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Baby Blues - When the Tears Won't Stop

Women have a conspiracy; do not admit to anyone that this giving birth business might not fill one to the brim with spiritual and maternal fulfillment. As a psychologist, I come across many new moms who find themselves drawn in this conspiracy and, in turn, are reluctant to draw on the support of others.

They do this by telling themselves that everyone else manages just fine. "Well, it's not as though I'm in the workforce right now so this should be easy." Wrong. It's arguably harder. Talking to oneself in this way prevents decent self-care and increases the risk of postpartum mood disorders.

Let's get something straight. This 'Handling-It-All' conspiracy might be possible if we still lived on neighboring farms, sharing workloads and childcare so twenty eyes spied forty energetic tikes; faces perspiring from the earthy satisfaction of transforming the abundant harvest into endless jars of jelly. In these more modern times, guess what? New moms get lonely. They are exhausted, nervous and, yes, isolated.

Sometimes new moms are just depressed. The spectrum of post-partum mood disorders can be divided into three categories

Baby Blues – 40 to 85 percent of deliveries, peaking three to five days, usually resolving 24 to 72 hours. Treatment is support and reassurance that this is common and short-lived

Post-Partum Depression – ten to 15 percent of deliveries, higher in adolescent deliveries (26 to 32 percent. Most suffer more than six months, and if untreated, 25 percent still depressed after 12 months. Treatment is variable

Puerperal Psychosis – rare, 0.1 percent - 0.2 percent, onset within four weeks postpartum, severely impaired (hallucination and delusions, focusing on infant dying or being demonic or divine)

So if the 'Baby Blues' have not resolved within a matter of days, consider that you might be suffering from a post-partum mood disorder. Consider the following signs:

•  Feeling irritable and angry

•  Crying or feeling on the verge of crying

•  Feeling inadequate and unable to cope

•  Unjustified worries about things that you normally take for granted

•  Being fearful about being left alone with the baby

•  Panic

•  Overwhelming fears

•  Recurrent thoughts about harming your baby

•  Sleep difficulties

•  Exhaustion and lethargy

•  Lack of interest in appearance or your surroundings or loss of pleasure

•  Trouble concentrating, feeling distracted, difficult making decisions

•  Losing or gaining excessive weight due to changed appetite

•  Guilt (sometimes about not being the 'perfect' mother you had hoped you would be)

In addition to the 'Handling-It-All' conspiracy, the following are contributors to post-partum mood disorders:

•  History of depression (including during your pregnancy)

•  Other stressful life events: recent moves, change in employment

•  Perceived loss of status: if a women does not return to work after having a baby the actual status of ‘Motherhood’ in society and resulting ‘fulfillment’ is likely to come as a disappointment, especially considering the hard work involved

•  Vulnerability that comes with sudden economic dependency

•  Potential culture shock: suddenly surrounded by soft, squishy, pastel coloured items, no longer privy to office gossip

Ways to prevent Post-Partum Mood Disorders

•  Learn to catnap

•  Don't ingest anything disruptive to sleep

•  Eat healthy; find resources and use them

•  Be open about your feelings to supportive others

•  Ask for what you need; put aside time to have fun

•  Indulge yourself in a daily treat.

A good mother takes care of the person taking care of her child. You!

Use the resources in this magazine, get signed up, join up, pack up and show up for Mom's groups, play dates and coffee dates. Outstretched arms are a sign of support and help, not your incompetence. Feeling blue and disillusioned is normal. If life has lost its entire luster, it's time to talk to a professional. And, at least for the moment, leave the jelly production up to the manufacturers.

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