Giving birth and welcoming your newborn into the world takes a lot out of you – for your mind as well as your body. Add that to the sleep deprivation that so often accompanies the life of a new parent, and you’ve got a recipe for mood swings called “baby blues”. Let’s go through what causes baby blues, and the strategies you can take to get in control.
What causes baby blues?
1. Hormone changes
After giving birth, your levels of the reproductive hormone estrogen take a steep decline back down to your pre-pregnancy levels. This fall of estrogen levels can lead to decreased secretion of serotonin: a neurotransmitter that plays a role in regulating your emotions.
With decreased serotonin levels, something small like an insensitive remark from your partner could be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.
2. Lifestyle changes
Taking care of a newborn baby can be stressful. (In other news, water is wet.) Since a new baby needs feeding every 2 to 3 hours, you’re likely going to be sleep-deprived from waking up to feed and soothe your little one.
You might also find yourself not getting enough nutritious food for yourself during this time, adding to the physical strain. It’s no surprise that these long-term physical stresses can affect your emotional wellbeing, as well, and for many that comes out in the form of baby blues.
3. Relationship changes
Many first-time parents in particular find their relationship undergoes a period of strain after the arrival of a new baby. As you both adjust to your new roles, tensions with the in-laws sometimes come to the fore during the postpartum period, as well.
Even if you usually rely on your friends for emotional support, it can be hard to relate if they haven’t been through the rough patches of early parenthood themselves. These and other feelings of isolation can lead to baby blues and feelings of sadness.
Remedies for baby blues
1. Fight sleep deprivation
We know: easier said than done with a newborn baby to feed and love and comfort. But that doesn’t mean you’re powerless to catch up on some well-deserved shut-eye.
Rather than trying to fight your baby’s sleep cycle, see if you match your little one’s naptimes. Napping for as little as 30 minutes during the day can reduce some of the mental and physical effects of sleep deprivation.
2. Get some fresh air
Staying cooped up all day is enough to send anyone stir-crazy! Once you’re back on your feet, think about stepping out with your baby for an outing. Even something as simple as a walk around the park with your partner could help boost your mood.
You may also want to look into some mother’s groups in your area so you can plan for regular outings with peers who know what you’re going though.
3. Remember you are awesome
It’s easy to get bogged down with worries about how to be the perfect mom, but don’t forget to give yourself a pat on the back. You just went through a huge nine-month long job of growing a tiny human, and now you’re doing your best to give them all the love and care they need.
That’s no small feat, and chances are, you’re doing the best you can. Look at yourself in the mirror and remind yourself that from time to time.
Baby blues or postpartum depression?
Baby blues are very common in early motherhood, and usually clear up on their own. However, if your moodiness has lasted for more than a few weeks after giving birth, speak to your doctor. This could be a sign a mood disorder like postpartum depression. Other common symptoms of postpartum depression can include:
- Feeling sad, hopeless, or overwhelmed
- Crying easily or more frequently than you normally do
- Feelings of rage or anger
- Losing interest in things and activities you normally enjoy
- Changes in eating and/or sleeping habits
- Difficulty focusing or remembering things
- Worrying that you’re not bonding with your baby or feeling like a bad parent
If you think you may be suffering from postpartum depression, you’re not alone. In fact, post depression is the most common complication related to childbirth. There are treatments available for it, so don’t be afraid to ask for help.
Controlling baby blues is possible
If you feel the pressure to be happy and grateful all the time now that your baby is finally on the scene, it may seem hard to talk about your feelings. But don’t feel ashamed about experiencing mood swings after pregnancy. Communicating honestly with your partner and taking care of your physical and emotional needs will help you ride it out.
But if you think you need help controlling your baby blues, don’t hesitate to speak to your doctor. You deserve to feel like the wonderful Mom your baby already knows you are.