By: Brooke Kyle, MD
When I was in residency I had a friend who seemed to “be doing it all:” she was a magazine editor, had a brand new baby, great family, seemed bubbly and happy. At 6 weeks postpartum she killed her baby in her backyard then took her own life. I will never know why she felt so isolated, so alone, and could never let anyone know of her challenges. I do know that I can make advocacy of mental health one of the pillars of my practice. If I can help one mom understand that IT’S OK to feel doubts about the joys of motherhood, that IT’S OK to let someone know what she is feeling, that with help she and her family can be well, I can try to prevent my friend’s death from happening to someone else.
Motherhood is such a rush of extreme emotions! This new baby, this combination of you and your partner… it’s so amazing and wonderful! And then it cries (seemingly nonstop at times), it’s always hungry, your milk may or may not be enough for her or him… you might be trying to deal with other kids at the same time, and other family members…with no sleep… for weeks. Between lack of sleep, hormonal changes, stress, and the challenges of a new baby, many moms start to feel symptoms of guilt, worthlessness, inability to “manage it all.”
80% of moms feel more moody, tearful, worried, and stressed in the first two weeks after birth: the Postpartum Blues. Treatment for this is SELF CARE: telling someone how you feel, and then taking care of yourself! This seems counterintuitive for most moms who may think their primary obligation is the baby!
- Give cooking and cleaning to someone else
- Try to get a 3-to 4-hour period of sleep
- Try to get two naps during the day
- When someone volunteers to help, don’t feel guilty about it, TAKE THEM UP ON IT!
- Drink lots of water and eat nourishing meals
- Involve your community of support! Let them know how you’re feeling and how they can help.
- Get some help taking care of other kids
When the blues persist or deepen, a mom can easily head toward Postpartum Depression or Anxiety. Only 15 % of women with both actually ever seek treatment. Why? Because as moms, society expects us to be happy and joyful about our new babies, “do it all”, “have it all.” Moms can feel judged about everything: your birth, your feeding method of your baby, and so much more. Symptoms of postpartum depression include lack of sleep (when it is possible), eating less or more, changes in concentration, feelings of guilt or worthlessness, lack of pleasure in activities, thoughts of hurting yourself or others.
When a mom feels these, it’s very important to reach out and get help: WITH HELP, ALL MOTHERS CAN BE WELL! I have worked with WellMama the last 6 years, helping to be that resource in the community that supports moms. Wellmama has 3 aims: supporting moms through groups, Facebook community, and a “warmline.” (Calls returned quickly) WellMama also has several educational events yearly. We also promote advocacy of mental health issues.
Calling WellMama at 1-800-896-0410 or connecting through the website www.wellmamaoregon.com is a way to get support from a peer support leader who has “been there too.” WellMama’s groups include:
- Wednesday group at Parenting Now!
- Thursday nights Online group
- Facebook community group
Spanish language group
- Pregnancy and Infant Loss Group (for families of miscarriage and baby loss)
- Unexpected Journeys Group
- Groups in Monroe and Cottage Grove
- self care groups
Besides getting peer support, PLEASE TELL YOUR PROVIDER! We are here to help you feel better! This is a no judgment environment! We will help you also get connected with counseling, which is very important. It seems so hard to be able to make the time for it, but it is very important to healing. If needed, there are medicines to take that are SAFE for breastfeeding. We hold your baby’s safety very dearly, and there are several medicines that are used commonly and effectively. Usually it’s best to be on them 6 months if they are needed.
If scary feelings happen (like feelings of hurting yourself or someone else,) PLEASE reach out. Tell a loved one. Call WellMama (1-800-896-0410.) Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1800-273-TALK (8255). Call Women’s Care. You can feel better. You are not alone. You are a good mom.
Please know that our Women’s Care doctors are here for you if you feel these, or any, symptoms. We want you to know it’s OK to have these feelings, and with help you can be well. Please reach out to us and WellMama. We are here for you!