Supporting Your Mental Health During the Postpartum Period
Bringing a new life into the world is a momentous and transformative experience for any woman. Much of the postpartum period is spent cuddling your new baby and soaking in their presence. However, the postpartum period can also bring a myriad of challenges, including fluctuations in mental health. Some of these may be short-lived, while others can develop into serious mental health issues.
Recognizing when these conditions are present is critical for any new parent, as it allows you to then manage them going forward. A Tampa Bay postpartum doula is trained to help look for signs of things like postpartum depression and provide resources for both prevention and management. While these problems are not as widely understood as they should be, my mission is to provide education and tools to all new parents to support their mental health.
Understanding Postpartum Mental Health
Many people are familiar with postpartum depression, or PPD, a very common mood disorder experienced by new mothers. But this is actually just one example of a Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorder, or PMAD, that can be present. These conditions are usually brought on by changes to hormones and brain chemistry that result from pregnancy, childbirth, and parenthood, or may be escalations of existing mental health problems.
It is important to know that this is different from the “baby blues,” which usually subside within a couple of weeks. A true PMAD will become worse, not better, and may escalate to severe symptoms like self-harm if not addressed.
If any of the following appears during pregnancy or up to one year after birth, it is considered a PMAD:
- Depression during pregnancy
- Grief resulting from pregnancy loss
- Grief related to infertility
- Postpartum depression (PPD)
- Postpartum anxiety disorders (PAD)
- Postpartum psychosis
- Postpartum obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD)
- Bipolar disorder
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
These may vary in severity and duration, but should all be taken seriously.
Recognizing Signs of Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders
The postpartum period is fraught for almost everyone – this is very normal, but can also make it complicated to identify when there is a true PMAD at play. Stress, overwhelm, and sadness are all common in the early weeks of this time, but if they begin to impact your quality of life or become constant, there is the potential for a more serious disorder to appear.
It can also be difficult to notice these in yourself, both because you are so wrapped up in caring for your baby and because your brain may be rationalizing any unusual feelings. Relying on those around you, whether it is your partner and family or a postpartum doula, can be critical to noticing things that are outside of normal for you.
The Role of Doulas in Supporting PMADs
Doulas, both birth and postpartum, are trained professionals who provide emotional and physical support to mothers and their families. While they do not replace medical or psychological care, doulas can be a valuable resource in identifying PMADs, offering relief, and empowering mothers to seek appropriate resources. Some of the key roles of a Tampa postpartum doula can be:
Doulas have a unique perspective and can observe changes in a mother’s emotional well-being, helping to identify signs of PMADs. By fostering a trusting relationship, doulas create a safe space for open communication where mothers feel comfortable discussing their thoughts and emotions.
Providing Emotional Support
Doulas offer non-judgmental support, actively listening to a mother’s concerns and validating her experiences. They provide empathy, encouragement, and reassurance, which can alleviate feelings of isolation and helplessness commonly associated with PMADs.
Assisting with Practical Needs
Doulas assist with practical tasks, such as light household chores, meal preparation, and caring for the baby. By alleviating some of the daily responsibilities, doulas allow mothers to focus on self-care and managing their mental health.
Education and Resource Referrals
Doulas provide information on PMADs, helping mothers understand the various conditions, symptoms, and available resources. They can refer mothers to mental health professionals, support groups, and hotlines specialized in perinatal mental health, ensuring they receive the help they need.
Doulas emphasize the importance of self-care for mothers experiencing PMADs. They help identify self-care practices tailored to individual needs, whether it’s practicing relaxation techniques, engaging in enjoyable activities, or seeking professional help. By prioritizing self-care, mothers can improve their well-being and cope better with PMADs.
Support for Perinatal Mood Disorders
The most critical thing you can do during the postpartum period, whether you are struggling or not, is to surround yourself with support of every kind. Emotional, physical, mental, and practical support are all important to a new mother. This can be as simple as having a friend fold your laundry or having a listening ear when you need to vent.
It is also important to plan for this support before giving birth when possible. If you do not recognize mental health problems, it can be more difficult to ask for help once they arise. A postpartum doula can be an invaluable way to extend your support system and bring in someone who is dedicated to your well-being. Even when you don’t know what that well-being will require, having Tampa Bay Postpartum Doula Services lined up is a great way to ensure you are supported once your baby arrives.