The first year after having a baby can be an intense period for a new mother. You experience a tremendous amount of change in a very short period of time, while learning your baby and what it means to be her mother. Your focus has probably turned from caring for yourself as a pregnant woman to caring for your child. In this postpartum period it is important to remember that your wellbeing matters. In fact, it is critical to support a secure, healthy baby. A healthy bond between mom and baby promotes normal infant development and improves self-esteem for both mom and baby.
Changes in the Postpartum Period and How They Affect Women
The postpartum period is a particularly vulnerable time for a mother due to all the changes she experiences – many of which begin the moment the baby is born. Giving birth is one of the most significant biological changes that you can go through. Let’s consider some of these changes:
Rapid change in hormone levels that impact:
bonding with baby
grey matter in the brain
Body size and shape
In addition to biological changes, you may experience immediate changes to your:
Expectations of yourself
Confidence to accomplish daily tasks and meet baby’s needs
Whew! That’s a lot of change that can happen overnight. Is it any wonder that social support is particularly important during the postpartum period?
Social Support During the Postpartum Period
Research shows that social support is a significant protective factor against mental illness in the first year after giving birth. It is important for new mothers to feel supported, especially in this first year, and to understand that you are not alone as you face novel challenges and stressors.
Common Stressors and Worries
Common stressors for women in the postpartum period include:
fatigue/lack of sleep
having multiple roles and tasks
child health concerns
In addition to these stressors, there are worries that are common to mothers. These worries may not trigger a stress response, but they are common thoughts about potential problems:
ability to breastfeed
whether baby is getting enough milk
being a good mother
being able to meet expectations associated with children, housework, and their partner
Postpartum Depression Is Very Real
As many as 1 in 5 women may experience postpartum depression. A woman with postpartum depression may experience the above stressors and worries, but may have more intense feelings of guilt, shame, hopelessness, irritability, and sleep and appetite disturbances. You might also have difficulty bonding or have a lack of interest in your baby, lack of pleasure in activities you previously enjoyed, and possible thoughts of harming the baby or yourself.
* These symptoms can be scary and isolating, so it is important that you know that you are not alone and help is available.
Why Postpartum Support Groups Work
Minimize distress. Emotional support from peers can minimize distress in scenarios where a new mom attributes any of these challenges or worries to personal shortcomings. For example, a mother who expected breastfeeding to come naturally may blame herself when her baby struggles to latch. Peer support can help you to reduce personal blame and shame.
Improve confidence. New mothers like you do best when you are confident you can meet the demands of your various roles. Group support can help you acknowledge your accomplishments and reduce negative self-talk.
Build connection. Relationships with other new mothers can reduce feelings of loneliness and improve mental health. Postpartum support groups are one way for you to connect with other moms and feel less alone.
Accepting reality vs. expectation. As a new mother, you may expect this time to be purely magical, an idea that is perpetuated by the media. The reality is that this time can feel complicated and overwhelming. Connecting with other moms having similar experiences can be validating and offer emotional relief.
Gain insight into your experiences. A group setting can help you understand your experiences better, what is happening in your body and why you might be feeling the way you do.
Learn coping strategies. With all the changes you experience in this time, emotional overwhelm can be expected. A support group can offer the opportunity to learn new skills to help manage these feelings.
Postpartum support groups are an evidence-based approach that benefits mothers facing common challenges in the postpartum period and can reduce symptoms of postpartum depression. Sharing experiences can reduce loneliness, minimize shame, and improve self-esteem: all good things for mom and baby!
How We Can Help
If you’re a mom in the postpartum period (up to 1 year after giving birth), our Postpartum Support Group can provide you the emotional support you’re looking for.
A postpartum support group to explore your emotions, share daily challenges and feel less alone in motherhood.
Interested in registering for the Postpartum Support Group? Awesome! Please use the link below to get more information and sign up.
*If you are having thoughts of suicide or harming your baby, call or text 988 to reach the National Suicide or Crisis Hotline.
If you are looking for general support, or if you would like to talk to someone more about how we can help you, follow these simple steps:
Contact us today for a free 20-minute phone consultation
Begin your journey towards a calmer, more relaxed life
Other Therapy Services Available at Catalyss Counseling:
Here at Catalyss Counseling, we want to meet all of your counseling needs in the Denver area. Our supportive therapists provide affordable counseling, depression counseling, therapy for caregiver stress, grief and loss therapy, stress management counseling and more. We also have specialists in trauma and PTSD, women's issues, pregnancy and postpartum depression or anxiety, pregnancy loss and miscarriage, and birth trauma. For therapists, we can also provide clinical supervision! We look forward to connecting with you to help support your journey today.
Becca Tarnowski is a Master’s level student counselor at Regis University and intern at Catalyss Counseling. She moved from Chicago to Boulder, Colorado in 2003 where she earned her undergraduate degree in psychology from University of Colorado. Becca currently lives in Colorado Springs, Colorado with her husband, their 2 young children and their dog. Becca is an intern therapist provider for the affordable counseling program at Catalyss Counseling. Follow Catalyss Counseling on LinkedIn, Facebook and Instagram.