The birth of a baby is no small event and can trigger significant and sometimes long-lasting mood changes in both the mother and father. I think everyone has heard of postpartum depression. Millions of new mommies experience deep feelings of sadness or persistent anxiety after the birth of their baby, which medical explanations attribute to the rapid decline in hormone levels after the baby is born. Fathers can also experience significant mood changes, including depression and anxiety. After all, his life has undergone drastic changes as well.
With a little one soon to arrive and a toddler at my feet, I easily recall those weeks and months after my first child was born. I remember the powerful wave of emotions that flooded my body and mind. In fact, even with all I knew about the postpartum mood changes, I was shocked at how powerful they could be that first week. The birth of a child, and especially the first, is supposed to be joyous. So how is it that I could feel even the slightest bit of sadness?
There are many factors that can lead to the postpartum blues:
- Hormones: This goes for mom and dad! Yes, even dad experiences changes in testosterone levels after a baby is born. Here is a link that may interest you.
- Fatigue: In case you didn’t know it, new babies are exhausting! They feed every 2-3 hours and may even wake up during those times for a multitude of other needs.
- New Responsibility: Holding your new baby brings a flood of joy as well as an oh-my-goodness-this-is-a-big-responsibility kind of feeling.
- Financial Strains: Babies are expensive, and so are kids and teens and college students. The financial burdens of a new child are significant and long-term. This places a lot of stress on new parents.
- Social Changes: The days of carefree living are over and new parents often have to find new social circles to join. In addition, at least one of the parents may be making changes in their job status or putting off career aspirations.
- New Identity: Having a baby also means being called Mom or Dad. Owning this new identity and all that comes with it can take some time to adjust to.
- Relationship Changes: A couple will need to make some adjustments to their relationship. With so much time and energy going to a baby, it will be important that they find creative ways to maintain a healthy relationship and find time to spend together.
With all these factor in place, it’s natural for new parents to experience changes in their emotions, from the good to the bad. No person is the same, so they can even come at varying times and in varying forms and severity.
So how do you deal with these emotional changes and when do you seek help?
- First of all, learn the symptoms of depression before baby arrives: sadness, hopelessness, lack of joy, fatigue, lack of motivation, changes in eating habits, and sometimes emotional numbness. Knowing these symptoms can help you to identify depression in yourself and in others if they should come. The Mayo Clinic website has more detailed information on these symptoms.
- Attempt to identify some of the greatest areas of need for you at the moment. Sleep? Food? Time out of the house?
- Seek support from loved ones, such as your significant other, relatives, and friends. Be sure to let them know you really need help and if you know how they can help, communicate that clearly. Don’t expect people to guess what you need.
- Talk to your doctor a) if the depression and anxiety has been going on for more than 6 weeks, b) if you feel the emotions are too much to handle, c) your symptoms continue to get more severe, or d) anytime you are unsure what to do or what you are experiencing.
Please keep in mind, changes in emotions are normal for everyone. Having a baby is a wonderful, joyous occasion, but also a huge change! There is no shame in what you are experiencing and I can guarantee you that another mother or father out that has experienced something similar. Seek the advice of your doctor any time you have concern.
- Mayo Clinic
- Baby Center
- Postpartum Men
- Article: Men’s Testosterone Levels After Baby is Born
- Childhood 101: 7 Reasons Not to Leave the Hospital with Baby Blues