Postpartum DOES NOT equal depression.
The word postpartum is an adjective that simply describes the period of time after a person has birthed a child.
Yep, that’s it. So let’s all try to stop saying things like “she has the postpartum” because that’s not a thing.
There are SO MANY different aspects of the postpartum period, and we need to talk about them. It shouldn’t be taboo. It’s important that we discuss the many different variables that families go through during the 4th trimester, or the first 12 weeks after the birth of a baby.
So, let’s talk about the emotional adjustment, since that’s the first thing on everyone’s mind when they hear THAT word.
Immediately after baby is born, the wave of emotions experienced can range from shock and disappointment to joy and elation. All of these emotions are completely normal. If you are the person giving birth, the extreme physical exertion can leave you underwhelmed and in need of some time to adjust. Partners and intended parents, who are expected to be completely elated and enamored with this new creature, can find themselves staring at this new little life, with all its needs, and be daunted by the reality of what comes next.
EXPECTATIONS: I’m going to be SO IN LOVE with my baby!
REALITY: While it’s true, that the love you have for your child is unlike anything you’ve ever known……..there is more to love than constant joy. You may also find yourself anxious and fearful of the responsibility that comes along with caring for another human. You may be very surprised at the anger you feel towards other drivers the first time you take your little one in the car. You may feel overwhelmed with lack of sleep and the constant needs of a newborn.
EXPECTATIONS: Our family will be perfect!
REALITY: Your family IS completely perfect, but the stress of night time feedings, lack of sleep all around, and the adjustment needed to incorporate a baby into your already busy lives can leave some couples feeling out of touch with each other. Surprisingly simple things, like realizing the living room needs to be re-arranged to fit the pack ‘n play downstairs, or finding out that EVERYTHING needs batteries, can push the most loving couples into spats that they may not have previously had to deal with.
EXPECTATIONS: I know I’ll be emotional, but I’ve never had any problems with anxiety or depression, I’ll be fine.
REALITY: While this is completely possible, keep in mind that 40-80% of parents do experience some form of baby blues in the first two weeks after birth. In the 2nd trimester of pregnancy, your placenta takes over production of your hormones, and when the it is expelled after birth, it takes a while for your body to start regulating all of those emotions.
EXPECTATIONS: I’ve dealt with Postpartum Depression/Anxiety before. I know I’ll have it again, so I need to get ready and have a plan in place to deal with it.
REALITY: Absolutely, definitely, 100% have a plan in place. Speak to your care provider, your partner, friends and family, and get as much help as you can. Know your limitations and pay attention to your symptoms. If mood swings start or increase after the first two weeks, be sure you are ready with hands on support, counseling, and medication, if needed. Postpartum depression and anxiety can occur in both parents and should be taken seriously.
There is a lot of adjustment that comes with becoming a parent, and dealing with the emotional aspects is one of the most important. Dishes and laundry can wait, but your mental health and your relationships are important and should take priority. The difference between enjoying that new little squish and suffering from overwhelm and stress can be as simple as planning ahead for days when you’re just not feeling up to it. Asking for help is important, and nothing to be ashamed of.