Having a baby is one of the most profound experiences a woman can have; it’s also profound in its impact. Typically, there is not a single area of a woman’s life that remains unaffected by childbirth: bodies change, relationships change, work demands change, practical routines change, and the list continues. So is it any surprise that women are far more likely to have a mental health issue surrounding childbirth than at any other point in their lives?
The mental health issues that women experience at this time range from as simple as increased stress to Baby Blues to postpartum mood disorders including postpartum depression and postpartum anxiety. Many women aren’t exactly certain where they fall on the postpartum spectrum; they just know they don’t feel like themselves. Often, their first foray into figuring out what is happening is to mention their feelings to their ob-gyn at the 6-week visit.
If the ob-gyn is thorough, knowledgeable in postpartum issues, and has time, s/he will follow up with thoughtful questions and then offer resources; unfortunately, all-to-often, the visit is rushed and the doctor may not take the time to fully explore how you are feeling after the birth of your baby. A quick check-in or conversation doesn’t allow enough time or attention to figure out if what you’re feeling is the typical “I’m tired because I have a newborn who eats every three hours” experience or if you are experiencing a more significant clinical problem like postpartum depression.
So where can you go for help beyond your ob-gyn? Here are some good sources of information regarding postpartum issues:
Postpartum Support International: http://www.postpartum.net/
In addition to offering valuable information and phone support, PSI can help you find a support group in your area and mental health professionals and physicians who specialize in helping women with postpartum issues.
The Postpartum Stress Center: http://postpartumstress.com/
Karen Kleiman is an internationally-recognized expert in postpartum issues and has several wonderful, must-read books for women with postpartum, as well as their spouses. Karen Kleiman also maintains a list of therapists trained in working with women postpartum.
Postpartum Progress: http://www.postpartumprogress.com/
A very informative and professional blog written by a postpartum survivor that includes a wealth of resources and support.
If you’re struggling postpartum, I encourage you to reach out. This doesn’t have to be this hard and you don’t have to go it alone.