Your value is immeasurable. And your unique and special role in your child’s life requires special and purposeful attention. If you as a Mom or Dad gets the necessary support early on and receive the tools to provide support for yourself, we break a negative cycle that can be passed down from generation to generation. Every woman who heals herself, heals her children’s children.
Research shows that between 31 – 40% of South African women experience mental health problems after the birth of their baby. South Africa also ranks among the top 5 countries with the highest figures in the world. These alarming statistics is the main reason we need to work together to dispel and address the stigma of Postpartum Depression, Adjustment and anxiety to improve the mental health of future generations to come.
BetterMom is a passion-project of mine that I started in 2021 to focus on addressing this stigma of Postpartum adjustment, depression and anxiety for the whole family, so that my children’s children do not have to be ashamed to speak up about these matters one day. BetterMom focuses on your mental health by addressing relevant topics and providing tools and programs to support you as a parent to bond and be deeply in touch with your children. A self-aware and self-confident parent is a parent who is empowered to make a difference in their own life but also in the life of their children.
Few parents realise this, but there is a difference between the “Baby Blues” and Postpartum Depression.
It’s especially important for you as a parent to have knowledge of the relevant symptoms so that you can identify the signs early and therefore get the necessary support if needed.
Symptoms of ‘baby blues’ could last only a few days to a week or two after your baby is born and include the following:
- Mood swings that are characterised by fluctuation in your mood
- Anxiety of fear
- Sadness and tears
- Irritability or sensitivity to small and big things
- Feeling overwhelmed by the thought of completing basic tasks
- Decreased concentration most likely caused by lack of sleep or the possible trauma associated with the birth process, whether it worked out or didn’t work out as planned
- Appetite problems such as a decreased appetite or having the need to overeat
- Struggling to sleep which includes insomnia or over sleeping
Postpartum depression may seem similar to baby blues – but the signs and symptoms are more intense and long lasting. These symptoms can also eventually interfere with your ability to take care of yourself and your baby, as well as inhibit or reduce your ability to complete basic daily tasks. Symptoms develop within the first few weeks after birth, but can start earlier – during pregnancy – or later – up to a year after birth. Too many mothers are only diagnosed after years and years of struggling with these symptoms. Before we look at the specific symptoms, we need to highlight two important points:
- If you have thoughts of harming yourself or your baby, please speak to a loved one or medical professional immediately to ensure that you and your baby receive the care you need. If thoughts of harming yourself or your baby may lead to actions please consult your nearest emergency department, doctor or psychiatrist immediately. There are experts around you who can help.
- If you have recurring thoughts of death or suicide, please address them immediately with someone you trust, with a doctor or psychologist. There is an English saying, “What you put into the light can no longer hold you tight”. Surrender to people who can save you and your baby’s life. Remember, you and your baby are valuable and precious beyond measure.
Lets look at Postpartum depression signs and symptoms that may include the following
- Depressed mood or being very moody
- Excessive or uncontrollable crying
- Struggling to bond with your baby. Maybe it feels like you just can not look your baby in the eye or have the need to kiss or hug them. It also includes the need to put distance between you and your Baby or harbour feelings of resentment towards your baby
- Withdrawing from family and friends to create distance is an primal need of the brain to preserve you and your energy and is not healthy because we as humans are hardwired for love and connection. If you feel you don’t want to open the curtains for days on end or stopped looking after your hygiene, it’s definitely time to consult a doctor or Psychologist
- Loss of appetite or completely overeating that does not benefit breastfeeding anymore for instance
- Inability to sleep which includes insomnia or wanting to sleep too much
- Overwhelming fatigue and loss of energy
- Decreased interest and pleasure in what you enjoyed in the past
- Intense irritability, sensitivity and anger. Anger serves as a red flag and needs to be addressed. Do introspection to find out what emotions are underlying this experience. It usually has to do with feelings of inferiority, helplessness, shame, inadequacy or hopelessness. Once you’ve identified what you feel, ask yourself why you feel that way and what you can do about it
- Fear that you are not a good mother and what it means to you
- Feeling of hopelessness
- Reduced ability to think clearly, concentrate or make decisions. Adults make approximately 35,000 decisions each day. Decision Fatigue is a major problem in today’s society and can be treated at various levels. Actively reduce the amount of decisions you have to make each day
- Restlessness or the need to have everything in order. Ask yourself what you can let go of, and in what areas of your life you are able to relinquish control
- Severe anxiety and panic attacks. A panic attack is characterised by symptoms such as sudden high blood pressure, heart palpitations, sweatiness, nausea, dizziness and lightheadedness
Other factors include
- Unrealistic expectations that mothers and fathers place on their baby. Your baby is not capable and will most likely not fulfil you as a human being. Just love who they are and go seek your fulfilment in the love you give to yourself and therefore to your baby. Other fulfilment can also be cultivated in your hobbies or even in charity work you engage in
- Infertility, hormonal and endocrine levels can also play a major role. Check with your doctor to eliminate medical explanation for your mood
- Marital problems and when Mom gets jealous of the amount of attention Dad gives to baby. Having a meaningful conversation with your loved on in this regard can create opportunity for a new bond between parents. Marriage or couples counseling with the right therapist can also be one of the greatest gifts a couple can give to themselves and their relationship. Remember, your child grows up in the emotional crib between you and your partner. Do introspection on what that band looks like and what it means
- Other factors are when Mom feels alone and isolated. Loneliness is a pandemic in today’s society and factors like Covid-19 have exacerbated such experiences
- Complications or illness for mother or baby before, during and after birth can also play a role. Maybe there were complications with Mom at birth or baby was admitted to the NICU due to premature birth or due to an illness, something you might not have expected at all. The trauma of this experience takes time to process and needs to be addressed
- Adoption and the gruelling adoption process that can include a lot of uncertainty, stigma and judgment by society
- Extreme influence such as parents / friends / in-laws giving opinions, being bossy or trying to control your parenting style. It helps to know that many times it is a projection of the person or persons’ own feelings of inferiority.
In addition to the above recommendations, Postnatal Depression, Adjustment and Anxiety is treated with psychotherapy, medication and a thorough medical checkup. A medical examination is especially important to eliminate aspects such as diabetes, hormonal imbalance or high blood pressure that could have a physiological effect on your mental health.
And last but not least, a gentle reminder to look after yourself with great care and love so to live by example to your children of how they should love and care for themselves. Prioritise your physical, emotional and mental health.
Head over and follow BetterMom on Facebook and Instagram to stay up to date on other interesting topics and new therapeutic products and programs to support Mom, Dad and Baby.
Also visit our website www.bettermom.today or send an email to Hello@bettermom.today for more information.
( Please note that by law we may not provide any medical advice or recommendations over email)