10 Tips to Help Moms Take Care of Their Mental Health

10 Tips to Help Moms Take Care of Their Mental Health

Photo Credit: @steph_burrows️ and @svpearce by @laurensmithson

We call the transformation to motherhood matrescence—pronounced like adolescence—because of how enormous this change can be. Much like adolescence, it is a time of great physical and emotional transformation. You are now a parent in addition to all of the things you were before having a baby. And you are not alone in feeling a mixture of different feelings.

“It’s important for us all to dispel the idealized myths of pregnancy and motherhood as being an all-good or ‘magical’ experience,” says Dr. Sarah Oreck, MD, MS, a reproductive psychiatrist and Perelel panelist. “Motherhood can be raw and messy, in addition to being beautiful.”

That’s not even to mention the cocktail of postpartum hormones and demands of post-birth recovery—in fact, up to 80 percent of new moms experience the “baby blues” in the days after giving birth.

There’s so much duality and contradiction in motherhood, especially as you’re grappling with this massive new chapter. You’re so excited to be a new parent, but you’re also grieving your child-free life. You’re discovering new depths of love and emotion, but you’re also entirely overwhelmed. And we can sometimes have some shame or guilt around those feelings.

Normalizing this experience starts with normalizing these emotions:

  • Feeling like you should instinctively know what your baby needs at all times. You’re new to this—and that’s true even if this isn’t your first baby, by the way. “I often see new mothers struggle with perfectionistic tendencies,” says Dr. Oreck. “But you’ve just met your baby and it takes time to get to know them. And if this is your second or third child, each baby is completely different and will take some adjusting and getting used to.”

  • Feeling like you’re not instantly connected or in love with your baby when you first give birth. Again—you’re just getting to know each other! And there’s so much that can eclipse those feelings—your birth experience, challenges with breastfeeding, the gravity of becoming a parent, the realization that this new being is now in your care. That said, if you’re still feeling disconnected after several days or weeks, it might be a good idea to consult with a mental health provider.

  • Feeling emotions around your own parents. “Pregnancy and the postpartum period may lead to a new wave of grief or mourning,” says Dr. Oreck. “Know that it commonly happens and it may be worthwhile to reach out to your support system. You can connect with the maternal figures in your life or obtain individual or support therapy to help sort through some of the confusing feelings.”

To help manage the array of emotions that your new identity as a mom may present, here is what you can do:

  • Line up support and help in the first few weeks after delivery.
    Call on family, friends, or anyone willing to pitch in. It takes a village to raise children, so don’t feel like the weight of it is all on your shoulders. 

  • Remember that self-care is not self-indulgent—it’s essential for survival as a new mother.
    As the saying goes: You have to put your own oxygen mask before you can take care of others. “Taking a bath, exercising, socializing and connecting with friends, having date nights to reconnect with your partner, and intellectual activities like reading are all important in maintaining your sanity,” says Dr. Oreck. “They will also remind you of your identity outside of being a caregiver for your new infant.”

  • Practice mindfulness exercises, like breathwork and meditation.
    This will help balance your nervous system and calm worry or grief by getting you to focus on the present—in fact, research shows that mindfulness therapies can reduce postpartum depression scores significantly. Try to make time for just ten minutes a day, even if it’s broken up into five minutes in the morning and five minutes at night. You can even do a walking meditation while carrying your baby, where you pay attention to your breathing and your baby’s breathing.1

  • Find a mom group.
    Support groups can be incredibly helpful during this time, especially if you don’t have many friends who are currently pregnant or new moms. This universalizes some of the challenges you may be feeling and allows you to see that you are not alone in the difficult transition to motherhood. 

  • Read a book.
    Reading good literature on motherhood can be incredibly helpful. “Buddhism for Mothers by Sarah Napthali and Mindful Motherhood by Cassandra Vieten, Ph.D. reinforce many of the mindfulness strategies I outlined and are both fantastic reads,” says Dr. Oreck. “If you are data-driven, I would recommend Cribsheet by Emily Oster who is an economist by profession and breaks down myths from evidence-based data.'“

  • Adjust your expectations.
    You may not be able to achieve as much in a day as you once were. And the level of organization and cleanliness that you may have kept up before the new baby may change.

  • Know when to seek out professional help.
    If you’re still struggling despite making some of these interventions, individual therapy or speaking to a reproductive psychiatrist may be a great tool. “Many women face issues of postpartum mood and anxiety disorders,” says Dr. Oreck. “We believe these mental health issues occur in the context of the dramatic shift in hormones after giving birth and significant life changes and stressors involved with becoming a parent.” That said: If you are experiencing overwhelming feelings of low mood, hopelessness, tearfulness, thoughts that life is not worth living or your baby would be better off without you, reach out to your healthcare practitioner immediately as these may be signs of postpartum depression and they’ll be able to give resources to help you.”2

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  1. Help for moms | postpartum support international (PSI). Postpartum.net.
  2. Liu, C., Chen, H., Zhou, F. et al. Positive intervention effect of mobile health application based on mindfulness and social support theory on postpartum depression symptoms of puerperae. BMC Women's Health 22, 413 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12905-022-01996-4

This article is for informational purposes only. It is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and we recommend that you always consult with your healthcare provider. To the extent that this article features the advice of physicians or medical practitioners, the views expressed are the views of the cited expert and do not necessarily represent the views of Perelel.