In those first few weeks after bringing a baby home, new parents can feel overwhelmed with joy – and overcome with anxiety and mood swings.
“Our job is to help determine if these feelings are just part of a temporary adjustment period or if there’s something deeper happening,” said Sandy Perry, MD, an OB-GYN with Rochester Regional Health. “We always ask what kind of support they have at home, and try to figure out if these emotions are getting in the way of normal life.”
Are new parents comfortable leaving the house with the baby? Do they cry easily and have trouble shaking feelings of sadness and anger?
“Having a baby is hard, but I want parents to be able to enjoy this time,” Perry said. “If they’re not able to enjoy it, then we need to talk.”
Many new moms experience the “baby blues” the first week or two after giving birth as their bodies – and their lives – adjust to the changes a baby brings. They might be irritable, feel overwhelmed, have trouble sleeping and struggle to eat healthy amounts of food. But these symptoms level out in a short amount of time.
With postpartum depression, the symptoms are more intense and can linger for months if untreated.
“There are some women who are captive to their anxiety,” Perry said. “They are so nervous that something will happen with the baby that they can’t imagine taking a walk around the neighborhood or bringing the baby to visit a friend’s home.”
Besides severe anxiety, common symptoms of postpartum depression include:
“None of this is anything to be ashamed of,” Perry said. “We’re all here to help you and support you.”
Doctors often recommend counseling, antidepressants or hormone therapy to treat postpartum depression. And if a woman has a history of depression or postpartum depression, she can discuss a treatment plan even before the baby arrives.
“Women with a history of depression are at a much higher risk,” Perry said. “But if you talk with your provider during the pregnancy, you can make decisions when you are in a healthier state of mind.”
Some women worry about leaving their baby with someone else while they go to therapy, especially if they don’t have family nearby, but online therapy and tele-health appointments are becoming more and more common. “They make it easier to get help without the worry or the expense of finding a babysitter,” Perry said.
She often suggests that women connect with other moms, too, so they know they aren’t the only ones feeling this way.
“Postpartum is already a lonely time in a lot of ways, and COVID has made it a lot harder,” she said. “Family and friends can’t always travel to welcome the baby, and new moms miss out on the extra help and reassurance.”
Because of COVID-19, new moms often go to OBGYN and pediatrician appointments without their partners – and it’s often partners who first mention that a mom is struggling.
“I have had a number of spouses reach out or come to visits in the past,” Perry said, “and I’ve even had a few pediatricians call to say they had noticed symptoms.”
All of that helps Perry and other doctors provide better care for new moms.
“We all need to look out for one another, physically and emotionally.”
At Rochester Regional Health, our obstetric and gynecology practices offer the full range of women’s health services. We’re here to take care of you. Whether you’ve come to us for preventive care, pre-pregnancy counseling, relief from urinary incontinence, or one of our comprehensive obstetrics and gynecology services, our top priority is working as your partner to maintain a lifetime of good health and well-being.Learn More