It’s Okay to Take a Break! Tips for New Moms on Asking for Help

As a new mother, you’ve probably noticed that taking care of yourself and a new baby at the same time is next to impossible. How are you supposed to make sure you are getting what you need to thrive when you are on call 24/7, responsible for keeping a new human being alive and happy?

It’s no wonder that so many new moms feel emotional and completely overwhelmed. You know you need a break, but then you feel guilty about even needing one.

Relax.

It’s very okay to ask for help. And here are some ways you can do it:

Be Realistic

Yes, you’re a mother now, but you are still an individual that has her own needs. Recognize that being a great mother has nothing to do with being a superhero. Never feel you have to go it alone. Be realistic and understand that everyone needs help now and then.

Be Honest

Stop trying to be the greatest mother who has ever lived and do everything by yourself. When a family member or friend asks how you’re doing, be honest with them. Let your loved ones know you are feeling exhausted and stressed and could use some help.

Have someone watch your baby for an hour so you can get out of the house. Or have them watch the baby so you can simply clean the house.

You may also want to keep a list of household tasks posted somewhere, such as laundry, washing dishes, cleaning bathrooms, and have your loved one pick something from the list to take off your plate.

Be Flexible

When asking others for help, make it known that you appreciate others are busy and you would be happy to get their help whenever works for them. If this means the recycling doesn’t get packed up and taken to the center until Wednesday afternoon, that’s fine. If you’re the one asking for help, you’ll have to be a bit flexible with WHEN you receive it.

Be Safe

If you are suffering from postpartum symptoms it is incredibly important that you ask for help. Lingering feelings of sadness, depression, anxiety, fatigue, and hopelessness need to be addressed.

If you or a loved is suffering from postpartum depression and would like to explore treatment options, please be in touch with me. I would be more than happy to discuss how I may be able to help.

How to Practice Self-Care as a New Mother

While there are many surprises and challenges that await you in motherhood, one of the biggest shocks may be time management, or the feeling of being overwhelmed. No matter how happy and fulfilled you may be as a new mom, if you don’t take time out of your busy day to take care of yourself, you’re not giving your precious baby your best self. Ensuring that you practice self-care might seem like the lowest of your priorities, but being rested and cared for yourself is an essential part of being a mom.

While it will be challenging, it’s not impossible to make sure you take care of you. Below are some pointers that can help.

Get Your Sleep

While sleeping for a solid chunk of time may be a pipe dream for some, sleeping when your baby sleeps will allow you to get that much needed rest. If you’re worried that you won’t wake to baby’s cries, keep a baby monitor on your nightstand or bring the crib into your bedroom. Ignore the temptation to do chores while your baby sleeps, because it’s vital that you get your rest.

Stay Well Dressed

While it’s tempting to wear your maternity clothes out of convenience and to save money, it will help you feel your best to have comfortable clothes that fit. Get a couple of outfits in your size to wear until you get back to your pre-baby weight.

Make Time to Shower

If you neglect the simple routine of taking a shower, it will take a toll on your mental health. To make sure you shower regularly, try taking a shower when someone is home. You can also bring your baby in the bathroom with you, or take a quick shower while the baby is napping.

Accept Help

Regardless if you’re single or have a partner, trying to go it alone in caring for your baby is a big mistake. You may hate to ask for or accept help, but raising a baby is a lot of work. By recruiting help, you can make sure you have enough time to not only take care of the baby, but to take care of yourself. To try and do it all yourself does nothing but put unrealistic expectations on you, giving you feelings of guilt when you’re unable to accomplish the impossible. It’s important to ask for and accept help.

Make sure your partner is making an equal effort when it comes to baby’s care, and enlist the help of family and friends. If you have a friend that loves to cook, see if they’ll cook you an occasional meal. You might also ask for help with laundry, running errands, or babysitting (even if it’s just half an hour so you can take a long hot shower.)

 

Are you a new mom looking for parenting support and guidance? A licensed professional therapist can help. Call my office at your earliest convenience, and let’s schedule an appointment to talk.

