When a woman finds out she’s pregnant, everything becomes tailored around her pregnancy and that growing baby inside. She sets up her prenatal appointments, plans a baby shower, and starts thinking about what type of birth she wants to have. But what about her postpartum experience? Why don’t we spend time planning for that?
The truth is, recovering from birth is like its own little world. It can feel heavy, sad, and lonely — all while feeling happy, exciting, and memorable at the same time. If you find yourself struggling during those first 42 days after birth, know it’s okay not to be okay postpartum.
What and When is the Postpartum Period?
The postpartum period begins immediately after childbirth and it has three distinct phases; the initial or acute phase, 6–12 hours after childbirth; the subacute postpartum period, which lasts two to six weeks, and the delayed postpartum period, which can last up to six months. These are crucial times where moms are in a recovery state after giving birth, but also transitioning to their new world with a baby (or babies). And believe it or not, this study shows that at least 1 out of 7 women will experience postpartum depression in the year after giving birth. What’s worse is that many of these moms in the trenches typically don’t have the support they need to get help or feel too embarrassed to talk about it.
It’s Okay Not to Be Okay Postpartum
Please, mama, if you’re reading this, remember, it’s okay not to be okay postpartum. It’s okay to feel:
- Like you aren’t recovering as quickly as you’d like.
- That nobody understands you.
- Frustration when your baby won’t stop crying.
- Exhausted (because, really, you probably are).
- Like you need a break.
- Like you count down the minutes to bedtime and miss your sweet bundle of joy all at the same time.
To help you ease some of that stress and replace it with some confidence throughout your postpartum journey, here are five practical things you can do today.
1. You can help prevent postpartum depression.
Between physically trying to recover from childbirth to frantically figuring out why your baby won’t stop crying, postpartum is hard. The stress and those unknowns can put a damper on your postpartum journey. You may feel a little:
- Exhausted (but unable to sleep)
Please know, you can turn it all around by educating yourself and emphasizing your personal needs. For example, create a postpartum plan before baby arrives so that you can feel more prepared for what life will be like with baby. However, if you are experiencing signs of postpartum depression, please notify your doctor right away to get the support you need.
2. There are treatments available for postpartum depression.
Unlike the baby blues, which usually goes away on its own by your 14th day after birth, postpartum depression likes to stick around or surprise you by showing up later. The good news is there are treatment options available to help you get through it!
Treatment and prevention of postpartum depression fall into two categories: therapy and medication. Regardless of which option you need or choose, remember you made a conscious decision to get the help you need, which takes so much courage. By getting help, you are thinking of your family and are a great mom.
3. You are NOT alone.
When I realized I had been dealing with postpartum depression not long after my first was born, I remember feeling so isolated. The one person I knew I could talk to was my husband, but I convinced myself he wouldn’t understand. This, my fellow moms, is the reason you NEED to surround yourself with a strong support network.
This could be other mom friends, family members, postpartum doula or lactation consultants, etc. After I eventually started going to therapy, one thing that helped me feel somewhat normal when dealing with postpartum depression was knowing I wasn’t the only one experiencing these challenges. It felt like a whole new world opened up for me, one where I wasn’t so isolated.
4. You don’t have to DO IT ALL alone.
For whatever reason, we moms like to think it’s our sole responsibility to juggle a million things at once. Please don’t feel pressured to subject yourself to that kind of thinking. This is your permission to let things go and give yourself grace because you do not have to DO IT ALL alone.
5. Be your biggest advocate.
Nobody knows what you’re going through better than you. Take this time to make your needs clear and heard. Schedule out days in advance so you can fit in some self-care for yourself and ask for help in advance for things like meal prepping, cleaning, or even daily chores.
It’s okay not to be okay postpartum, but there sure are a lot of ways to help you feel a little more okay and a little more empowered throughout your journey.