviewed by: Allina Health's Patient Education Department experts