Beat the baby blues

The first few months of motherhood often seem overwhelming, especially for first-time moms. The wonderful journey of parenthood can begin with a powerful changing tide of hormones — a period of feeling blue — after the baby is born.

About 70 to 80 percent of new mothers experience a mild mood disorder, commonly known as the “baby blues,” for one or two weeks after giving birth. Symptoms may include poor concentration, extreme tiredness, sadness, sleep disturbances, appetite changes, and mild depression.

First-time mothers have a higher risk for postpartum depression, a more serious condition than the baby blues that can last weeks or months. Signs of the condition include persistent anxiety or irrational fears.

If feelings of sadness and anxiety intensify or linger, talk to your doctor. Recognizing the problem is the first step to making it better.

Educate yourself.

Taking prenatal classes or joining a support group can boost the confidence levels of moms-to-be in their parenting skills — which can reduce a new mom’s anxieties about her ability to take care of a newborn. Comparing notes and connecting with other expectant and new moms can also help you to cope with the new role of motherhood.

Get enough rest.

After your baby is born, make sure you get enough rest. If you don’t, things can bother you that normally wouldn’t. If relatives or friends drop by to visit, for instance, a new mom should consider taking a nap while the guests watch the baby.

Sometimes it takes a team approach by the family to help a new mom feel better. For instance, caring for a crying baby in the middle of the night doesn’t always require two adults. While one parent cares for a baby during the night, the other parent should rest while someone is available to relieve him or her for a few hours.

And exercise!

Find ways to get moving after you take your baby home. New moms can reap the physical and mental benefits of exercise, for example, by walking and strolling with their babies.

Jeanie Dassow, M.D., sees patients as a part of UT Erlanger Women’s Health Specialists. For more information or to make an appointment with Dr. Dassow, please call 423-778-2564.