Posts Tagged ‘postpartum’

Having worked with women now for nearly 20 years, I can honestly say, in my very “unscientific” way, that women change when they give birth. Really change.

Every woman who has been there knows what I’m talking about. We feel differently, we think differently, we act differently. My friend/former client Cathy O’Neill, one of the authors of “Babyproofing Your Marriage” calls it the “Mommy Chip”. Well, scientists seems to have finally “found” the Mommy Chip!

This article outlines what we’ve “known” and “seen” for years- a change in how our brain works, likely to be related to the hormones of pregnancy, birth, lactation and postpartum.

Helping moms through the initial changes  physically and emotionally seems even more critical, in getting parenthood off to a good balanced start. Our culture has forgotten the 40 days of “lying in” that is so prevalent in many parts of the world– where a woman does nothing for 40 days postpartum (that’s nearly 6 weeks!) but care for her baby. She is nurtured and fed. Her home, husband, and other children are cared for, so she can rest, nurse, and get to know her new baby. This support allows a woman to “give in” to the Mommy Chip urges, heal physically, and gently adjust to the new change in her family.

Sometimes this help comes from family, friends, and neighbors, but not everyone has those resources. When they don’t (and sometimes even when they do) a postpartum doula can be a lifesaver. Postpartum doulas are specifically trained to assist the family during this transitional time, helping the mother with breastfeeding, her baby, and her household. A doula will help build a woman’s confidence so that eventually she feels more and more capable to handle things on her own. A doula may make recommendations, offer suggestions, or provide resources to a new family to smooth the transition. She may teach skills, such as babywearing. She may educate, on baby care and breastfeeding, baby safety in the home, or self care. She may validate a mother’s feelings, or choices in parenting. She may nurture the Mommy Chip.

Studies indicate as many as one in six women suffer from some kind of postpartum mood disorder (PPMD) such as depression or anxiety. Could we greatly reduce these numbers, and the severity of some cases if we provided better care to mothers during this critical time?


In recent media, we’ve been hearing more about women who suffer from postpartum disorders– which is good. It raises public awareness that this is a REAL illness which requires treatment. It is estimated that at least 80% of women experience Baby Blues, and at least 10% of women suffer from some type of postpartum disorder.

Families worry about being able to distinguish the difference- how do we know when to seek help? When should we be concerned?

Baby Blues is a very normal part of the transition to motherhood. (Even dads can get it!) These are normal feelings of occasional sadness, occasionally feeling overwhelmed, having doubts about being a “good enough” parent. It occurs usually for 1-3 weeks after a baby is born. Many moms feel exhausted due to sleep deprivation, overwhelmed with the responsibility of a newborn baby, and may have mixed emotions about parenthood. In most cases, these feelings will diminish over time as moms get more sleep, and become more comfortable with their new role and responsibilities. Many times just getting more help around the house, a little support, is all a mom needs to work through it.

Postpartum disorders, on the other hand, are more serious conditions which may require medical intervention. There are many types of postpartum disorders, but in general here are possible symptoms:
Feeling anxious, depressed, sad or hopeless
Inability to sleep (when you can), or excessive sleeping
Lack of appetite or excessive “comfort” eating
Worrying about baby or being a “good mom”
Not wanting to take care of yourself or baby
Feeling panicky, worrying about things you “know” you shouldn’t
Feeling alone, isolated
Not wanting to be alone, worried that something “bad” will happen
Uncontrollable thoughts of hurting self or baby– SEEK HELP RIGHT AWAY!

Most moms will report they don’t feel “right”– they know something is wrong. They may not be able to put their fingers on it, but they know they need help. If you or your family recognizes any of these symptoms, start with a call to your doctor or midwife. You can talk about treatment options and find what’s going to work best for you.

Possible Treatment Options:
Extra Help and Support— friends, family, postpartum doulas can offer help and support
around the house, and relieve you of feeling overwhelmed and isolated.

Exercise and Nutrition— 30 minutes of exercise daily raises endorphin levels which really
help moms feel better! Eat well, some vitamins or supplements can also help.

Individual or Group Counseling/Therapy— There are mental health professionals who
specialize in postpartum issues, and offer local support groups for moms.

Medication— sleep aids and/or antidepressants sometimes are really needed. They can help
a mom get back “on track” while she works on all the other stuff. Only your doctor will
know what might work for you. Many are perfectly safe to take with breastfeeding!

The bottom line– don’t be hesitant to get help. If you had an infection, you wouldn’t think twice about going to the doctor, right? Same with mental illness– it needs help, it’s not your “fault”, or “all in your head.”  You’ll be a better mom if you take care of yourself first.

Postpartum Resources:

Postpartum Support International: 1-800-944-4PPD (24/7 hotline)

Online Support, Blog and local resources:

Any Baby Can Austin– local “warmline” (answered M-F 8-5) 512-334-4444
Any Baby Can hosts a weekly postpartum support group which is free!

How does a doula really make a difference?
Results from different studies have all suggested that having a doula reduces the overall cesarean rate by 50%, Pitocin use by 40% and requests for epidurals by 60%. The use of a doula also showed a major reduction in the length of labor due to fewer stress hormones being produced in the laboring woman’s body.

The Doula Book © 2002; Klaus, Marshall, Klaus and Kennell.