Postpartum Feelings: When Having a Baby Is Not What You Expected

Having a baby is like nothing else in the world. It can be full of incredible highs... and incredible lows. Many things affect how both moms and dads feel when they have a baby in the house. Sleepless nights, fussy babies, stress, a history of depression and other factors can make having a baby feel not so great.

Sometimes the less-than-positive feelings are hard to talk about because people around us tell us that having a baby is supposed to feel special and wonderful. Parents who are struggling start to think that there must be something wrong with them if they feel anxious, depressed, angry or overwhelmed.

But, in reality, these powerful thoughts/feelings can be relatively common in new parents. Perinatal Mood Disorders affect between 10 and 20% of women who give birth. That's a lot of women. And, dads get postpartum depression (PPD), too. In fact, PPD is referred to as the most common complication of childbirth.

PPD is a disease--it is not anyone's fault when they get it. If you know someone who is struggling, it is important that they hear this. If you knew someone with cancer, you wouldn't think they should feel guilty about that, right? It's the same with PPD. It happens and it isn't anyone's fault.

The good news is that PPD can be prevented and treated. If you are concerned that you or someone you love is showing signs of PPD, the most important thing is to take some steps to to help yourself or your loved one feel better.

In Winona County, our Maternal Child Health Nurses can help you with assessing whether or not you or a loved one has PPD. Call 507-457-6400, Monday-Friday, 8:30-4 pm, and ask to speak to a Maternal Child Health Nurse. Calling your midwife or OB doctor is another good option. If you feel that you or a loved one needs care right away, please go to the Emergency Room at Community Memorial Hospital. Baby Connections does an excellent job providing support to new parents, which lowers the risk of getting PPD.

What are the signs of PPD?
According to the MN Department of Health they include:

--Feeling, sad, anxious or "empty"
--Lack of energy, feeling very tired
--Lack of interest in normal activities
--Changes in sleeping or eating patterns
--Feeling hopeless, helpless, guilty, or worthless
--Feeling moody and irritiable
--Problems concentrating or making simple decisions
--Thoughts about hurting your baby, even if you will not act on them*
--Thoughts about death or suicide

*"Intrusive thoughts" only last for a moment, but are very vivid and can leave women feeling very frightened because they have something to do with hurting the baby. (McKay et al., 2009. Zero to Three, 29:5).

Contact: Jenni McHugh