What Postpartum Depression Can Feel Like

It’s a few days after you’ve given birth, the celebratory phone calls are still coming in all you feel is sadness all the way down to your gut. Although the emotions are unexpected and less than welcome, postpartum depression can be common among new mothers. Up to one in seven women experience PPD after their first child even though it might be the first episode of depression they’ve experienced in their life.

It’s important to remember how much the body changes during pregnancy and immediately after. Postpartum, a hormone imbalance can occur due to losing built up levels of progesterone right after birth, leaving high levels of estrogen and the mental and physical symptoms that accompany the imbalance. Previous experiences or diagnosis’ of depression can also be a risk factor that can lead to new episodes surfacing.

Aside from the physical risk factors of PPD forming, one of the biggest factors is that mothers are overwhelmed by the new challenges of motherhood and having to be physically responsible for a new life. PPD challenges can increase with breastfeeding difficulties and by having a demanding baby. Challenges like these can make you feel as if you’re not connecting with your child and exacerbate symptoms.

For many, the emotions vary from anxiety to depression, anger and resentment towards the child and family. You might fear the idea of not being a good enough mother for your child or might feel that your newborn is taking your time away from other people that you should be spending time with.

Symptoms can start a few days after birth, and last days, weeks, or longer depending on how long it goes untreated. As with other things like PPD, symptoms vary and can be highly unique to you. PPD is treatable with individual counseling, therapy, and medication, like other forms of depression. Medication usually involves anti-depressants which can take a few weeks to become effective in regulating mood.

Many women find strength in connecting with other mothers who also share their experiences. Finding others who have also experienced PPD can help shrink feelings of isolation and bring a degree of normalcy back to your life.

If you or your partner is struggling with PPD, please contact me today as therapy can be immensely helpful. Remember that experiences of PPD can be very unique and it’s important to address how you’re feeling with a professional, even if you think they might not understand.

How to Cope with PTSD While Pregnant

Pregnancy can be an emotionally overwhelming experience for just about anybody. But for women with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), it can be downright scary. Sadly, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of information to be found about how PTSD can impact a pregnancy, leaving many moms-to-be with even more questions and concerns.

The few studies that examined how PTSD affects pregnancy are mixed. Some say women with PTSD experience fewer symptoms when expecting, while others cite higher risk of complications due to PTSD. However, the studies did find that PTSD symptoms during pregnancy require treatment and care just as much as the pregnancy itself.

Self-Care During Pregnancy is Key

Self-care during pregnancy is important for all women, but it is particularly necessary for those suffering from PTSD. Without a keen sense of how you are feeling and putting your emotional needs first, you may find your mental health will begin to deteriorate.

If you are living with PTSD and are pregnant, here are some things you can do:

Make Coordinating Your Psychiatric and Prenatal Treatment a Priority

It is really important that you are completely transparent with all of your doctors during this time and share critical information. For instance, maybe you’ve told your therapist that you are pregnant, but neglected to mention that you’ve stopped taking your medications at the recommendation of your OBGYN. Maybe your OBGYN knows you have taken antidepressants in the past, but does not know you are currently battling PTSD. Not sharing pertinent information with your specialists will make it difficult to determine the right treatments at the right time.

Be Realistic with What You Can Handle

Now is not the time to try and be superhuman. Instead, be realistic and set your priorities. Do the dishes really need to be washed? Do you really have to return those emails? What about painting the nursery? The answer is no, those chores can wait. Focus on getting rest and relaxation while you can.

Talk with Family and Friends

Keeping your emotions and concerns inside will not help you manage your pregnancy. You will require a loving support group of family and friends that understand what you are going through, as best they can. Openly discussing your pregnancy and PTSD can provide strength and comfort during those particularly rough times.

If you are experiencing symptoms of PTSD and are pregnant, but are not currently working with a therapist, consider doing so. They will be able to help you navigate your anxiety and depression during this very crucial time.

If you would like to explore treatment options, please contact me. I would be more than happy to discuss how I may be able to help.

Do New Moms Struggle with Low Self-Esteem?

