Welcome to Mothercare

Coping with fatigue, anxiety & depression after birth

Coping with fatigue, anxiety & depression after birth

There is a lot to adjust to when you have a baby. The experience of giving birth can be physically and emotionally draining and it may take you some time to recover. At the same time, you have to look after your new baby. For first-time mothers there can be a tremendous amount to learn. It is little wonder that you sometimes feel anxious or worry that you are not doing things right. You may be concerned that you are not producing enough milk to feed your baby or that his endless crying is your fault.

While you are faced with these new challenges your body is getting back to normal. This means that after getting used to having high levels of hormones for the past 9 months you are now plunged back to normality with a sudden drop in hormone levels - and it can sometimes feel like being hit by a brick wall. You may feel more weepy than usual, irritable, moody, unable to make a decision, sleepless at night, depressed and not feel much like talking.

These feelings are all quite normal and as you get used to looking after your baby you will gain confidence, and any feelings of anxiety you may have had will subside. As your hormone levels get back to normal you should also feel less emotionally volatile and able to cope with day-to-day stresses and strains.

Throughout this adjustment phase it is important to keep things in perspective. Don't try to do too much. Probably one of the most important things you can do to help yourself is to get together with some local mums who have had babies at the same time and talk about your worries with them. You will probably find they are going through the same anxieties as yourself and that you all feel exhausted. But talking and finding that you are not the only one who feels this way can really help you realize you are not going mad. There are various groups who can put you in touch with local mums and you can arrange between yourselves how often you want to meet.

Here are some tips on getting through the first few months and adjusting to your new role:

  • Get enough rest. Sleep when the baby sleeps. Being tired can lead to all sorts of problems. You can become irritable, anxious and moody if you lack sleep.
  • Accept that your standards around the house may have to drop temporarily while you deal with more important matters - like getting enough sleep and looking after the baby.
  • If possible have someone at home to help with chores for the first few weeks.
  • Put your own needs and those of the baby first. If you don't want any visitors then say so.
  • Get some good information about looking after a baby. Find a few trusted books you like the style of and stick to them - try not to overwhelm yourself with too many books and magazines. Too much information can be confusing and make you feel flustered.
  • Try not to do too much that requires physical effort in the first few week after giving birth - let your body recover.
  • If in doubt ask an expert. Midwives, your GP, health visitor, your mother or friends with children will be only too glad to give you advice if you have a concern. Don't be afraid to ask.
  • If you feel really down and depressed for more than 2 weeks you may have postnatal depression. Don't let it rumble on. Go and see your GP or speak to your health visitor about it without delay. Prompt treatment can help you recover more quickly, but ignoring symptoms will only make them worse.
  • Don't compete with others in your situation. We all have our own way of doing things. Just because your neighbour had her figure back two months after giving birth doesn't mean you have to.
  • Don't worry if your maternal instincts don't kick in immediately. Some women fall madly in love with their baby as soon as they see it him or her, but for others it can take days or weeks. Allow yourself time to develop feelings of love, protectiveness and caring for your new baby. If this is your first, it's a brand new experience and may take some time to get used to.

Try not to forget that you have been through a life-changing experience and nobody would expect you to adjust to your new role in one go. Take it easy and just enjoy being with your baby. Take time for yourself and have a long bath, go for a walk or just have a lie down - enlist your partner or a friend to look after your baby for an afternoon. The most important thing is to look after yourself!

If you are feeling depressed, tired or overwhelmed after the birth read gurgle.com's articles on Mental wellbeing with a new baby and stressed out new mum as well as postnatal depression.