Childbirth is an intensely emotional experience and most parents are overwhelmed with happiness and love when their baby is born. However, many new parents also may feel disappointed and frustrated after childbirth. These emotions usually come as an unpleasant and upsetting surprise. Here are some tips to help if you experience these feelings.
Your Emotions: Keeping Your Expectations Flexible
During pregnancy most women wonder how they will react to labor and delivery, and they often mentally set standards for their behavior. None of us knows how we will react to the very real pain of labor. Even women who have given birth before can't predict what labor will be like during subsequent deliveries.
If you planned a vaginal delivery and circumstances require that you have a caesarean, or if your baby needs to be separated from you for the first few hours after delivery, you may have mixed feelings. Parenting is a lifelong process, and the hours after delivery are but a small part of the lifetime you will spend nurturing and loving your child. Remember, the goal of childbirth is a healthy mother and baby.
Your Partner's Role
Your partner/coach may also have mixed emotions about the birth. Not every partner wants to take an active part in childbirth, so couples should share their concerns about childbirth before the due date arrives. An honest discussion will help clear up misconceptions you and your partner may have about his or her expected role during the birth. Flexibility about the expectations of a coach, his or her ability to adapt as labor progresses, and the knowledge that your partner/coach has done his or her best to comfort and support you will assist you in adjusting to your new role.
A Gradual Adjustment
Most couples expect to feel a deep, strong love for their infant from the minute he or she is born, but, sometimes, their initial reactions may be far from what they expected. You may think you're abnormal if love is not your first and strongest emotion after delivery, but it's perfectly natural to have mixed feelings when you become a parent. We do not become parents the instant of birth; we learn to parent.
We Learn To Parent
Adjusting to parenthood is a tremendous challenge. The role of parenting is a continuous learning experience, and as you discover more about your baby, it will be easier to settle into a routine.
Remember, you are not only adjusting to a new 24-hour-a-day job as a parent, and a changing relationship with your partner; you are also recovering from giving birth.
In the first few weeks or months after birth you may experience feelings of depression or inability to cope with the new demands being asked of you. Also, you may have increasing doubts about your ability to care for your baby and may wonder if you will ever feel anything but exhausted. Your partner is also usually exhausted and may resent the amount of time the baby requires and at the same time experience guilt about this feeling.
The majority of new mothers experience some form of the “baby blues.” It is not unusual to feel sad, stressed, or to cry or experience mood swings in the first six weeks after the baby is born.
These anxious feelings usually subside over several weeks, especially with understanding and support from your partner and friends, and as you see your baby grow and develop.
About 15% of new mothers experience postpartum depression. Symptoms may include: anxiety, lethargy, sleeping problems, confusion, frequent crying, guilt feelings, frightening thoughts, low self-esteem, eating problems, decreased sex drive, mood swings, feelings of hopelessness, irritability, forgetfulness, and feelings of being overwhelmed. If the depression becomes severe or does not subside after six weeks, seek professional assistance.
Postpartum depression is believed to be a disorder of the endocrine system caused by the dramatic hormonal shifts which occur in the body after giving birth. Unlike the “baby blues,” postpartum depression symptoms continue beyond the first six weeks postpartum and are more severe.
If you think you are experiencing post-partum depression, it is important to seek help as it can be treated.
Call (415) 600-BABY for information about the Postpartum Depression support group through Newborn Connections at California Pacific Medical Center and other resources available to assist in dealing with postpartum depression.