Having a child is one of life’s most incredible experiences. It is also one of the most challenging situations that come with mood swings and psychological changes.

If you’re a new mother who has been experiencing low self-esteem, you’re not alone. A group of researchers recently took a look at why new mothers experience low self-esteem and dissatisfaction with their romantic relationships.

Analyzing data from over 80,000 Norwegian mothers, the researchers uncovered some significant patterns that represented how pregnancy and motherhood changes a woman’s attitude about herself and her partner.

The Self-Esteem Roller Coaster Ride

The study found that women’s self-esteem comes and goes. During pregnancy, a woman may experience a dip in her self-esteem. However, once the baby is born, her self-esteem begins to rise again. But only for a short time, then it dips again, only this time the dip is more gradual but prolonged.

Relationships Take a Hit as Well

New mothers don’t seem to be excited by their romantic relationships either! The researchers found that during pregnancy, first-time mothers tend to be very satisfied with their romantic relationships. However, once the baby is born, these same mothers experience a gradual decline in relationship satisfaction over the next few years.

The pattern is fairly similar for mothers having their second, third or fourth child. Though a bit less pronounced than new mothers, experienced moms gradually become less and less satisfied with their relationships once the baby is born.

The biggest takeaway from the study is that self-esteem and relationship satisfaction are definitely linked. While the researchers did not uncover exact mechanisms for these mental health changes, we can safely surmise a fluctuation in hormones and a big lack of quality sleep most likely contribute.

Having said that, motherhood is hard enough without having to battle low self-esteem and relationship dissatisfaction. Here are some things you can do:

Have Realistic Expectations

New mothers have an idea of what motherhood will be like, Sadly, they’ve gotten this idea from Hollywood and Madison Avenue. The reality is, motherhood is not one big bouquet of flowers. In fact, at the very beginning, all you may really notice are the big, prickly thorns. Later, once the baby sleeps through the night and stops waking you every two hours, you may notice how lovely the roses smell.

All of this is to say you have got to have realistic expectations. Breastfeeding may not come naturally to you – and that’s okay. You may not like your baby at first – and that’s okay. You may not feel like you know what you’re doing most of the time – and that’s okay. In fact, all of these things are perfectly normal.

Setting unrealistic expectations for yourself as a mother will only cause your self-esteem to take a nosedive. Don’t try and be the perfect mother, they don’t exist (sorry Mom). Just try and do your best and enjoy the experience as best you can.

Don’t Compare Yourself to Other Mothers

Nothing pokes at our self-esteem quite like unfair comparisons. If you’re a brand-spanking-new mother, it is hardly fair to compare yourself to someone who’s been doing it awhile. So what if your sister, who’s on her third child, makes motherhood seem like a breeze AND bakes her own scones? She’s had time to practice, you haven’t.

While it’s fine to seek advice from other moms, never make comparisons or you’ll just set yourself up to feel badly about your own mothering abilities.

Consider Couples Counseling

If your relationship has taken a hit, it’s important that you and your partner try and reconnect. This is sometimes easier said than done, which is why seeking the guidance of a therapist is often the best way to heal the relationship.

A therapist can help the two of you communicate respectfully and effectively, something that’s not always easy when you’re both averaging 3 hours of sleep per night!

If you are interested in exploring treatment options, please get in touch with me. I would be happy to discuss how I may be able to help.

To Age Well, You’re Gonna Need Friends

How many times do we hear about senior citizens who move cross-country to be closer to children and grandchildren? Maybe this person will see their family on a daily or weekly basis. But then again, maybe it won’t be that often, and now they’ve given up their social life and are far away from friends.

As an older person, what’s healthier, being around family or being around friends?

There was a time when most people would have quickly answered, “Being around family, of course.” While no two people are alike, there is evidence that meaningful connection with friends has more of an impact on the aging process.

According to a 2017 study sponsored by the National Institute on Aging, friendship is more important to the health and well-being of senior citizens than familial connections.

The study found that not only do these relationships influence your happiness and habits (whether you’ll smoke or drink, work out, stay thin or become obese) but that the importance of friendship increases with age.

But there is a caveat, and it’s an important one.

