A certain amount of insomnia, overwhelmed feelings, anxiety and mood swings are normal during the first year after childbirth, especially when breastfeeding. However, when symptoms continue past two weeks and begin to increase in severity, the condition may be developing a postpartum mood disorder, such as depression or anxiety. Postpartum mood disorders are common, but often undiagnosed and untreated because women are afraid of judgment or that it means they aren’t doing a good job. It’s important for new moms to talk to a physician and seek help when these feelings persist because it can affect the bonding between mom and baby, which can affect the infant’s development.
Pediatricians are also a great resource since new moms will see them often during the first year of their child’s life. Your baby’s pediatrician can help you understand what you’re feeling, and refer you to a specialist if need be.
Breastfeeding can be a source of anxiety for some new moms, but it can also help moms overcome negative feelings and let mom and baby bond. During breastfeeding, the brain releases chemicals that make the mom feel happy and encourage milk production. Breastfeeding also gives the mom time to be still, relax and enjoy some quiet, bonding time with her baby, which helps with the baby’s development. It’s okay to feel frustrated and to ask for help when breastfeeding isn’t easy, but don’t give up! Cone Health Women’s Hospital offers breastfeeding classes and support groups to help moms overcome breastfeeding difficulties.
Postpartum mood disorders are serious conditions, and should not be left untreated. Talk to your physician if your symptoms linger for longer than two weeks, and get the support you need during this difficult time. Fortunately, Cone Health has an exceptional network of pediatricians, lactation consultants, OB/GYN’s, primary care providers and other related healthcare professionals dedicated to educating and caring for women and children throughout the community in order to promote overall wellbeing and good quality of life.
Many moms are afraid to talk to a physician in case they prescribe medication that may be expressed in breast milk and affect the baby. Women should talk to their doctor about their concerns, as there are safe medicines available, but the risks and benefits should be discussed with a physician.
Dr. Esther Smith is a practicing, board-certified pediatrician in Greensboro, NC at the Cone Health Center for Children since 2009 and is a member of Cone Health Medical Group. In addition to seeing outpatients, Dr. Smith trains pediatric residents of the University of N.C. School of Medicine. Dr. Smith graduated from Indiana University with a Bachelor of Science in biology and minors in psychology and Spanish. Dr. Smith is bilingual. She went on to medical school, graduating from St. Eustasius School of Medicine (now the American University of Integrative Sciences, St. Maarten School of Medicine). She completed Pediatric residency training at East Carolina University, Greenville, N.C.