5 ways to prepare your mental health for new motherhood
Motherhood is challenging for many women – especially in those early days when the hours blend together and you can’t remember the last time you took a shower. Whether you have preexisting mental health concerns or it's something that’s never crossed your mind, the pressure and anxiety that come with bringing home a baby can feel extreme and difficult to cope with.
I remember when I just had my first, the chaos and uncertainty of newborn days felt like it would never end. It’s hard to imagine that life is actually moving forward and it’s not going to feel like this forever.
It’s not uncommon for women to experience some type of postpartum depression, anxiety, or post-traumatic stress disorder — and that can feel really scary! While there is no sure way to eliminate the chance of you experiencing some sort of mental health crisis after birth, there are steps you can take to strengthen your mind and get in a good head space for birth.
If you have a previous mental health diagnosis or a family history of anxiety or depression, get yourself familiar with the signs and symptoms of postpartum mental health issues. Speak to your doctor about your concerns and come up with a plan of action, just in case you need help. Share the signs and symptoms with your partner or family members, so they can have an idea of what to look out for as well.
Limit your time on social media
Something I didn’t expect to feel during those first few months: loneliness. Motherhood can feel extremely isolating, which can weigh heavily on our mental well-being. And, when you're up at 3AM nursing your baby for the 5th time, scrolling social media is such a simple go-to, but it can actually be super damaging! Being on social media actually isolates us from our real-life networks, and you’ll need your village to get through this big life change.
Ditch the unrealistic body goals
Eating healthy and working out is a great way to feel good about yourself after giving birth. However, it’s so, so important to let your body and mind heal without the pressure of “snapping back”. There is a lot of outside noise telling you to race back into your pre-baby jeans — and when that doesn’t happen quickly, you end up feeling bad about yourself. Try to refocus your mindset — you just created something amazing, and your new body is not inferior to your old one!
Schedule time to do nothing
This new little love in your life is going to take up a lot of your time. Like all of it. And they should, of course! But you’re not meant to take care of this baby alone — so ask for a break when you have help available. Setting time aside to do things for you (not chores) like taking a relaxing bath, meditating with your favorite essential oil, or snuggling up with a coffee and watching an episode of your favorite show will give you the reset and refresh you need to be the parent you want to be. Mom burnout is real, and you deserve time to yourself that isn’t childcare or housework.
Reach out to a professional
Thanks to positive initiatives like National Mental Health Awareness Month (It’s May!), we now know that there is no shame in needing help from a doctor if you are struggling with your mental health after giving birth. The goal is to feel better, for yourself and for your baby — and therapy can help with that. If you already have a therapist, they may recommend an increase in sessions while you adjust to new motherhood — and if needed, they can suggest medication to ease your symptoms. If you don’t have a therapist, you can always reach out to your primary care physician or OBGYN and they should be able to find you the help you need.
The good news is, being a new mom is just a season of your life, and it will constantly be changing. New milestones will bring new challenges and you will get through those too. And, if you’re like many mothers who need help to get by sometimes, ask for help and lean on mental health resources available.