Updated: Feb 19
Written by guest: Katy De Angelis
Maternal Mental Health Specialist, LCSW
Feeling down or anxious after the birth of your baby can surprise many moms. In fact, many moms are so confused and ashamed of any depression or anxiety they feel post baby because they are expecting to feel over joyed by becoming a mom and having a cute, tiny, squishy baby to love on. But what if you do feel down after having a baby? What are you supposed to do next? What society does not tell you, is that 1 in 7 women experiences a perinatal mood and anxiety disorder (PMAD) after the birth of their child and they can even begin to experience these mood changes during pregnancy.
"1 in 7 women experiences a perinatal mood and anxiety disorder (PMAD) after the birth of their child and they can even begin to experience these mood changes during pregnancy."
After the birth of the baby, moms enter into the “Fourth Trimester.” Did you know humans carry their baby in their womb for the shortest amount of time compared to other mammals? Giraffes carry their babies for 15 months and certain species of elephants are pregnant for almost two years! So much growing happens in the fourth trimester, for both the baby and the mom, and while our human bodies tend to be more than ready to no longer be pregnant by the end of the third trimester, our hormones and minds can have a hard time adjusting during this time. “Baby Blues” are so commonly experienced by mothers, that approximately 70-80% of all new mothers experience some negative feelings or mood swings after the birth of their child.
The “Baby Blues” include feelings of irritability, fatigue, weepiness, sadness, mood changes, anxiety, insomnia, and poor concentration. What’s confusing about the Baby Blues is that most of these symptoms are also brought on by the extreme sleep deprivation many moms and their partners experience after the birth of a baby. The good news about the Baby Blues is that they typically only last about two weeks and as the fourth trimester progresses moms tend to rise above the fog, find their rhythm, let others pitch in and help, and begin to feel hopeful about their motherhood journey.
"70-80% of all new mothers experience some negative feelings or mood swings after the birth of their child."
But what if you don’t find yourself rising above the fog? Moms can be quick to push aside the possibility of PPD or PPA, believing their hormones are to blame. And yes, a woman’s hormones after pregnancy can take a mom on a wild rollercoaster ride. Though hormones do not create mood disorders, they do make a woman more vulnerable to mood changes. So how can you tell if you are experiencing Baby Blues or a Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorder? Ask yourself these questions:
How long have I been feeling down?
Am I feeling poorly for more than two-weeks since my baby was born?
How’s my self-esteem?
A distinguishing factor between the Baby Blues and a Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorder is that if she experiences the Baby Blues her self-esteem remains unchanged and intact. With a PMAD, a mother’s self-esteem drops and she may have thoughts such as:
I’m not a good enough mother
This baby deserves someone better than me
Why did I have this baby?
I’m a terrible mother
I will not be able to meet my baby’s needs.
Here are some other things to look for and ask yourself:
Am I not interested in taking care of my baby and want to pass the baby off to others?
Am I feeling anxious and fearful about my baby?
Do I not want to leave the house?
Do I prefer not to allow others to help me?
Am I so schedule focused that I tend to isolate from others?
Am I not able to fall asleep even when the baby is asleep?
Am I experiencing obsessive thoughts and behaviors- such as constantly checking on my baby all the time
Am I experiencing intrusive or fearful thoughts that I may hurt my baby or myself in some way?
As a mama, it is crucial to recognize that your baby’s well-being begins with your own well-being but the shame and guilt that many mother’s experience interferes greatly with a mom’s motivation to seek support or ask for help. My goal in my private practice for maternal mental health is to normalize the need for support and to create a space for mom’s to openly express the heavy feelings they may be carrying around. If you find yourself feeling down after the Baby Blues please know you are not alone in your feelings, and these feelings do not mean you are a bad mother- these feelings are your body's way of alerting you to the idea that you need support. And the great news is that with the right support Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders are highly treatable. Mothers are not meant to mother alone. Please reach out today if you need additional support or would like to connect with a professional.
FEED PLAY REST is pleased to introduce Katy De Angelis:
a Maternal Mental Health Specialist & Licensed Clinical Social Worker in private practice.
Katy is a mother to two small boys and becoming a mother was one of the largest transformations of her life. She personally found transitioning into motherhood quite overwhelming and as her kiddos grow and change she is continually challenged to grow and change herself. She is also an LCSW and because of her motherhood journey, she discovered a passion for supporting women as they navigate their journey of motherhood and parenting. She has worked in mental health for over 12 years, providing individual, couples and family therapy, and she has been a therapist and for a community of at-risk youth and their families, children in the foster care system and mothers who have lost custody of their children. She has also supported elementary age students through the work of a social-emotional curriculum in the JeffCo schools and counseled Veterans experiencing PTSD at the Denver VA. She has a Masters in Clinical Social Work from the University of Denver and is registered with Postpartum Support International (PSI) as a Perinatal Mental Health Provider.
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