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Navigating Post-Partum Mental Health as a New Parent


Whether you are preparing for your first child or a consecutive birth, post-partum mental health remains a vital topic for all women undergoing a huge life shift. Being a mom and walking through post-partum is something that we are familiar with here on the Audacious Athletes coaching team, as three of our coaches HAVE walked this very road. However, we've ALL coached women through this season too.


Check out what Coach Brittany has to say about navigating post-partum.

 

What To Expect


Nobody could’ve prepared me for how challenging the postpartum period would be. In general, but specifically the 4th trimester where you’re simultaneously trying to heal from labor, adjust to your new life as a mom, gracefully let go of your old identity, manage fluctuating hormones & keep up with regular life responsibilities (work, pets, housekeeping, etc) all while on little to no sleep. As much as you attempt to prepare yourself, it’s truly impossible to grasp the degree of overwhelm until you’ve experienced it for yourself.


Everyone is going to have a different experience and enjoy certain periods more than others. That’s perfectly normal. What I was not expecting was how much my mental health was going to plummet & wish it was a topic that had been brought to my attention throughout pregnancy so that I could be more expectant of what I was about to experience. Shifts in mental health is extremely common to experience postpartum, however not talked about as much as it should be due to it’s taboo subject matter.


Baby Blues


For a period, it seemed as though my mental health would fluctuate by the hour. Common symptoms of “baby blues” include:

  • Mood swings

  • Anxiety

  • Sadness

  • Irritability

  • Feeling overwhelmed

  • Crying

  • Reduced concentration

  • Appetite problems

  • Trouble sleeping

Understand that there is a VAST difference between “baby blues” and postpartum depression. “Baby blues” typically only last a few weeks whereas postpartum depression lasts much longer and with more intense symptoms. There is NO shame in experiencing either, they simply require different approaches to help ease symptoms.


Postpartum Depression


Postpartum depression can actually start to surface during the last few weeks of pregnancy, and can last for up to a year after giving birth. It IS something that can interfere with your ability to care for your baby and therefore is something that should be seen by a doctor or mental health professional for.


PPD symptoms include:

  • Depressed mood or severe mood swings

  • Excessive crying

  • Difficulty bonding with your baby

  • Withdrawing from family and friends

  • Loss of appetite or eating more than usual

  • Inability to sleep or oversleeping

  • Overwhelming fatigue or loss of energy

  • Less pleasure in activities you used to enjoy

  • Intense irritability and anger

  • Fear that you're not a good mother

  • Feelings of worthlessness, shame, guilt, inadequacy or hopelessness

  • Reduced ability to think clearly, concentrate or make decisions

  • Restlessness

  • Severe anxiety and panic attacks

  • Thoughts of harming yourself or your baby

  • Recurring thoughts of death or suicide


What They Don’t Tell You


Other things I experienced postpartum that contributed to shifts in my mental health included:

  • Severe hair loss and thinning

  • Excessive sweating

  • Gum and teeth issues/irritability

  • Mourning no longer being pregnant/loss of belly

  • Pressure to lose baby weight/feeling unrecognizable to yourself

  • Stretchmarks/body changes

  • Shifts in relationship dynamic

  • Lack of sleep & poor sleep quality

  • Stress & shame due to my inability to breastfeed

  • Severe “mom guilt”

  • Overwhelm due to the amount of opinions being expressed in regards to parenting styles and techniques

  • Brain fog

  • Loneliness/isolation

  • Lack of support

  • No time off work

  • An overwhelming amount of responsibility

  • Complete lifestyle shift

  • Temporarily sacrificing prioritizing your own needs and desires


What You Can Do


Full preparation may not be fully achievable but there are steps you can take to minimize symptoms & stress as much as you can beforehand.

  • Start regularly talking to a mental health professional throughout the early stages of pregnancy.

  • Discuss all the different ways in which you will need support from & with your partner/support system and how it will look different in each stage of pregnancy & postpartum.

  • Give yourself grace and understand that you are going through a largely transitional part of life

  • Attend classes, courses, read books and articles on what to expect postpartum.

  • Join an online or in-person support group

  • Know that you are not alone in anything you’re feeling or experiencing.

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