Considering the ‘F’ Word

 

The word ‘childbirth’ typically conjures a variety of images.  Consideration can evoke pictures of swollen bellies, tiny swaddled humans, and hospital paraphernalia (if we want to get real about it).  What is forgotten?  Use of the ‘F’ word; Fathers.  Particularly troubling is the lack of focus on fathers during the postpartum period. 

 

For me, emphasis on my
well-being in the postpartum period started early. During OB visits I was greeted by surveys asking me questions about how often I cried or if I felt more anxious/angry than is typical. 
During childbirth prep classes and impending parental support circles
both my husband and I were asked to carefully monitor for any changes in my mood or functioning following the main event; however, in all nine months of preparation nobody mentioned what
changes he could expect.
 

I get it, ladies –  it's our hormones that are fluctuating and it’s our bodies that will excise a brand new person. But, the truth is about 10% of new fathers experience symptoms of depression following the birth of their child.  At least half of men who have partners with postpartum mood disorder will go on to develop a mood disorder themselves.  PPD(postpartum depression) is a serious condition that can result in damaging,
long-term consequences for the individual, child, and family unit if left
untreated.  A depressed father can mean a lack support for mom; both emotionally and physically.  It can also mean inhibited bonding with baby as
well as disrupted attachment.
 
The good news? PPD is very treatable. Being aware of the signs and symptoms can help new fathers’ and families to identify when PPD is a concern;

  • Feelings of hopelessness
  • Sadness

  • Anxiety
  • Anger or irritability


Starting a conversation around the hallmarks of PPD can help to inform fathers of when to seek support and identify paths to recovery.  If you or a loved one has been impacted by a postpartum mood disorder, call Postpartum Support International for a listing of area resources or contact Carly Gottehrer, LPC at 860-394-4121 ext. 2.

Maternal Mental Health Awareness Week

A typical media portrayal

 

This week (April 29th through May 5th ) is maternal mental health awareness week.  Childbirth and the postpartum period are often unrealistically portrayed in the media (thanks, Kate Middleton!).  This discrepancy can often cause further feelings of depression and anxiety amongst new parents who view these images and feel they’re doing something wrong.  Parenting is hard and the reality is not always pretty.   If a loved one or someone you know is struggling with a perinatal mood or anxiety disorder, there are several different ways in which you can help support them.

 

1). Offer assistance, be specific, and don’t take “no” for an answer. While many new mothers (and fathers) may be feeling overwhelmed in the postpartum period, not all are willing to admit it.  Whether it be due to stigma, pride, or the sheer confusion/sleep deprivation that comes with a new baby, a new parent may not readily admit to needing your support.  Instead of asking or putting additional pressure on a new parent to offer dates/times, simply identify when and how you plan to help out.  For example, a simple, “I’m coming over at noon with a potpie and intend to do a load of laundry” will be most welcome, particularly when all those cute onesies are now covered in poop.

 

2). Be real.  Remember to share the good AND the bad memories when talking to a new parent.  Focusing only on your positive experiences may cause a new parent to feel judged or further convince they’re doing something wrong.  Remember all those sleepless nights?  You may look back with a fondness now but, remember, you’re also probably getting more than two hours of sleep.  Not all those early moments were gems. 

 

3). Know when additional support is needed. Sometimes it’s not easy to be objective, especially when under stress.  If (postpartum) you’ve noticed significant changes in a loved one, offer some resources.  Support groups, therapeutic groups, or individual/family counseling are all great options that can help to educate and assist a new parent to begin to feel better. Postpartum Support International (PSI) is a great resource when searching for a PMAD provider.  Support is also available through Integrated Counseling Solutions, LLC at 860-394-4121 extension 2.

 Check out this article published on The Mighty

https://themighty.com/2018/05/how-to-help-postpartum-depression-anxiety-new-mom/

 

Expecting and Expectations

Congratulations on your new baby. You’re excited. You’re...excited. One more time for emphasis; You’re excited. And, you are. Excited. But, there’s also that other part. The one you’ve been trying to ignore. The one you don’t talk about or admit to - even to yourself. Listen, you’re not alone.

When we give birth or add to a family (whether by adoption or surrogate), we often take on a lot more than just a baby. With every new addition we get a new way of life and a new family dynamic. Another baby can mean spending less time with the child you already have (guilt). It can mean reduced focus on your spouse and increased marital tension (stress). Perhaps, it clouds your ability to focus on your career (anxiety). If this is your first child, maybe there’s some concern over how to care for him or her (FEAR!!). We even start to relate to others in a new way (I didn’t know it was possible to cry over a McDonald’s commercial. Thank you hormones!). So, why are we so surprised when having a baby is met with mixed emotions?  Cut yourself some slack.

When should you be concerned? While it is normal to get swept up in a wave of emotion following baby, the following are some ways to discern when it may be neccessary to reach out for support; If your feelings of being overwhelmed or depressed mood are impacting your ability to care for baby, if you have repetitive or intrusive thoughts regarding risk of injury to baby, if you're unable to care for yourself, or experience auditory/visual hallucinations.  When in doubt, ask a trustworthy support to help evaluate for significant changes in functioning.  

The good news?  With the assistance of a knowledgeable professional, you can begin to feel better and enjoy the family you worked hard to create.

 

Carly Gottehrer, LPC

860-394-4121 ext. 2