Monday Medical: Thoughts for New Mothers
Editor’s note: This article is the first in a two-part series on health for mothers.
Dr. David Schaller, OB-GYN with YampaCare for Women, spends a lot of time talking with new mothers. The transition from life without children to life with a newborn infant is enormous. Following, Schaller shares some common topics of discussion with new mothers.
Expect some stress
Navigating life with a new baby can be challenging. In the initial weeks, a new routine needs to be established, which may not initially include many things from life before children.
“Those first six to 12 weeks are usually the most overwhelming,” Schaller said. “First of all, there’s the lack of sleep while you’re trying to figure out your baby’s biorhythms, and just when you think you’ve got it figured out, it changes. There’s also the continuous need to be there for the baby around the clock.”
So-called simple tasks, such as getting out of the house, become huge accomplishments: Maybe you have your baby all ready to go, then she needs a sudden diaper change or he spits up and needs a change of clothes, or to eat or take a nap, etc.
“You have to allow at least twice, maybe three times as much time to accommodate these types of things,” Schaller said.
The hormonal changes women experience after pregnancy also contribute to a higher stress level for new mothers.
Schaller encourages his patients to find little chunks of time to do what they love, whether it’s going for a walk, talking with a close friend, watching a quick television show or taking a nap. Tap into your support systems; it is there for these very reasons, to give you a little time for yourself.
It’s also helpful to stay connected with other new mothers, which is made easier by local support groups, such as the Newborn Network or The Lactation Club at YVMC.
Be mindful of postpartum depression
Pregnancy is filled with hope and expectation as everyone awaits the new baby’s arrival. But after delivery, it’s common for mothers to experience a wide range of emotions.
“Everyone is so excited to have this baby out in the world, and once your baby is born, you might think, ‘Why aren’t I as happy as I thought I would be? Why am I sad now?’” Schaller said.
At least half of new mothers develop postpartum blues, which are characterized by tearfulness, mood swings and difficulty sleeping.
About 5 percent of new mothers experience something similar, but with more severity of symptoms. This is postpartum depression, which may not develop until five or six weeks after giving birth. A new mother may not realize she’s suffering from it, though others might perceive the intensity of the emotional challenges.
It is hard to predict whether a mother will experience postpartum depression.
“Even if the transition to new parenthood goes smoothly, postpartum depression may still occur,” Schaller said.
What’s important to know is it’s not the mother’s fault and postpartum depression can be treated.
“Typically, symptoms improve over time,” Schaller said. “Some patients may need medication for a short period of time, though not often long term. Other therapeutic supports are invaluable and encouraged.”
Your healthcare provider is a resource
For questions and concerns, such as which type of contraception to use, post-delivery discomfort or timing of consideration to have another baby, your healthcare provider is an excellent resource and can lend a sympathetic ear.
“No matter how much time you’ve spent watching siblings, taking care of kids or babysitting, the actual amount of time it takes to be a new parent can be exhausting,” Schaller said. “It’s one of the biggest life adjustments there is, while at the same time being very rewarding and a source of profound love and joyfulness.”
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