You’ve waited the long nine months to have your baby, but now that baby is here, you find that you’re not too excited. You’re not having the “love at first sight” feeling you’ve heard so much about, and you’re tired, tired, tired. These could be signs of the after-baby blues and post-postpartum depression, both of which are more common than you think. Pamela Pimentel, RN and CEO of MOMS Orange County, gives us advice on how to get through it.
You were tickled pink the first time you held your newborn baby, so why are you feeling so blue now?
Like most issues of anxiety and depression, postpartum depression is a topic many people do not want to discuss, yet it’s one of the most common complications of childbirth and can affect one in four new mothers anytime during their child’s first year of life, according to the report “Improving Maternal and Infant Mental Health: Focus on Maternal Depression.”
Postpartum depression may appear to be common baby blues at first, but if the signs are more intense and last longer than four to six weeks, mothers need to seek medical help promptly. According to the Mayo Clinic, the symptoms of clinically diagnosed postpartum depression can include loss of appetite, insomnia, intense irritability and anger, overwhelming fatigue, loss of interest in sex, lack of joy in life, feelings of inadequacy, severe mood swings, difficulty bonding with the baby and withdrawal from family and friends. Left untreated, some mothers even have thoughts of harming themselves or their babies.
The condition is not only a threat to the mother but her baby’s development, too. A depressed mother is less likely to bond with her baby, which could put in motion the negative consequences of insecure attachment. This could put the child at risk for multiple developmental difficulties and delays, including behavioral, emotional and social problems.
Organizations working with new mothers report assisting women affected by postpartum depression regularly — and are trained to recognize the symptoms and intervene as needed. As one example, MOMS Orange County works with many clients who report feeling overwhelmed, stressed, misunderstood, lonely and scared during pregnancy and the postpartum period. Based in Santa Ana, Calif., MOMS Orange County has helped mothers and their families have healthy babies for more than 20 years by providing health coordination, education and access to community services.
Give Mom What She Needs: Coping Methods for Maternal Depression
Maternal depression intervention and support is a key component of treating postpartum depression.
As many health care professionals have learned, some mothers do not want to disclose their feelings because of the stigma that surrounds postpartum depression.
Given MOMS Orange County’s emphasis on prevention, the organization provides in-home depression screenings, education and support during monthly prenatal and postpartum visit and promotes positive coping skills, classes and activities, with notable results. Some mothers who have attended its Mommy & Me classes said they have felt like their symptoms began to diminish after three-to-five classes, although these results have not been evaluated. Mothers are also referred for mental health assessments, counseling and support groups as needed.
New mothers can embrace coping skills on their own, too. The American Academy of Family Physicians recommends these steps:
* Find people who can help so you can get some much-needed rest
* Make time for yourself every day, even if it’s only for 15 minutes
* Keep a daily diary of your emotions and thoughts
* Give yourself credit for the things you’re able to accomplish
* Allow yourself permission to feel overwhelmed
* Be honest about how much you can do and ask others for help
Most importantly, it’s crucial for mothers to realize they’re not alone. Although most women with postpartum depression feel like they are the only mother to experience these emotions, they are not. There are many resources available to get them back in the pink.
With over 38 years of experience, Pamela Pimentel, RN, CEO of MOMS Orange County, is an expert when it comes to mothers and babies, including as a maternal/child health care RN in the labor and delivery unit. Since 2000, Pimentel has led MOMS Orange County in helping at-risk mothers and their families have healthy babies through the nonprofit’s services of providing access to prenatal care, health screenings, infant development screenings, health education and referral services through monthly home visits and group classes. Among her many awards and accolades, she has been honored as March of Dimes Nursing Executive of the Year, as the National Latina Business Woman Leader of the Year, and with Senator Lou Correa’s “Women Making a Difference” Award. To learn more about Pimentel and MOMS Orange County, visit www.momsorangecounty.org.