The impact of friendship works positively and negatively. Meaning, just as good friendships offer health benefits, friendships that are not so great or even toxic are tied to chronic health problems. The key is to keep friendships in good order, which means you may need to repair or replace friendships as you age.

Another study, this one designed by Michigan State University psychology professor William J. Chopik, looked at two sets of data—one drawn from people around the world at different ages, and another from older Americans.

More than 270,000 volunteers between the ages of 15 to 99 and from roughly 100 different countries answered questions about how highly they valued different kinds of relationships and how happy they were. Instead of tracking the same people over time, the study tracked “representative” groups of different ages at intervals over the years.

The results?

Those people 65 and older valued friendship more than they did when they were younger!

In another analysis, researchers examined data from close to 7,500 American volunteers in their sixties and seventies. The results found that those people who experienced a “strain” within their friendships were more likely to suffer from chronic illnesses like diabetes, heart disease and psychiatric problems. This was true regardless of whether they had support from family members or not. Strain with family, surprisingly, wasn’t tied to more illness.

The moral of the story is, many of us take our friendships for granted. We think these relationships should be easy, and that our familial relationships are where we should focus our time and energy. But the older we get, the more important it becomes to have strong friendships. When our friendships are happy and healthy, we’re happy and healthy.

Is there a relationship in your life that is bringing you down instead of up? Are you unsure how to communicate with your loved one? Maybe it’s time to end a relationship but you don’t know the best way to do it.

Often, speaking with a therapist can give you clarity over a situation. A therapist can lend an impartial ear and offer advice based not on emotion, but on knowledge of human behavior.

If you or a loved one is interested in exploring treatment, please contact me today. I would be happy to speak with you about how I may be able to help.

Feeling Bad About Your Unexpected C-Section? You’re Not Alone

Bringing a baby into the world is supposed to be one of the happiest events in a woman’s life, but often there are things that can make a new mother feel sad, exhausted, and overwhelmed. One of those things is having an unexpected C-section.

If you’ve recently had an unexpected C-section and are experiencing mixed emotions about it, you’re not alone. The following feelings are common after having a C-section that you were not planning:

Shock

Many women, especially young women, assume they will have a natural birth. But sometimes, life throws us a curveball in the form of unforeseen complications or 20+ hour labors that simply won’t progress. Often, C-sections are necessary for the health of the baby, mother, or both.

It’s very normal, however, to feel shocked at this unexpected turn of events. You thought about this day for months and you’ve physically taken very good care of yourself, so a C-sections seems to be the ending you simply didn’t want or plan for.

Women should always speak with their doctors before the delivery date to understand what kinds of things may occur that could result in the need for a C-section so they can manage their expectations of the big day.

Sadness

It is common and perfectly normal to feel sad that you and your husband or partner didn’t get to experience the “normal” birth event. In a C-section scenario, the husband is not allowed in the OR and new parents don’t get to immediately hold the baby or get those brand new baby pictures to immediately upload to Instagram. The rush and fear of sudden surgery means that magical, special moment of parents connecting with child is gone – or at least, postponed.

Feeling sadness and grief for that loss is understandable. You are not alone in that: This is a very common feeling amongst new mothers who have an unexpected C-section.

You Feel Like a Failure

Women throughout the centuries, throughout the millennia, have had “normal” vaginal births. Maybe you come from one of those families were every female has had a vaginal birth. But you, you HAD to go and have a C-section.

Many women feel guilt and shame after having a C-section, like they somehow didn’t do something right. They should have taken more supplements. They should have exercised more during pregnancy. They should have pushed longer and harder before “giving up.”

Feelings of inadequacy are, unfortunately, a big part of being a parent. But you can feel like an absolute failure when you feel the actually childbirth was a complete flop.

It’s important to remember you did nothing wrong. Repeat that with me: You. Did. Nothing. Wrong.

There were serious medical circumstances surrounding your required C-section. If you feel the need to know exactly “what went wrong,” feel free to schedule an appointment with your OBGYN, who can help you try and make sense of what happened.

