Challenges of New Motherhood and Postpartum Depression

Having a new baby can flood you with love hormones (such as oxytocin) that will help you bond to your baby. You may not have ever loved anyone so intensely. In advertisements, all you see are new mothers blissfully cooing at their babies.

But not every mother feels this way. Having a new baby is wonderful, but it also leads to significant life stress. The stress can overwhelm you and you may feel like crying. A good cry can help, but if you feel like you are crying all the time, that you’re no longer doing the things you like to do, that you’re snapping at your partner, or you feel numb, it may mean something more serious is going on. Feeling bad for a day or two is normal if you’re back to yourself the next day. If these symptoms persist for two weeks or longer, however, they may indicate postpartum depression or related conditions.

There are some other types of negative emotions you might be experiencing.

With postpartum anxiety disorder, you may be really frightened all the time, not want to leave the house, ruminate over every possible worst-case scenario, and have trouble sleeping.

One type of anxiety disorder is postpartum obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). With OCD, you may have repeated and frightening thoughts of harming your baby, and may go to great lengths to keep you baby safe (e.g., like taking all the knives out of the house).

Some women develop symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder after their births, usually because of what happened to them after their births. This is called birth-related posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

The most serious of the postpartum mood disorder is postpartum psychosis. This is when mothers lose complete touch with reality and see and hear things that are not there. Psychotic episodes are often preceded by 2 or 3 days of no sleep, and the underlying condition is often bipolar disorder. If you start feeling this way, seek help immediately as there could be fatal consequences for you and your baby.

If you think you may have one or more of these conditions, please know this:

  1. You did not cause this.
  2. You can heal and recover.

The most important thing to remember is that help is available. Talk to your support system, talk to your doctor, reach out to a lactation professional. If that is not an option, then these groups can provide guidance:

Postpartum Support International

  • Trained volunteers, conferences, and webinars with a referral network for therapists in your area

Prevention and Treatment of Traumatic Childbirth

  • Articles, mothers' stories, webinars, suggestions for treatment

To view or download the Kathleen Kendall-Tackett Breastfeeding Journey, click the image above!

Information provided in blogs should not be used as a substitute for medical care or consultation.


About the Author

Contributing to this blog is Dr. Kendall-Tackett, PhD, IBCLC and FAPA, and award-winning health psychologist and International Board Certified Lactation Consultant. She specializes in women's health research including breastfeeding, depression, and trauma, and has authored more than 420 articles or chapters, and is author or editor of 35 books.

Learn more about Kathleen!

Additional Resources