Symptoms

Anxious • Overwhelmed • Depressed • Sad • Lonely • Tearful • Angry • Confused • Exhausted • Stressed • Discouraged • Frustrated • Guilty • Sleepless • Irritable • Panicky • Paranoid • Horrible • Unworthy

Anxious

The symptom mothers report feeling the most is anxiety. Women with a history of anxiety are more likely to feel increased anxiety in pregnancy and postpartum. In part this is related to hormonal changes. When a mom develops physical signs of anxiety like heart racing or shortness of breath, if she feels afraid that something will happen to her baby or someone else she loves, or has unpleasant thoughts that she can’t control, it is best to turn to someone for help. All of these symptoms are treatable.

To complete a quick assessment to see if you are at risk for depression or anxiety, click here. To see a list of things you can do right now to help yourself, click here. To find out where to get help or talk to someone who’s “been there”, click here.

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Overwhelmed

It is quite common to feel overwhelmed after the birth of a baby.  A mother often wants everything to go just right, and it is often a bigger challenge than one could foresee to manage the usual tasks of life plus the demands of a baby.  It sometimes helps to relax expectations until the baby has more of a routine and mom can get longer hours of sleep.  Additionally asking for help, getting regular breaks from the baby, and pursuing pleasurable activities can go a long way to help a mom feel her life is manageable. If a mom becomes overcome by a sense that she’ll never feel like her old self again, it is possible that she is developing anxiety or depression due to this difficult transition, and might benefit from a discussion with her healthcare provider about other options to see her through.”Being filled only with joy, there is sadness as well.”

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Depressed

When new moms or a moms-to-be are depressed, it is common to feel a lot of nervousness, worry or anxiety. They may have trouble sleeping or feel “keyed up” yet still have times of deep sadness, trouble with their appetite and feelings of worthlessness and hopelessness. Because of this, some mothers may not identify themselves as depressed because they think depression is when you can’t get out of bed and you cry all the time.

To complete a quick assessment to see if you are at risk for depression or anxiety, click here. To see a list of things you can do right now to help yourself, click here. To find out where to get help or talk to someone who’s “been there”, click here.

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Sad

Becoming a mother can also mean leaving parts of ourselves and our lives behind us, and it is possible to feel sadness as a woman takes inventory of the things she is no longer able to do, the body that has changed, and the loss of moving about her life freely.  Women often feel sad when they have a second child and worry that the first born will not receive the same attention she was once able to provide. Relationships can also change and mothers are often reminded of parent child relationships in their own lives that contribute to sadness. Motherhood is the largest life transition for a woman, and it is not surprising that rather than being easy it requires significant adjustments.

To complete a quick assessment to see if you are at risk for depression or anxiety, click here. To see a list of things you can do right now to help yourself, click here. To find out where to get help or talk to someone who’s “been there”, click here.

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Lonely

You are not alone! As many as 1 in 4 pregnant or new mothers feel this way but don’t know where to turn. They feel as though they are the only women to feel isolated and alone. Isn’t having a baby supposed to make you feel wonderful? Aren’t you supposed to immediately feel an intense bond with your baby? What if you feel like something is not right or is missing?

To complete a quick assessment to see if you are at risk for depression or anxiety, click here. To see a list of things you can do right now to help yourself, click here. To find out where to get help or talk to someone who’s “been there”, click here.

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Tearful

During the first two weeks or so after the birth of their baby, most new mothers experience crying spells, mood swings and feelings of loneliness and restlessness. Often they also sometimes feel intense happiness or giddiness. This emotional ‘roller coaster’ is called the Baby Blues. It’s considered normal as a woman’s body adjusts to changing hormones. But if you are pregnant or your baby is older than 3 weeks and these feelings aren’t going away or are getting worse you may have a PMAD.

To take a test to see if this might actually be an illness that can be treated, click here. To see a list of things you can do right now to help yourself, click here. To find out where to get help or talk to someone who’s “been there”, click here.

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Angry

During pregnancy or sometime in the first year after the birth of their baby, some women are surprised to find themselves feeling angry for no good reason. Sure, that driver cut me off or the store clerk was rude but the intense feelings of anger and rage are way out of proportion to the offense. Family members and friends often bear the brunt of the anger. It may be difficult to understand where this anger is coming from and it may make you feel guilty.

To complete a quick assessment to see if you are at risk for depression or anxiety, click here. To see a list of things you can do right now to help yourself, click here. To find out where to get help or talk to someone who’s “been there”, click here.

