Why it makes sense to feel sad after birth

It’s a good idea to pay attention to the different moods and emotions that you experience over the next 12 months or so. Postpartum depression affects nearly 15% of new mothers, and it’s a risk that all women face after they take on pregnancy and labor.

To further complicate things, though, a certain amount of sadness makes total sense right now, and new moms can feel any number of conflicted or even unhappy emotions without it being postpartum depression, and without it being anything unusual. There are a number of reasons that new moms might feel a bit down, even after something so wonderful.

Your hormones are fluctuating

Hormones: you can’t see them, so it’s easy to forget they’re there. But they’re working hard every second of the day to help your body do the things it needs to do. Thyroid hormones, progesterone, estrogen, and endorphins fluctuate after birth and can trigger mood imbalances, which is one reason why postpartum depression is a risk. Unfortunately, it’s hard to control your hormone levels on your own, which is why you should see your healthcare provider if your moods are having a strong negative impact on your day-to-day life.

You might miss the life you had before baby

Before, you could eat when you wanted to, shower when you wanted to, focus on your partner long enough to hear them get through a sentence, and sleep through the night – all pretty nice options to have. It’s normal to feel nostalgia while you’re adjusting to this new life. Don’t feel guilty if you’ve recently been doubting this whole parenting thing. Remember that this is a normal feeling to have at this stage in baby’s life, and soon things will start feeling a little easier. In the meantime, try to do at least one or two things every day (or every other day) that you  liked to do before Baby arrived. You’re still you, after all – you’re just you with a baby!

You’re in a transitional phase

As the parent of a newborn, you have to learn a lot of things in a very short period of time. It’s a little like having all four years of elementary school compressed into a few months of lessons and tests. A parent might be concerned about bonding, responding to their baby’s needs, worried about their child’s safety and health, and doing all of this while taking care of themselves. With all of the challenging circumstances being thrown at you right now, you might feel unprepared, scattered, and out of place, which could prevent you from feeling very optimistic or happy at this time. It’s important to remember that this is something nearly every new parent feels, and you are far from alone.

You’re not getting a lot of sleep

The National Sleep Foundation reports that adults need to sleep seven to nine hours a night, every night. With a new baby in the house, though, it’s common for new parents to get only a few hours per night for a while. To a degree, this is normal, but unfortunately it can have some negative mood-related effects. Sleep loss causes people to experience more intense negative emotions. Past a certain point, it can actually be dangerous, because when a new parent is excessively tired, or completely fatigued, they’re at a higher risk of developing postpartum depression. Make sure that you’re finding ways to catch up on sleep, whether it’s alternating night duty with your partner, asking friends or family to come over and watch Baby while you nap, or skipping chores and napping while Baby naps.

All of the factors above can contribute to negative feelings in the weeks and months after childbirth. Be aware of your moods so that you know if you need to seek help, and in the meantime, go easy on yourself. New parents have a lot on their shoulders, and even though things aren’t always all rainbows and butterflies, that doesn’t mean you’re not doing a great job as a parent.

  • “I love my new baby. So, why am I sad?” KidsHealth. The Nemours Foundation, Apr 2015. Web.
  • Karisa Ding. “Sleep deprivation and new parents.” HealthDay. HealthDay, Jan 20 2016. Web.
  • “Emotional Reactions and Postpartum Depression.” BabyYourBaby. Baby Your Baby, 2016. Web. 
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