By Shelley Northern
as published in Northwest Kids Magazine, Spokane/Couer d'Alene's Ultimate Guide for Parents
As a nurse-midwife, I care for women during the best and worst of times including the challenging days following the birth of a baby. I often say that the postpartum period is the perfect storm for emotional upheaval in one's life. There are so many factors at play: sleep disruption and deprivation, significant hormone swings which impact our brain chemistry and fundamental changes in how we perceive ourselves as individuals and as we relate to others. It is no wonder that many of us struggle and can feel inadequate as we watch Johnson & Johnson commercials displaying blissful motherhood images on the screen.
Knowledge is power and knowing exactly what is happening could make a huge difference in how you are able to handle these changes. It is helpful to understand the key differences between baby blues and postpartum depression. Baby blues is a common term used to describe those initial days and weeks postpartum when a new mother feels a bit overwhelmed and hormonal, causing her to cry more easily and feel out of sorts. The key attribute to baby blues is that it is transient in nature and time limited to approximately the first 6 wks postpartum. Postpartum depression is a form of clinical depression leading to feelings of sadness, anxiety, sleep disturbance, and lack of interest in caring for self and or baby among many other more serious symptoms. Also, unlike baby blues, postpartum depression is persistent and extends beyond the first 6 wks postpartum.
Helping a woman through the challenges of baby blues and postpartum depression, although challenging, is one of the most rewarding aspects to my work. Some of the tools I use include: helping a woman identify her key support people, implementing vital nutrients into her diet, and simple stress reduction exercises. In some cases it is necessary to start a course of antidepressant medication, as well as a referral for therapy. The most important piece of advice I share is that she is "normal" and that if she is willing to do the work, she will get through to the other side.
Shelley Northern writes for Northwest Kids Magazine. She earned her Bachelor Degree in Nursing from Johns Hopkins University in 1994 and her certificate in nurse-midwifery from the University of Washington in 2008. Shelley is currently a practicing Midwife at Sacred Heart Hospital in Spokane, Washington and is the keeper of all the secrets related to women's health!
Northwest Kids Magazine is a family publication geared towards mothers, offering in-depth articles that inform, entertain and inspire those who have children. Their goal is to provide tips and information concerning kids, families and community: life, health, solutions, relationships and much more.