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Confused

“I don’t know what I was thinking by having a baby!” Many new mothers feel confusion and ambivalence both during pregnancy and after the birth of the baby. It is common to think, “this is not what I expected.” This can be true for many reasons including the exaggeration of happy feelings that a new mom will feel by the media, friends and family, and in a mom’s own imagination. When she has feelings that don’t fit her idealized self, she wonders if she was meant to be a mother, or if she is different from others. Confusion about other relationships and taking on the charge of a helpless infant can lead to depression or anxiety, but is not a sign that a mom is in trouble.

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Exhausted

Feeling exhausted is pretty much a universal symptom that every new mom shares. Babies need to eat frequently around the clock and if you are breastfeeding, there is no one else who can take your place. Click here for a flyer with some strategies that might help you get a bit more sleep. While most know they will fall into a deep sleep if they could just lie down, some women find that they cannot sleep even when their babies sleep. Extended sleep deprivation makes caring for a new baby really challenging as with each sleepless night, it just gets worse and worse. Failure to get adequate rest can leave you feeling like you’re going crazy, and sometimes when sleep deprivation persists a mother can become depressed or anxious.

To complete a quick assessment to see if you are at risk for depression or anxiety, click here. To see a list of things you can do right now to help yourself, click here. To find out where to get help or talk to someone who’s “been there”, click here.

Here are some strategies for getting more sleep:
While adults usually prefer to sleep during the night, babies are born feeling more awake and hungry during the night and sleepy during the day.

  • Consider keeping blinds and drapes open during the day having your home as bright as possible during the day.
  • ‘Hang out’ with your newborn near a bright window but not in direct light.
  • Take him/her outside – again not in direct sunlight – first thing in the morning for a couple of hours.

Just like anyone who is jet-lagged, the light will help your baby adjust to normal human nighttime sleep patterns. They won’t sleep through the night but they will begin to stretch out those nighttime feedings so you all will get more sleep between them.

Research tells us that moms who are suffering from PMADs really need 5 hours of uninterrupted sleep to begin to feel better. If you are breastfeeding:

  • Try pumping and have someone else give the baby a bottle for one or two of the nighttime feedings so you can get more sleep.
  • Consider having a lactation consultant come to your home to help you with a plan to get more sleep and preserve breastfeeding.
  • Consider having Baby sleep near you in your room. Go to cosleeping.nd.edu to see what a safe sleep environment is for your baby.
  • Hire a postpartum doula to come to your home and care for your baby overnight so you can get a good night’s sleep.

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Stressed

Many women say that they feel stressed during pregnancy and postpartum because they feel they don’t measure up to their expectations of motherhood like:

  • Myths of motherhood
  • Challenges with breastfeeding or the decision to formula feed
  • Bonding with their baby
  • Feelings of inadequacies as a parent
  • Re-negotiating family roles
  • Returning to work
  • Sleep deprivation

Many women find that the responsibilities and never-ending list of chores and family obligations on top of round the clock care of a new baby can be very stressful.

To complete a quick assessment to see if you are at risk for depression or anxiety, click here. To see a list of things you can do right now to help yourself, click here. To find out where to get help or talk to someone who’s “been there”, click here.

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Discouraged

Mothers often do not give themselves credit for the enormity of their tasks as it relates to new motherhood. Believing that they can take on the care of a newborn and continue with all their other responsibilities with ease is misguided. In a society in which there are high expectations of women, it is but true that mothers aspire to keep going at a pace of perfection, or A+ performance which is simply not an attainable goal with a newborn.

Feeling discouraged about not being able to do it all with ease, or discouraged because it takes so much longer to get things accomplished is also commonly described by new mothers. Being realistic and letting nonessential duties wait is important in order to survive the demands of new motherhood without falling into overwhelm, despair, depression or anxiety. Taking stock of what really needs attention and asking for help rather than trying to do it all can prevent more disabling feelings.

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Frustrated

Many women feel frustrated around having a baby. They feel cheated by the myths of motherhood that society has led them to believe:

  • Motherhood is a “happy time”
  • Childbirth is a fulfilling event from which a woman should “bounce back” within a few days
  • Myth of the perfect mother/perfect baby
  • Baby will bring her closer to her partner
  • Perfect mothering instinct and immediate bonding with baby

They may also feel frustrated by feelings of loss that may include:

  • Feeling tied down
  • Loss of old identity
  • Loss of control
  • Loss of figure or sense of attractiveness
  • Loss of time to themselves

To complete a quick assessment to see if you are at risk for depression or anxiety, click here. To see a list of things you can do right now to help yourself, click here. To find out where to get help or talk to someone who’s “been there”, click here.