You Feel Bad About Feeling Bad

Perhaps the most frustrating emotion many women feel is feeling bad about the fact that they feel bad. Despite the fact that both mother and baby are healthy, many women still feel distressed about the surgery and ashamed that they feel this way even though everything turned out fine.

The best thing to do in this circumstance is to not pretend that you’re okay, but ask for help. Just because you think you should feel joyful doesn’t mean you do. If you are feeling any of the emotions listed, seek guidance from a professional counselor who can help you process your emotions and make sense of everything.

If you’re a new mother who is struggling with having a C-section and you’d like to explore treament, please contact me today. I would be happy to speak with you about how I may be able to help.

It’s OK to Grieve After a Miscarriage

Throughout our lives we experience the loss of loved ones and friends. But there is no greater loss than that of a child. And it doesn’t matter what age that child was, the loss is profound.

If you’ve experienced a pregnancy loss, you are most likely feeling more sadness and grief than you even thought possible. While your body may have healed, your heart will take a while to catch up. It’s important that you allow yourself some time to grieve and feel all your emotions. And you will, at times, feel a rollercoaster of emotions ranging from disbelief to anger to guilt, sadness, depression, and numbness.

You may also experience physical symptoms as a result of this emotional stress. These symptoms can include fatigue, trouble sleeping, difficulty concentrating, loss of appetite, and frequent episodes of crying. The hormonal changes that occur after miscarriage may intensify these symptoms.

The Grieving Process – What to Expect

There are three main stages of the grieving process after a miscarriage.

Stage 1 – Shock/Denial

You can’t believe the loss has happened. It shouldn’t have happened. You took great care of yourself and your body. You did everything right. Why is this happening?

Stage 2 – Anger/Guilt/Depression

Thoughts and feelings of shame and inadequacy can take over your life. You begin to study every detail of your pregnancy over and over to find what it was that you did wrong. You may feel guilty that you weren’t able to give your partner or husband a child, or your parents a grandchild. The sadness is overwhelming, and most days you can barely function.

Stage 3 – Acceptance

You recognize that you are not alone, and that many other women have experienced a miscarriage. You also begin to remember the other responsibilities in your life, perhaps you have other children who need more of your attention, and you decide to accept what’s happened and move on with your life as best you can.

It’s important to understand that each stage of the grieving process will take longer to go through than the one before. And there can also be setbacks. You may think you have finally accepted the event, when you go to your friend’s baby shower and find yourself sneaking off to the bathroom to cry.

Be aware that men and women grieve differently. Usually women are more expressive about their loss, whereas men like to be proactive. Men are problem-solvers, not weepers. Understand that your husband or partner is grieving, even if you don’t recognize the way in which he grieves.

Your path to healing will be benefitted by both of you being sensitive and respectful of each other’s needs and feelings during this time. Accept your different coping styles and always keep those lines of communication open.

It’s also important that you seek help. This could be from a loved one who’s been where you are now, or a family therapist who can guide you through your grieving process and give you tools to help you cope with your emotions now and in the future.

If you or a loved one has experienced a miscarriage and are overwhelmed with emotions, you don’t have to go through it alone. Please contact me and let’s discuss how I may be able to help.

Maternal Mental Health & How it Impacts the Child-Parent Relationship

The birth of a child can be one of the most wonderful, amazing, and joyous experiences of a woman’s life. It can also be incredibly emotional and challenging, particularly if the new mother is dealing with any mental health issues. These can make it difficult to bond with her baby and feel okay and competent as a mother.

A woman may have struggled with her mental health before becoming pregnant and giving birth. She may have been in treatment for anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, or obsessive-compulsive disorder. She may have stopped taking medication during pregnancy and while she breastfeeds for the safety of her baby.

A new mother may also experience the “baby blues” or full-on postpartum depression (PPD). Both are caused by a sudden and dramatic decrease in hormones. While the baby blues is milder and only lasts for a couple of weeks, PPD can be much more aggressive and last for months. Mothers who suspect they are suffering from PPD are advised to seek treatment.

