By Joy Davy, MS, LCPC, NCC, licensed professional counselor specializing in perinatal mood disorders, www.joydavy.com.
The joy of motherhood is the subject of much art and idealistic images. Our expectation that the arrival of a baby is a time of peace and pure bliss is enforced by the culture. Certainly for many mothers, the months of carrying a precious new life and bringing a brand new person into the world are experiences unparalleled in satisfaction and happiness. Of course, even the most exhilarated mother has her moments of feeling overwhelmed, intimidated by the formidable job ahead, and just plain physically exhausted. Overall, though, new motherhood is expected to be a wonderful time, and it often is. However, a significant number of mothers experience mood disorders, ranging from the relatively mild “baby blues” to far more serious and persistent conditions that require treatment.
The Baby Blues
The baby blues is a very common transitory experience of tearfulness, irritability, overwhelmed feelings and mood swings. More than half of all mothers pass through this phase during the first two weeks after childbirth. For the baby blues, no treatment is needed unless the depression appears to be extreme. If the new mother is breastfeeding on demand, using no bottles or pacifiers, with the baby having continuous access to the breast, her hormones are likely to be at a euphoric level that seems to offer some measure of protection against the the baby blues and the clinical illness postpartum depression, although there is no sure guarantee. The baby blues will pass untreated. Postpartum depression, however, is another matter entirely and requires professional attention. Continue reading