According to the beautiful images on Instagram and Facebook, a plump new baby and a well-rested, smiling mother enjoying every minute of motherhood is the norm in the early days after giving birth. But real life does not always play out like it does in curated posts and choreographed photos. Every new mother I know is familiar with the roller coaster that accompanies the first few weeks and months after welcoming a new baby. For many, the days just after giving birth are marked by restless nights in the hospital, an uncomfortable recovery from labor, the learning curve of how to care for a newborn – all while attempting to catch up on sleep.
For some mothers, that’s not where the stress and anxiety ends. Some new moms are grappling with their newborn’s health issues. Some mothers could be jobless, homeless or plagued with an addiction, while others deal with a partner who is deployed or not in the picture. Some new moms are teenagers and may have a minimal support system in place. With all of those factors in play, in addition to recalibrating post-pregnancy hormones, it is no wonder that many mothers feel overwhelmed.
The American Psychological Association says postpartum depression afflicts approximately one out of seven new mothers and can start anytime after giving birth, from a few weeks to a year. With almost four million births reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2016, that means over half a million new mothers are suffering from postpartum depression or anxiety in the U.S. alone. Symptoms and severity range from mood swings, to difficulty sleeping, to feeling overwhelmed to the more serious thoughts of hopelessness or self-harm. A full list of symptoms can be found here. What all new mothers and those around her need to know is that help and support is available to them.
United Way believes that children deserve a strong start in life and that having a healthy mother or caregiver is the first step in that direction. If you or someone you know is a new parent (mother or father) and experiencing any symptoms of postpartum depression or anxiety, reach out for help. Talk to your partner, doctor, pediatrician, other moms, friends or relatives about what you’re going through. You can also call 2-1-1 for immediate assistance.
This Mother’s Day, let’s ensure every mother gets the support and care she needs to be the strongest advocate she can for her new child.