New mom stress or something more – an article for new moms

Feelings that interfere with normal functioning after your baby is born may be an indication that something else is going on.

I have worked with hundreds of new moms over the years through parenting education and support programs by Michigan State University Extension. One thing I know for sure is that most new moms report that they feel tired, stressed and overwhelmed, often.  It is normal to feel this way for a very short time after a baby is born because of hormonal changes and major life adjustments that take place. However, if a new mom feels down for too long or can’t function normally, it could be post-partum depression. One reliable way to know whether or not what you’re feeling is normal or something more, is when you feel excessively stressed, unable to cope with the demands of taking care of yourself or baby, or if you feel depressed (lack of energy, interruption in sleeping and eating, and mood swings) most days. If this is the case, it is very important to talk to your health care or a mental health professional right away.

It’s not easy for women who are suffering to seek help. Too often, shame and guilt about the situation hold women back from getting the help they need. In my work over the years, I have used this simple check-list to determine if the moms I am working with are coping well or not so well. It is adapted from the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (1987). If you answer yes to any of the following questions, you should talk to someone right away:

  1. Are you not as interested in your baby as everyone else seems to be?
  2. Do you worry about hurting your baby?
  3. Do you have a loss of pleasure in activities that you used to find enjoyable?
  4. Is your energy really low?
  5. Do you feel hopeless?
  6. Do you feel guilty or unimportant?
  7. Have your eating habits or weight changed a lot?
  8. Do you ever think about hurting yourself?

Sleep deprivation, stress, hormonal fluctuations and feeling overwhelmed are things that all new moms go through. This is normal. However, it is not normal to feel unable to cope or to have answered yes to any of the questions above. If this is the case, reach out right away and let your health care provider know how you are feeling.  Online resources are not designed to take the place of a talk with your health care provider, but can be a good place for information and support. Postpartum Depression support is also available.

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