Better sleep and happier children: the side effects of taking care of your mental health

Postpartum depression and other postpartum mood disorders are serious conditions that can have a negative impact on parents’ and on families’ development. They’re also under-treated. One reason for this may be that there’s such a strong narrative about pregnancy and early parenting being a joyous time that new parents feel uncomfortable admitting to negative feelings. In other cases, parents may dismiss the symptoms of mood disorders, thinking that they’re just too tired, or that these symptoms are just what parenting is like.

Seeking treatment for mood disorders or mental health concerns is a big step. It can feel intimidating, but it’s the best way to make sure you’re able to manage these symptoms, and to start to feel better.

For you

The first and most important reason to take care of your mental health as a new parent is for you yourself. This is your life, and even if you can “handle” some mental health symptoms, even if you can keep how you’re feeling from affecting other people, you owe it to yourself to get any treatment you might need at this time.

How you feel right now is going to have an impact on your memories of this time, and if there’s a way you can start to feel a bit better, this time may start to feel a bit brighter or less conflicted.

For your family

If left untreated, postpartum depression, other postpartum mood disorders, and any other mental health concerns could impact your relationship with your family, including your partner if you’re parenting with a partner, your new baby, and any other children you might have.

Specifically, someone with untreated postpartum depression may have trouble registering or focusing on their own needs and the needs of their new baby. Even with a strong support system picking up the slack when it comes to care, untreated postpartum depression can lead to difficulty bonding with a new baby, and in extreme cases, to physical danger to both parent and baby.

What does taking care of your mental health look like?

First, taking care of your mental health means noticing how you’re feeling, and bringing up any patterns or symptoms you might notice with your healthcare provider. Taking the time to care for yourself, and to take stock of your own emotional state is another crucial step. This can look like carving out regular times for exercise, maintaining as routine of a sleep schedule as you can manage, or even sitting down somewhere no one will talk to you to breathe.

If your healthcare provider suggests that you might be able to use some extra mental health support, this may come in the form of suggested lifestyle modifications, talk-therapy, medication, or some combination of the three.

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