FEELING LOST IN A FOG AS YOU CARE FOR YOUR NEWBORN BABY?
Becoming a parent is much harder than anyone ever admits.
Many new moms wonder if having a baby was a mistake.
Then feel terrible guilt for thinking that thought.
Going back to work
I'M A FAILURE
Everyone else looks so happy.
I can't stop crying.
My baby sleeps but I can't.
Why won't my baby sleep?
Is my baby breathing?
What if I drop my baby?
Why are my partner and I arguing all the time?
YOU ARE NOT ALONE.
MANY NEW MOMS FEEL ANXIOUS AND SCARED OF THEIR THOUGHTS.
A not so well-known fact is that postpartum depression is the most common complication of pregnancy. You may feel very much alone and lost in your new role as a mother, but the reality is that many new moms experience very intense emotions in the weeks and months after giving birth. You expected to be overjoyed as you brought your new baby home and instead you feel exhausted, overwhelmed and cannot seem to stop crying. If you have decided to breastfeed, you may be struggling to keep up your supply or manage the frequent night feedings. Reality is simply not meeting your expectations. And the guilt is all-consuming. You may also find yourself arguing with your partner over what seems small or trivial and are now questioning your decision to have a baby.
Postpartum depression is quite common, we just don’t go around talking about it because we think parenting is supposed to be something we just know how to do. It is supposed to be a happy time. But statistics tell us that 1 in 7 women experience symptoms of postpartum depression.
You may be wondering if you have the “baby blues” or postpartum depression. The “baby blues” is a period of emotional sensitivity in the first 1-2 weeks after birth but typically these feelings resolve on their own quickly. The “baby blues” are experienced by up to 80% of new mothers.
If you have been feeling down and not like yourself for more than 2 weeks, you may have either postpartum depression or anxiety and should be evaluated by a licensed mental health professional.
POSTPARTUM DEPRESSION EFFECTS THE WHOLE FAMILY.
Postpartum depression is treatable, but it generally does not go away without help. The sooner you seek help, the faster you can begin feeling more like yourself again. It is important to seek help as soon as you realize you are not feeling well because postpartum depression impacts you, your child and your partner.
Studies indicate that babies whose mothers had untreated postpartum depression smile less and may be less engaged socially, have delays in language development, have cognitive delays and learning difficulties, and exhibit behavioral problems as they grow older. Older children who have a depressed parent are 2-4 times more likely to experience depression before adulthood. However, research also indicates that as postpartum depression improves with treatment, the effects on your baby/child are reduced significantly as well. In other words, you have not irrevocably harmed your child.
Untreated depression can also lead to friction and tension in your relationship with your partner. It can lead to marital dissatisfaction and for some, divorce. Getting help as soon as possible is best for the whole family.
If you are experiencing postpartum depression, it is certainly not your fault or something you can control. And you are not a bad parent. You may feel that things are out of your control, but the decision to seek help is within your control. And given the potential impact on your child, it is important to seek help immediately.
COULD IT BE POSTPARTUM ANXIETY INSTEAD?
Postpartum anxiety is characterized by persistent and excessive worry, feelings of tension, and inability to relax. Some women describe an inability to sleep because they are worried about their baby's safety. Instead of getting essential rest, maybe you are staying up late at night goggling the cough your baby had or making sure your baby is hitting all the appropriate developmental milestones. While all parents worry about these things, the key point is that the worry becomes excessive and intrusive. You do not just spend 10-15 minutes and move on. You spend hours making sure your baby is alright. The time spent interferes with your ability to maintain your usual calm and balance and may interfere as you head back to work or tend to your usual household tasks.
Often, new moms are having thoughts that scare them. Many new moms experience symptoms of anxiety or OCD rather than depression. Roughly 10% of women experience postpartum anxiety and about 3% experience symptoms of postpartum OCD.
Generalized anxiety can easily and quickly turn into obsessive thinking and can lead to compulsive behavior. Depression is also likely to creep in over time if these symptoms continue to persist without treatment.
