Your Feelings

Adjusting to life with a new baby can be stressful. Daily routines will change for you, your partner, and the rest of the household. This is an important time of social and emotional adjustment.

Your body also needs time to rest and recover from pregnancy and childbirth. In the first few weeks after giving birth, you may feel that you are on an emotional roller coaster—happy and elated one minute, anxious, irritable, sad or exhausted the next.

Many things that can affect your emotional well-being at this time, including:

  • lack of sleep
  • changes in daily routines
  • changing roles at home and work
  • changes in your relationship with your intimate partner
  • changes in self-image
  • anxiety about parenting a newborn
  • changes in your financial situation
  • hormonal changes.

Many new moms will experience “the baby blues.” This is a temporary condition, which goes away on its own within a few weeks. It should not be confused with postpartum depression, which is serious and requires prompt medical attention.

Understanding the “Baby Blues”

  • New mothers commonly start to feel the “baby blues” within 3 to 5 days after giving birth. Due in part to hormonal changes, you may experience sleeplessness, sadness, mood swings, crying, headaches, poor concentration, and confusion. These symptoms can come and go for a few weeks and usually disappear on their own.
  • Extra support and reassurance from the people around you can help you get through this period. Talking about your feelings with your family, friends, and health professionals also helps.

Postpartum Depression

  • Postpartum (or post-natal) depression affects about 10% to 20% of mothers. It usually begins between 2 weeks and 6 months after giving birth, but in some cases it begins as much as a year later.
  • Common symptoms of postpartum depression are uncontrollable crying and feeling worthless, guilty, unable to cope, or worried about being able to love the baby. Postpartum depression symptoms occur every day for most or all of the day, and last two weeks or more. Many women with postpartum depression try to hide their feelings and withdraw from their family and friends.
  • Postpartum depression requires immediate medical attention. If it is not treated, it can have a serious impact on both the mother and baby.
  • If you think you have postpartum depression, talk to your partner, a family member, friend, or a member of your health care team. It is important to get help. With treatment, most women recover within a year.
  • A family history of depression and emotional or physical stress may increase the risk of postpartum depression.
Symptoms of postpartum depression may include:
  • feeling restless or irritable
  • feeling sad, hopeless, and overwhelmed
  • crying a lot
  • having no energy
  • eating too little or too much
  • sleeping too little or too much
  • having trouble focusing, remembering, or making decisions
  • feeling worthless and guilty
  • losing interest and pleasure in things you used to enjoy
  • withdrawing from friends and family
  • having headaches, chest pains, a racing heartbeat, or fast, shallow breathing
  • feeling like you don’t care about the baby
  • wanting to hurt the baby or yourself.
Treatment for Postpartum Depression

Postpartum depression requires treatment from a health professional. This usually involves:

  • medication (many antidepressants are safe to take while breastfeeding)
  • talk therapy with a doctor, nurse, or social worker.

Postpartum depression is not the same as “baby blues.” It needs to be treated by a health professional.

Coping with Changes and Challenges

Ask for Help

  • Friends and family members often want to help with new babies. Ask for help with housekeeping and cooking.
  • Many people feel honoured to be asked to care for the baby for short periods of time. Let adults you trust rock or walk the baby or change a diaper. Don’t feel you have to do it all yourself.
  • Talk to your public health nurse about other ideas on how you can get help and support from others.

Physical Activity

  • Exercising as little as 10 minutes a day can make you feel better. Try to make exercise part of your daily routine. It can be as simple as taking the baby for a walk. Ask your health care provider about the type of exercise that’s best for you.

Stress Management

  • Stress can make depression worse. Can you remove any sources of stress in your life, even for a little while?
  • Give yourself a break! Don’t put pressure on yourself by trying to keep everything “perfect.” Do what you can and leave the rest.
  • Avoid alcohol and caffeine.
  • Try to go to bed and get up around the same time every day and develop relaxing bedtime rituals, such as reading or having a warm bath.
  • Choose healthy foods and a well-balanced diet. Eating regular meals can help reduce depression.
  • Spend time with people. Don’t isolate yourself. Talk to other mothers and consider joining a support group.
  • Make time for yourself and for activities you enjoy, even if you don’t feel like making the effort.

To Learn More…

Canadian Mental Health Association: