I have talked to so many new or expecting mothers who know something is wrong. They know their emotions feel out of control and they don’t feel like themselves. They have high expectations of themselves and they struggle to understand why they are suffering. They think it will pass eventually and if they can just persevere it will go away. They are hard on themselves for not feeling great and question their ability to mother their new baby. Sometimes they feel immobilized and can’t make any decisions about what they need to do to feel better.
This is what I tell these moms, you must take care of yourself first. It is like what you get told on an airplane, put the oxygen mask on yourself first! You have to sleep when you need to sleep, talk to a therapist about how you are feeling, talk to your doctor, and maybe even take medication depending on the severity of your symptoms. Some moms, no matter how bad they are feeling, struggle to accept this advice. Some responses I have heard are, “I can’t sleep because no one will want to come over to take care of the baby,” or “I am afraid to trust anyone else to care for my baby,” “I can’t take medication because I am breastfeeding,” “ I don’t have time to see a therapist,” “all medications are bad for my baby.” My response to a mom who is telling me this but who is very much struggling is, YOU CANNOT AFFORD TO NOT DO THESE THINGS TO TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF. You and your baby need you to take care of yourself. You can only get well by taking care of yourself. You deserve to feel better. I don’t want to discount each of the above statements though. I just want moms to know that it is worth exploring the areas where you feel stuck with someone you trust so you can problem solve and find ways to move forward with a plan.
Every mom with a perinatal mood or anxiety disorder will have different needs and different circumstances that need to be addressed in order to best create a treatment plan. Some moms don’t need medication but they do need to make time for therapy appointments, support groups, and sleep. All moms will need to make time for rest and sleep! It is definitely more challenging to find time for yourself with babies and children to care for but it is not impossible. If you don’t know how you will make time, try talking to someone who really cares about you to see if they can help problem solve issues around time management. If you are struggling with symptoms of depression or anxiety you may not be able to see options that are there. You may need to trust others and professionals to help guide you at this time.
It can be hard to make the changes necessary to feel better but it is extremely important and worthwhile. Don’t let fear stand in your way. Reach out and ask for help. You don’t have to go through this alone. There is a lot of help available to you. It is not your fault that you are struggling but you are responsible for taking care of you!
For other resources and information, go to Breastfeed Chicago’s PPD Resource Guide: //breastfeedchicago.org/ppd-resource-guide/
About the author: Sarah Cline is a licensed clinical social worker in private practice in Wheaton Illinois. Sarah obtained her master’s degree in Social Worker in 2008. She is passionate about helping moms who are struggling with perinatal mood and anxiety disorders. Sarah also supports moms who are going through infertility, pregnancy loss, or loss of an infant due to stillbirth or other medical issues after birth. In her practice, Sarah also facilitates support groups for moms both during the postpartum period and beyond. She can be contacted at or 630-205-3211.