THERAPY FOR POSTPARTUM ANXIETY AND DEPRESSION CAN HELP YOU FEEL MORE LIKE YOURSELF AGAIN.
Psychotherapy is one of the most effective treatments available for postpartum depression, anxiety, and OCD. Many find relief of their symptoms after just a few months of working together. Counseling is often recommended as the treatment of choice, particularly for breastfeeding mothers, due to concerns regarding the risk of infant exposure and potential side effects to medication.
As we work together, we will look at ways to help you view situations differently. Depression and anxiety have a way of casting a shadow on how we view our world and counseling will help you evaluate situations from a different perspective. Counseling will also help you learn new ways to react to your baby's needs, your partner and to other people.
I work in a solution-focused manner, which starts with helping you identify what you most want to alleviate or change and then we will work towards meeting those goals. We will also explore your past to a small degree as your past often informs your present way of interacting with the world. We will also look at how your thoughts and feelings impact your behaviors and how we can relieve symptoms of depression and anxiety by working to unravel the thoughts that feed into your emotional state of being. This is formally referred to as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. Counseling provides a safe place to speak about those thoughts and to get support. You will gain tools to help you cope with upsetting emotions and help seeing situations from a different perspective.
Many new moms find that counseling helps them be more fully present when they are with their baby and brings a sense of joy to this time. It can also boost your confidence and help you feel good about your abilities as a mother. You will learn to feel more in control of your emotions, rather than feeling like your emotions are controlling you.
As a licensed professional who is also a mother, you will find that I bring my real self and experiences into therapy. I understand what it is to go through this time in your life. I was very thankful that I had my training from graduate school to rely on when I was a new mom because I too felt very overwhelmed and unprepared. I was able to navigate through this difficult time because of the tools I picked up in graduate school. It is now my humble calling to help disseminate these tools to new moms to help them too feel confident and able as a mother.
You may be feeling like you are just not cut out to be a mother.
With therapy, you will realize that you have it in you, you just needed a little bit of help getting there.
I'M STILL NOT SURE IF THERAPY FOR POSTPARTUM ANXIETY AND DEPRESSION WILL HELP ME.
I HAVE SO LITTLE FREE TIME.
Time is one of the single most limiting factors that stop people from getting help when they are feeling down. That is why I decided to offer shorter, 30-minute session times for new moms. After the initial evaluation session and an additional 1-2 getting to know each other session (which are generally 45-55 minutes), we can discuss if 30-minute sessions would be appropriate.
I also work to keep treatment brief, focused, and only as often as is clinically necessary. Once we determine you are finding the relief you have been searching for, we can discuss how to maintain these gains and can begin spacing out sessions to a couple of times a month.
MAYBE THIS IS JUST THE “BABY BLUES” AND IT WILL GO AWAY ON ITS OWN.
The “baby blues” typically occur during the first two weeks after birth and the emotional instability dissipates rather quickly. If you have been feeling this way consistently for more than two weeks, it is probably some form of postpartum depression. Moderate to severe depression rarely goes away completely on its own. And the longer your symptoms go untreated, the higher the likelihood that you will have future episodes of depression.
I HAVE OTHER CHILDREN AND I DID NOT FEEL LIKE THIS LAST TIME. WHY NOW?
There are many risk factors associated with postpartum depression and anxiety. They include:
Experiencing depression or anxiety while pregnant
A previous history of depression or anxiety
Recent stressful life events
Inadequate social supports
Poor marital relationship
It could be that the number of risk factors present when you had your other children were less, different or not as profound as they are now. We can work together to determine what risk factors might be impacting your current situation as working to address those could be an important part of our work together. I do work with couples so if you and your partner would like to work together to improve your relationship, that could be very beneficial for the whole family.
I AM A VERY PRIVATE PERSON AND FIND IT HARD TO OPEN UP.
So am I. I get that it can be incredibly difficult to talk to a stranger about things you find hard to tell even your closest friend or partner. We will go at your pace and only talk about what is top of mind for you. This is your counseling after all and it will focus on helping you achieve your goals. You may even find that it is easier to open up once we get started. Many people tell me that I am fairly easy to talk to.