Having a baby is a time of huge adjustment. Your sleep, priorities, lifestyle are all impacted at once. With the waves of change it can be hard to sometime know whether the way you might be feeling are all just part of adjusting to life with a new baby, or a sign that something is not quite right.
It is normal to feel emotional, frustrated and stressed at times. It is also quite understandable to have some concerns about the baby, how you will cope with the new demands and responsibilities, and sometime just getting through the day can be a challenge in itself.
However, if you are feeling sad, have lost interest or enjoyment in things that you once enjoyed or find yourself worrying over things to the point that it is causing you to feel distressed, this could be a sign of postnatal depression or anxiety.
“I did not realise until I looked back that I had been feeling abnormally anxious over the first year of my daughter’s life. I also had episodes of feeling teary, down and wanting to escape. I think I put a lot of pressure on my husband.
It is perfectly understandable that your sleep is affected as you are responding to the sleeping, settling and feeding demands of your baby. However, sleep disturbance – which includes both not being able to sleep and wanting to sleep constantly – can be a sign of a mental health condition like antenatal depression and/or anxiety.
Ongoing lack of sleep can also negatively impact your emotional wellbeing and increase your risk of developing a mental health condition or worsen any conditions that you may already be experiencing.
Another common symptom of a mental health condition that often feels like a physical symptom is eating less, being disinterested in food or, on the other end of the scale, using food as a source of comfort and, therefore, eating significantly more than before pregnancy.
Good nutrition is especially important for you, so that you can be strong and able to provide for your baby (whether you are breast-feeding or not). Whilst your appetite may increase a little if you are breast-feeding, it should not change too dramatically.
So, if you are finding that your appetite has changed drastically, it can actually be a symptom that something may not be fully right with your mental health.
Whilst is it quite normal to be aware of your baby and be concerned for their health, if you are constantly feeling nervous, having anxious thoughts or worrying that something is wrong or will go wrong, it may be an indication of antenatal anxiety.
Too often these symptoms are ignored or attributed to the baby blues (especially earlier in the postnatal period) or general stress about having a baby. This that is not always the case. If these types of thoughts and feelings continue for over two weeks, increase in frequency, are beginning to impact on your quality of life or ability to enjoy life with your baby you should not ignore them. These worrying thoughts or feelings may be a sign of postnatal anxiety, which is a condition that can be effectively managed and treated.
If you are finding yourself having ongoing mood swings that last for two months or more, this is not something to just dismiss as relating to a change in your hormones or adjusting to your role as a mother. Rather, it could be a symptoms of postnatal depression and you should speak to your health professional about it.
If you are experiencing any of the above symptoms in a way that is ongoing and impacting on your ability to carry out everyday activities, it could very well be a sign that something is not quite right. It can be easy to be tempted to ignore these symptoms, to attribute them to other aspects of adjusting to life with a new baby or simply try to ride them out. However, doing so will prevent you from identifying if something is not quite right and from managing these symptoms with help from a health professional. Moreover, the failure to get help early can lead to your symptoms worsening over time.
So instead, try to pay attention to how your are feeling, the symptoms you are experiencing and how long you have been feeling this way and bring this information to your health professional who can best assess whether you are possibly experiencing the symptoms of a mental health condition.