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Guilty

Guilt and shame about thoughts and feelings associated with motherhood are destructive forces that can lead to depression and anxiety. A mom may develop guilt based on feelings she has that she views as un-motherly or un-loving, leading to a sense that she in not worthy of the baby she has and the others in her life that care for her. Moms often ask themselves:

  • Is it okay that I go back to work?
  • What if I don’t like being with my baby all the time?
  • Do I love this baby enough?
  • Will I hurt the baby with my thoughts?
  • I wasn’t cut out for this role.

Also, if a mom has prepared for the baby with regrets, as can often occur in unplanned pregnancies (which are the majority), she will often feel guilty or blame herself for her earlier negative thoughts. This is especially true if the baby has any health problems.

To see if you are at risk, click here. To learn ways to address your feelings, click here. For more information about guilt and shame in motherhood, click here.

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Sleepless

Nearly every woman with a new baby feels sleep deprived, which makes their days difficult and their nights endless. While most know they will fall into a deep sleep if they could just lie down, some women find that they cannot sleep even when their babies sleep. Extended sleep deprivation makes caring for a new baby really challenging, as with each sleepless night, it just gets worse and worse. When pregnant or new mothers aren’t able to sleep for several days in a row, they may find that ‘reality’ begins to get weird. They may begin to think that they don’t need to sleep and have lots of energy, beginning many new projects without a seeing any through to completion. They may even lose the ability to sort out what is real and what is in their heads. If this sounds like what you or someone you know is experiencing, call a doctor and get help. This can be a medical emergency.

To complete a quick assessment to see if you are at risk for depression or anxiety, click here.

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Irritable

Many women find that they feel irritable during this time that they thought would only be happy and serene. They may feel irritable with their mother, sister, friends, or partner – sometimes even the baby. There is often no specific reason and it cannot be explained away by ‘hormones’ or not enough sleep. It can also linger for weeks or even months and can interfere with their relationships with the very people who they look to for comfort and support.

To complete a quick assessment to see if you are at risk for depression or anxiety, click here. To see a list of things you can do right now to help yourself, click here. To find out where to get help or talk to someone who’s “been there”, click here.

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Panicky

Some new and soon-to-be moms have an underlying feeling of anxiousness that can escalate to:

  • Episodes of extreme anxiety and/or panic attacks
  • Shortness of breath, chest pain, sensations of choking or smothering, dizziness
  • Hot or cold flashes, trembling, palpitations, numbness or tingling
  • During episodes the woman may fear she is going crazy, dying or losing control

Sometimes a panic attack can seem to come out of the blue. For many, this means a trip to the emergency room afraid they are having a heart attack. Seeking medical attention is important but many doctors are not aware of PMADs. Women are often given medications to treat the panic attack and sent home without getting the referral they need to treat the underlying cause. Sometimes they are told that they cannot breastfeed. To find out more click here.

To complete a quick assessment to see if you are at risk for depression or anxiety, click here. To find out where to get help or talk to someone who’s “been there”, click here.

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Paranoid

It is not uncommon for a mom to feel that she is being evaluated by others for her actions as a new mom. Becoming competent in a new role leads to increased sensitivity to suggestions or observations by others. It is also reported that some women believe their partners no longer find them attractive and may develop fear or suspicion that they are finding others more attractive. While all of this is within the framework of normal adjustment. However, paranoid feelings differ from true paranoia which has more to do with unrealistic and unfounded beliefs that others are talking about you or planning to harm you or someone you love. These beliefs lead to constant fear as one feels they are at the center of some dreaded plot from which they are not safe. A mom can get help for this and feel like herself again. Take this risk assessment…

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Horrible

Many new moms report a variety of negative feelings during pregnancy or the postpartum that lead them to a sense that everything in their lives is horrible and unmanageable. It is one of the very low points that can be difficult to rise from as everything seems to be dark and unfixable. Horrible is often the lowest feeling and occurs when a mom can’t resolve her overwhelm, her stress, and her confusion. Identifying the initial stress and overwhelm and getting help early on can prevent this.

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Unworthy

So many women become mothers under false illusions about how they will feel. Few are free from the effects of media portrayals of motherhood, and many healthcare providers minimize mother’s report of anxious or depressed feelings as simply ‘hormonal’ and normal….they’ll get over it! The stage is set for women to feel unworthy when they cannot match up against expectations; her own, or those of family or society. Women begin to doubt they are fit to be the mother of their baby, or the partner of their spouse. It takes a while to become competent as a mother, and negative self-talk or self-evaluation about how one matches up against the ideal leads to a feeling of unworthiness.

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