After the third trimester woes of constant back pain, peeing when you sneeze, and not being able to tie your own shoes, most women are so ready to get that baby out so that they can once again function as normal (albeit tired) human beings again. The idea is that once you're home, you have a sweet little baby to care for and rock to sleep at night, and your days will be filled with love and snuggles, and of course lots of diaper changes. It's the "Gerber Myth" says Barbara Byers, a reproductive psychiatrist in Chevy Chase, Maryland, the notion that once baby is home, everything is rosy.
The reality is that at the very least, most women will experience the"Baby Blues" and 1 in 5 will experience a Perinatal Mood or Anxiety Disorder. While the Baby Blues (and the accompanying symptoms of crying, feeling overwhelmed and uncertain, fatigue, etc) can significantly impact a mother's initial experience of mothering, it is important to know that it is not the same as Postpartum Depression, and it will resolve on its own within 2 weeks (Postpartum Support International, 2018). On the other hand, Perinatal Mood & Anxiety Disorders (Postpartum Depression, Anxiety, OCD, PTSD, Perinatal Bipolar Disorder, Perinatal Psychosis) will typically not resolve without professional help (through therapy and medication support).
Wondering how therapy can help? By working with a therapist to process these challenges, gain self-understanding and insight, understand the causes of the disorder, and working collaboratively to come up with a set of tools for coping, it's possible to restore a higher quality of life. Becoming a parent (or adding another child to the existing mix) involves significant shifts: a loss of your previous identity, relationship transitions, changes in how your experience intimacy with your partner, etc. It can be tremendously helpful to acknowledge and process the areas that are causing distress. It's worth your time to find an experienced therapist who is trained in Perinatal Mental Health, as well as someone you feel supported by and comfortable with. For some, medication plus therapy will prove necessary to feel like you have achieved a more manageable level of well-being, but for many individuals, therapy is enough to restore a sense of psychological health so that you can better enjoy your growing family, as well as your renewed sense of self.
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