Most pregnant women have high expectations about the arrival of their new baby. They can’t wait to hold and care for the infant and usually imagine all sorts of peaceful scenes of bonding. But what if, instead of feeling happy and proud, you feel anxious, sad or even angry after your baby is born?
Such feelings, often called baby blues or postpartum blues, affect many new mothers. Typically, the blues set in about three days after birth and last only 48 hours to one week. Other signs include unexpected bouts of crying and trouble sleeping, eating and making decisions.
If you’re a new mother with a touch of the blues (or you know one), don’t worry. It’s really not surprising that you’re a bit down in the dumps. Most likely, you’re being awakened two or three times at night. During the day, too, you’re at the baby’s beck and call. Going out may be so much trouble that you don’t bother. Hormones crash after pregnancy, which can trigger depression. Add it all up, and even second- or third-time mothers are likely to feel overwhelmed. So what can you do? Here are some ideas:
Don’t be too hard on yourself. Some women scold themselves for feeling blue when they have a healthy baby to be thankful for. But you can be profoundly grateful and still be tired, worn out and in need of some time to take a shower.
Sleep when the baby sleeps. This is the cardinal rule of motherhood. The laundry can wait, but your sanity can’t. Lack of sleep can easily turn a challenging situation into an overwhelming one.
Accept help from your mother, your brother, your friends—in short, any reliable and willing person who offers. (And if they don’t offer, consider asking.) When dishes and laundry pile up, your spirits can’t help but plummet. Ask your helpers to do laundry, shop or cook a meal. A helper might also watch the baby while you run an errand or take a bath (a proven spirit lifter).
Take a walk. Walking wards off depression and helps you get back into shape. It will also get you out of the house. Because you can take your baby with you, you won’t have to plan your exercise around someone else’s schedule.
Eat a balanced diet. It will help you keep your strength up. Avoid sugar, which can act as a depressant.
Get together with other new mothers. More likely than not, they’ll have the same concerns and frustrations—and joyful feelings—that you do. Comparing notes is good therapy.
Relinquish control—temporarily, at least. Nothing disrupts an organized, efficient life as much as an infant. So if you’re used to having everything just so, you may be especially vulnerable to the blues. Accept that for the next couple of months structure and predictability will give way to delightful surprises, such as watching your baby roll over for the first time or hearing him or her giggle.