One of the biggest changes that having a child brings, other than having a whole ass human to keep alive, is the changes to your relationships. Your relationship with your mental health, your partner, your parent(s), your job, your friends, yourself, and your overall relationship with the world.
I want to start off this series by talking about the most important person first- you.
Did you know that postpartum is considered anytime after 1 year of giving birth? This means that postpartum depression, anxiety, sex drive changes, mood swings, and overall “stuff” is normal for a whole year. This isn’t to say that these things aren’t normal for some of us on the daily, but if you are concerned about not feeling like your pre-baby self after a few months, don’t fret. You are still in the postpartum haze for quite a while.
“Baby blues” are normal, they are your body’s natural response to the hormonal changes happening within. These symptoms can often times mirror postpartum depression & anxiety symptoms. The difference is, they go away on their own & in a relatively short time period.
According to the CDC, 1 in 8 women experience postpartum depression after birth. I don’t know about you but I consider 12.5% of all new mothers a shit ton of people, yet how much care do you get after childbirth? One follow up visit to make sure your birthing bits are intact and then a “see ya next year at your check up.” If you’re lucky like me, you can have ‘extensive internal damage’ and require 2 follow up visits instead! I hope you can sense my sarcasm.
Please, please, please if you take nothing away from this article takeaway this:
“Feeling depressed is okay. Feeling anxious is okay. What is not okay is ignoring your mental health.”
Unfortunately, if you live in the United States, mental health is still not discussed as frequently as it is experienced. That means it is up to you to be proactive in your well-being.
Yes, I know, this is not fair. If you had a runny nose, fever, a cough and went to the doctor they would probably diagnose you with a cold (or COVID in 2021), give you a z-pack, and send you on your way. When it comes to mental health, you might complete a screening with your nurse, but in my experience that is as far as it goes. I have done over 50 anxiety and depression screenings in my life and every single time my numbers are through the roof. Do you know how many times a medical provider has asked follow up questions in order to make a diagnosis? Once.
I don’t say this to make you feel hopeless. I’m telling you this to reiterate the fact that YOU have to be the leader in your postpartum mental health. You MUST advocate for yourself.
I suggest speaking to your doctor and loved ones early on in your pregnancy about postpartum disorders. Sometimes that is all it takes- a conversation. Let them know ahead of time that you want to get help if you start to experience symptoms. Ask them to tell you if they notice a shift in your mood or demeanor. Ask your doctor to discuss your mental health at every appointment, both peri & post partum. If you normalize these discussions when you are at your baseline & feeling healthy it will be that much easier to get the help you need when your mental health needs a check-up.
I want you to know that you are not less of a parent for experiencing depression. You are not less of a parent for experiencing anxiety. You are not less of a parent for needing to take care of you. There is nothing wrong with you, there is everything wrong with how mental health is addressed.