The Powerful Mother-Child Bond

The importance of forming an intimate bond between mother and baby cannot be overstated. The quality of this early relationship can have lasting effects on a child’s development, including socio-emotional adaptation, cognitive development, and language development.

When a mother is struggling with mental health issues, it impedes her ability to bond with and care for her baby. Depression and anxiety can result in a woman feeling disconnected from her new child.

The physical symptoms that often accompany mental health issues can also make it incredibly difficult to form a quality relationship with a new child. Women who experience everything from panic attacks to an inability to concentrate to profound exhaustion may find they have little energy to give to bonding with their baby.

Mental health issues can affect a mother’s perceptions, sensitivity an ability to interpret and respond to her baby’s signals. This decreased emotional involvement and responsiveness from the mother can lead to disrupted attachment and mental, social and emotional problems for the child later in life.

Treatment Can Help

The good news is therapy can help mothers struggling with mental health issues. By getting treatment you will have the tools and resources needed to take back control of your life.

If you’re a new mother who is currently struggling and are interested in exploring treatment, please contact me today. I would be happy to speak with you about how I may be able to help.

Do I Have the Baby Blues or Postpartum Depression?

According to the American Pregnancy Association, 70-80% of all new mothers experience what’s called the “baby blues”, while only 10% – 20% suffer from postpartum depression. With so many women experiencing some form of emotional upheaval after giving birth, why is there still so much confusion about the two?

Samantha Meltzer-Brody, M.D., Associate Professor and Director of the Perinatal Psychiatry Program, UNC Center for Women’s Mood Disorders, notes there’s still a stigma attached to admitting that you’re feeling sad after just giving birth to a beautiful, healthy baby.

“There’s societal pressure to feel happy and blissful, so women don’t talk about [the baby blues]. There’s enormous guilt and shame,” attached to the experience, Meltzer-Brody says.

What Causes the Baby Blues and Post-Partum Depression?

During pregnancy, a woman’s levels of the hormones estrogen and progesterone are sky-high, higher than they’ve ever been at any other time in her life. Once the baby is delivered, those levels plummet. Let me repeat, they don’t gently and slowly come back down to normal levels over the course of weeks, they very quickly and dramatically drop. This neurobiological process triggers the baby blues.

Added to this drop in hormone levels is the fact that the childbirth process is profound and exhausting, and new mothers are handed a human being and expected to keep it alive, without any kind of training or manual. Needless to say, the combination of hormones, exhaustion, and outright fear can make a woman feel sad and vulnerable.

While there is no denying that giving birth and meeting her newborn is one of the most awesome and special moments in a woman’s life, Meltzer-Brody believes the idea of being purely joyful and “blissed out” are exaggerated for most women.

“The vast majority of women find both the birth and the transition to motherhood to be challenging. Certainly, there’s lots of joy and it’s a time of great happiness, but it’s really difficult the first few weeks,” she says.

It’s important for women to know the signs and symptoms of both the baby blues and postpartum depression before giving birth, so they’ll know what to expect if they’re among the majority of women who experience short-lived mood changes (the baby blues), or whether they might need to seek treatment for something more severe and persistent (postpartum depression).

Baby Blues

  1. You’re weepy and feel vulnerable all of the time. Some women have described it as “very bad PMS.”
  2. Symptoms last about two weeks after giving birth.
  3. You may also experience other wild mood swings like irritability, anxiety, and have a hard time focusing or concentrating.

Postpartum Depression

  1. Your symptoms last longer than two weeks after giving birth and are much more severe.
  2. While you will similarly have mood swings and feel a combination of anxiety, sadness, irritability and have trouble concentrating, you may also begin to feel hopeless and sometimes even have thoughts of harming the baby or yourself.
  3. Postpartum depression typically emerges over the first 2-3 months after childbirth but may occur at any point after delivery.

If you have recently given birth but your symptoms are severe and lasting for more than two weeks, it is important you seek counseling. Women who are experiencing the baby blues may also find it helpful to speak to a therapist.

If you are a new mother, or know one who may be interested in exploring treatment, please contact me today. No woman should have to go through this emotional upheaval alone.