While bringing your new baby home is an incredibly exciting time in your life, for many women it can be quite an emotional rollercoaster. Becoming a parent is one of, if not the biggest transformations that we experience in our life. Birthing your baby is not just a physical transformation - there is a huge emotional transition that happens when a woman becomes a mother.
I think a positive postpartum journey really starts with a great birth - and I don't mean an absolutely perfect birth, but a birth where you were supported, felt confident, and were respected in your decisions. Choose a supportive provider, complete an independent childbirth education course, and really make sure your birth partner is ready and willing to advocate for you and your baby. This is a great first start.
Tips for supporting your emotional health:
- Take the steps to learn about breastfeeding so that it is not such a steep learning curve when your baby is here - it is much easier to learn the basics in pregnancy than when you have a hungry little baby in your arms!
- Find your village - it is often said that it takes a village to raise a child, and I 100% believe this. Find a supportive group to help you navigate your motherhood journey. This may be friends, family or a mothers group that you can join.
- Consider after your baby is born and how you can make life as easy as possible. Perhaps consider in-home midwifery support, doing a big cook up of freezer meals, or even just organising to have a meal delivery service deliver food for the first two weeks so that you can nourish yourself without any stress.
It is also important to understand some of the mental health challenges that women commonly experience in the postpartum period. I encourage you to learn about baby blues, postnatal depression, and postnatal anxiety (and your partner too) so you can recognise the signs and seek help early.
Baby blues refers to the low mood that some women experience 3-5 days after birth. This is a time where many hormonal shifts are happening, and you may be tired from your birth or waking frequently to feed your baby. Baby blues are normal and often resolves in time and with good support from your partner, family, and midwife. For some women, these feelings persist, which is where postnatal depression may be diagnosed.
More than 1 in 7 new mums and up to 1 in 10 new dads experience postnatal depression. While postnatal depression is common, it is absolutely treatable with the right support. Symptoms of postnatal depression can be found here. If you or your partner experience symptoms for two or more weeks, or you are concerned with how you are feeling it is time to seek support. Your midwife, GP or obstetrician is a great first step.
The PANDA (Perinatal Anxiety & Depression Australia) and Beyond Blue websites are also a great resource for information and further support. The PANDA free helpline is available 9 am-7 pm Monday-Friday on 1300 726 306.
It is really important to remember that while anxiety and depression are common during the childbearing period, it is absolutely treatable with the right support. If you are concerned with how you are feeling please reach out to your midwife, doctor, or obstetrician.
If you or your partner are at immediate risk of harm call 000 or Lifeline on 13 11 14.
Article written by PBC Expo Midwife