What to Do If You’re Feeling Anxious or Depressed After Having a Baby
You’ve recently had a baby.
You are more than three weeks postpartum.
You do not like the way you are feeling. You wonder if you are too anxious or too depressed. Your family and friends have tried to reassure you, but you think to yourself that they couldn’t possibly understand how bad you really feel.
You worry that this is what being a mother feels like and you might never feel better, but you’re not sure. Maybe if you just wait, it will get better on its own? Maybe if you pretend everything’s OK, you will feel better?
But you continue to worry about the way you are feeling.
Here’s what you should do.
1. Ask for help.
Any feelings of depression and anxiety that interfere with your ability to get through the day are not OK right now. Find a safe person you can trust. Tell that person you are worried about the way you are feeling. If you know what they can do to help you, be specific and ask them. If you are not sure, tell them you are not sure, but you need their help, regardless. Then, let them help you. No one is asking you to diagnose yourself. If you are not sure what is going on, you should err on the side of caution and let someone you trust know how you feel.
2. Contact your doctor/healthcare provider.
Be specific and clear about how you are feeling so you can discuss options. If you feel dismissed or misunderstood, make the effort to clarify and reiterate. If you continue to feel that your provider does not understand or is not responding in a way that feels supportive and collaborative, seek help from another provider.
3. Do your best to locate a therapist.
Call one or two or three therapists and talk to them directly. See how that feels. Do not let feelings of guilt or anxiety get in the way of reaching out for the support you need right now. Therapists who have received specialized training to treat postpartum depression and anxiety understand how difficult this first phone contact can be. Take the risk and let someone help you. You do not have to go through this alone. If you cannot find a specialist in your area, call one of the perinatal specialists listed and talk to them about finding someone closer to you. They will help you do this.
4. When you make your first appointment, ask your partner to accompany if that feels better for you.
Most therapists will welcome that and it is highly probable that you can bring your baby to that session, also. Your family is a vital part of your healing process.
5. Stay off of the internet until you get some relief from your symptoms.
While there may be numerous outlets for support available online, you will inadvertently be exposing yourself to random and unpredictable anxiety-provoking, shame-inducing triggers. It is best for you to protect yourself from that for a while.
6. Accept the fact that you are not feeling good right now.
It will not always feel this way.
7. Avoid all triggers that make you feel worse.
That includes people who are unsupportive, and events or obligations that increase your anxiety. Self-compassion is essential. Pay attention to what you need and do your best to express this to your partner and helping professionals.
8. Do not stop until you find the right help.
This means you should feel comfortable with the support you are getting. This means your health care provider, your therapist, your support group, your medication and your adjunctive recovery team must all be appropriately responsive to your needs and it is important that you continue to communicate with those caring for you. If the level of caring you receive feels insufficient or inauthentic, you can decide to either let someone know how this feels, or find another/additional professional/treatment alternative.
9. You do not need to struggle.
Not even a little bit. There are more and more healthcare professionals who understand that new mothers are at risk for serious depression and anxiety disorders. Help is out there. Do what you need to do to help yourself get the help you need and deserve.
If you or a loved one is affected by postpartum depression or other postpartum disorders and need help, you can call Postpartum Support International‘s hotline at 1-800-944-4773.
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