--one THIRD of new moms report having a stressful childbirth experience (Creedy, Shochet and Horsefall, 2000)
-- up to 15% of moms report FEARING they or their baby will die in childbirth (Soet et al, 2003), even though it's extremely, extremely rare!
--women have over TWICE the rate of PTSD than men, and much of this is attributed to traumatic birth experiences (Sawyer et al, 2012)
We moms these days have Amazon baby registries, detailed birth plans, impeccable Instagram nurseries, and 6-month waiting list day cares. We have crossed our T's and dotted our I's, yet we are often sidelined postpartum with feeling confused, or lost or overwhelmed over what can be one really, incredible stressful birthing experience.
The sense of control of our birth experience, the interventions used and our acceptance of them, the support system around us when we give birth, the readiness of birth...there are lots of reasons why our subjective birth experience can change from one person to another. One mom can have a smooth sailing birth from the physician's perspective and still feel a sense of trauma or birth stress. One thing is for sure--our experience MATTERS and, whether we like it or not, follows us well after birth.
If we go through a traumatic or stressful birth experience, we are often left with nothing but a newborn baby and maybe a doctor's number for an assessment for some antidepressant medication if we feel really bad. But how can we cope, when we are managing difficult feelings about what was supposed to be the "best day of our lives", when our baby is born?
Some tips for new moms--
1- Hormones are REAL. The swings that lots of moms feel post-partum are indeed quite a roller-coaster. Roll with them, know that when they happen they are short-lived, and use positive self-talk to encourage yourself that you'll get through it, this too shall pass!
2-Submit to those happy hormones--like oxytocin, the "love and connection hormone"--for your benefit. Put that baby on your chest and leave them there, if at all possible. Research shows that touch and smell and sensation of the baby there does as much for you as it does for the baby. Separation in the early days--especially if it isn't in your control--can contribute to increased sense of stress and overwhelm. Your healing begins with that skin-to-skin.
3- If you need a break--GET HELP. Your neighbor, your mom, your aunt, your sister-in-law, your partner, the lady at church who is great with babies--get that phone out and send some SOS texts. Your health and wellness is worth it.
4- Sleep, eat, shower, repeat. Guess what? You're human too, and your little one isn't the only one who needs a square meal. Get yourself some self-care and feel human again.
5- Follow up with your doctor. The two-to-six week postpartum visits are scheduled for a reason, so don't neglect them. Your healthcare providers are trained to ask how you're feeling and assess you for conditions that are above and beyond normal postpartum stress. Tell them what's on your mind. If they don't listen, tell the nurse or the lady at the front desk. Tell somebody until someone listens to you. Your story deserves to be heard.
A reminder that it is NOT normal to have feelings or thoughts of harm to yourself or your baby. Get help right away if you're feeling desperate or feel like you can't cope. (Text HOME to 741741 or call the national helpline 1800-662-HELP.) You are worth it. Your baby and family will thank you for it.
If you have experienced birth stress and are wondering whether therapy is right for you, I offer online confidential therapy for new moms in Pennsylvania from the comfort of their home. Bring baby or put them down for a nap, and meet me online for a chat!