One of my very best friends gave birth to her first child recently, and I’ve been lucky enough to get to help her care for him during the past few months. While helping her care for her newborn son, I’ve realized how much of an effect being a new mother can have on a person’s mental health.
According to the World Health Organization, about 13% of women who have just given birth experience a mental health disorder. Motherhood presents unique challenges like hormonal changes, sleepless nights, difficult keeping up with relationships (e.g., romantic, friends, family), and lack of personal time. All of these challenges are difficult to manage, regardless of whether or not the new mother has preexisting mental health disorders.
The emotional and mental stress can be overwhelming, but these four tips can help you maintain your mental health.
Ask for Help
From observing my best friend, I’ve realized that one way of preventing “burning out” as a new mother is by asking for help. If you have a strong support system of family and friends, chances are there will be more than a few people who are willing to help care for your baby so that you can take care of yourself. When I go to my friend’s house, I help her with feeding and burping the baby, changing him, and just generally keeping an eye on him so that she can do basic things she needs to do to take care of herself like shower, eat, and pump.
Help is there if you need it; you just have to ask for it.
This goes hand in hand with asking for help. Ask others for help so that you can practice self-care in addition to taking care of your basic needs. For example, I babysat for my friend so that she could get a haircut and enjoy a few hours of pampering. In another instance, we were also able to get our nails done while her son slept peacefully in his carrier.
A little bit of self-care can go a long way, and if you have a good support system, you should be able to find at least some alone time to take care of yourself.
Go to Therapy
My friend had been going to therapy since before she was pregnant and had to stop for a few weeks right after she delivered. However, once she got acclimated to living with the baby, she couldn’t wait to get back to her regular appointments.
She expressed that going to therapy was especially helpful in managing her mood swings while her hormones were getting back to normal. She added that it’s nice to have the support of her therapist when issues come up that she needs to process.
Find a Support Group
My friend was able to find a group for new mothers in her neighborhood. Her therapist was actually the one who suggested it. Support groups for new mothers can be a great resource for learning new things and finding a sense of camaraderie. Other mothers can provide you with suggestions on things like pediatricians and different formulas to try, and hearing about issues that other mothers are experiencing can help you feel like you’re not alone.
Whether you are a first time mother or have had a few children already, life with a newborn can be quite an adjustment. Remember that perinatal mental health is just as important as physical health. Ask for help, practice self-care, try therapy, and find a support a support system to help you maintain a more positive mental health during this challenging time.
If you are concerned about your mental health as a new mom, it’s important to seek professional help as soon as possible.