The term “baby blues” refers to a brief episode of mood swings, tearfulness, anxiety, and difficulty in sleeping that is very common in the first week after the birth of a baby.
Some 50-80% of women have such an experience. This episode is thought to be linked with the stresses associated with late pregnancy, labour, and delivery, along with the rapid hormonal changes that accompany the birth.
Symptoms generally settle during the first week after birth and require no special treatment other than adequate rest and support.
Although for most women the blues are short-lived, evidence suggests that women who experience them have an increased risk for Postnatal Depression (PND) later in the postpartum period, especially if the blues symptoms were severe. Of women who met criteria for PND six weeks after delivery, two thirds were found to have had the baby blues.
Only when symptoms are severe or do not clear spontaneously within the first two weeks is it important to seek medical assessment to find out if another condition is present.
Advice for new mums
There are many ways of preparing for and managing pregnancy, birth, and early parenthood so that you can minimise stress and make the most of it.
Planning to have additional support in the first few months by asking your partner or a family member to be on hand to help can make the transition to motherhood less stressful. It’s also a good idea to try not to make major life changes like moving house or changing jobs late in pregnancy or in the first few months after you have your baby.
Develop a support system – this can include friends, family, health professionals, parent groups, or online communities – that give you the opportunity to share stories and experiences, and meet new people who are in a similar situation. While you may be independent and find it hard to accept help, it’s also a good idea to make the most of help when it’s offered. Involve your friends, parents, other family members, and your partner in the day-to-day care of your baby from the beginning.
Try to eat healthy meals, exercise regularly, and avoid drugs and alcohol. Having a good night’s sleep is also important for maintaining good health, but can be almost impossible with a new baby. Taking every available opportunity to nap can not only help you stay physically fit, but also mentally healthy. Do this when the baby is asleep or when partners, family members, and friends are able to look after the baby. This may not seem like a good idea when there is so much else to do, but it’s important to make the effort to get enough rest. It can also be helpful to try to get the baby into a good sleeping pattern as early as possible.
Learning to manage stress
Keep a diary of feelings, and every now and then, take time to look through it and note any progress made. This can help you understand what makes you feel stressed. Doing breathing and muscle-relaxation exercises, as well as learning to let people know how you’re feeling, can help you get through the tough times.
Taking time out
Organise your routine so you get some time for yourself. Arrange for a childcare service, friends, or family members to look after the child/ren occasionally. Use the time to do what you enjoy – this may be time spent alone, reading a book, having a bath, watching your favourite TV show, or spending time with your partner or a friend.
Considering your own needs
Well-meaning friends and family may want to visit you more often than usual and give you advice. Don’t feel that you need to entertain endlessly or that you should always take their advice. Follow your own instincts and discuss any problems with a health professional, such as your doctor or Maternal and Child Health Nurse. There is no right or wrong way to parent. It’s all about working out what is right for you.
Being good to yourself
It can take time to adjust to becoming a parent. Don’t be too harsh on yourself. Acknowledge the many things you have achieved and are doing well. Don’t just focus on the areas where you feel you ‘should’ be doing better.
If you find yourself in a dark place, reach out for help. If you don’t think you can talk to your family or friends, you can call a support line.
- Beyond Blue: Emotional Health During Pregnancy and Early Parenthood
- Epperson, American Academy of Family Physicians, April, 15, 1999
- The Blackdog Institute: Depression during pregnancy and the postnatal period
– this article was kindly supplied by Bubhubber MuminMind
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