Being a new parent is tough regardless of how old you are, how you came to be a parent or what your family situation is. Even when you’re happy and excited to become a parent, it is a life-changing event that can be unexpectedly and profoundly stressful.
Becoming a parent, whether or not it’s your first child, can put pressure/strain on your relationships, emotions, time, energy, and physical health. It can be wonderful and the best thing to ever happen to you, but it is a lot to take on and changes your life forever. To add to this, there can be an expectation to do everything “right” while also being happy, grateful and cheerful on top of fully caring for a person 24/7.
The reality is that new parents, in particular new moms who have given birth to a baby, often struggle with the “baby blues” - a form of (usually temporary) depression which feels like low mood, sadness, irritability, low energy and apathy. Others may experience a form of heightened anxiety - extreme worry that can interfere with sleep, eating, and generally living life. Usually, these feelings subside as people adjust to their role as a parent and postpartum hormonal changes adjust and balance out.
Any parent might experience these things. Even adoptive parents and other caregivers who didn’t physically give birth to a child can experience a form of low mood or anxiety in the days after becoming a parent.
However, when these feelings are extreme, ongoing and affecting someone’s ability to live their life and/or care for their child, it might be a sign of postpartum depression.
Postpartum depression is treatable, but left untreated can complicate a person’s mental health ongoing and interfere with their life and ability to parent. In extreme cases, it can cause psychosis, neglect or abuse of children and thoughts/actions of harming one’s self or others.
It is not:
- “Just a phase” or something someone can “snap out of”.
- A sign or result of low intelligence or weakness.
- Always caused by an event or definitive “reason”.