Postpartum and Beyond – Don’t Go It Alone
*This is a guest post. Momma Lew’s opinions may differ from that of the author’s.
In our culture, much attention is put on pregnant women, and there is a great deal of focus on the birth and care of the infant in the early months of parenthood. In comparison, little attention is given to the care of the mother after she returns home from the hospital with her newborn. Many new mothers don’t have the social support and helpful information they need to get through these critical months.
In most nonwestern cultures, there is approximately a 60-day recovery period built into their societies in which the new mother and baby are cared for by other members of the community. Around 80% of new mothers experience mood swings after giving birth. Without the right support, care, perspective and awareness, these mood swings have an even higher chance of spiraling into a mood disorder which can show its thorny head anywhere in the first year after birth.
Writing and sticking to a Postpartum Plan – developed with the help and support of women who have been through this before – can help reduce the risk, severity or duration of postpartum mood disorders.
- Don’t be a martyr! Allow yourself at least 40 days to rest and relax after giving birth.
- Make a list of the people in your life who can offer child care in the first weeks and beyond.
- Don’t feel the need to be hostess of your house. View your friends and family as a supportive village.
- Say “No!” to negative thoughts as soon as they begin.
- Eat rich and nourishing foods. Dieting too soon can lead to anxiety and depression.
- Find ways to stay connected to your partner!
- Work with those supporting you to get adequate rest and sleep.
- When your doctor says you are ready, begin gentle exercise.
Recent research has also found a high incidence of depression in women with young children, even more so than in the weeks postpartum. A focus on the mother’s needs as an individual, early on and in the months and years to come, helps pave the way for a happier, more rewarding life. When working with clients who have recently had a child, I find many women revisiting their old life and identity and asking the huge questions such as, “Who am I now that I am a mother?”
New mothers may experience a great deal of grief, confusion, or disconnection as an individual apart from motherhood. These emotions are common and IMPORTANT to listen to. They can be frightening and unexpected, and lead to much frustration. In my practice, I assist women who are experiencing the transitions of new or expanded motherhood in articulating these feelings and channeling them to define goals for themselves as individuals and within their families.
Don’t go it alone! Talk to friends or your partner, or work with a coach or counselor. If left unaddressed, your confusion can fester and produce chronic, mild depression or anger that becomes part of life. This is an ideal time to work with a coach experienced in working with mothers, so you can identify what is causing you to feel stuck or unhappy and what changes you need to make to start on a path to enjoying your life and your family.
If you face your confusion and deal with it in an effective way, it can transform you into a blossoming individual who is more confident and self-aware than before – an individual who knows her priorities – who can have a fulfilling, enriching and empowered life as a mother and a woman.
If symptoms of postpartum mood disorders are severe or persistent, enlist the help of a trained psychologist or psychiatrist to treat the condition and support you in the recovery.
Nadine Bernard is a Board Certified Life Coach, a published playwright, and acting teacher located in Montclair, NJ. She holds a BA in English and Psychology and an MA in Clinical Psychology. She meets with clients over the phone, on Skype, or in the Montclair area. You can reach her at Nadine@personalplays.com or visit her website, Personal Plays Life Coaching.