There is nothing natural about adjusting to becoming a mother. The suddenand awesome responsibility of looking after a baby 24 hours a day canprove to be both overwhelming and exhausting.
The early weeks and months of caring for a baby can be anextraordinarily emotional time. Ups and downs are normal as we dealwith pain, exhaustion, worry and the overwhelming responsibility thatcomes with giving birth and being responsible for looking after a tiny being.
TED talk presenter, Alexandra Sacks (reproductive psychiatrist) believes the transition to parenthood should be thought about in terms of an actual phase of life, which she terms ‘Matrescence’, referring to the ‘birth’ of a mother and developmental transition to motherhood – similar to the well-documented and often challenging life phase of adolescence.
Education for first time mothers is largely centred around how to optimise their pregnancies, how to prepare for birth, how to breastfeed, how to settle a baby and cope during the first few weeks after birth. And that’s usually where it ends.
Thankfully, there now seems to be a growing focus on how to help mothers-to-be to prepare themselves for the emotional adjustment that becoming a parent brings – beyond the first few days, weeks and months.
Still, societal expectations and myths that motherhood will be a smooth transition, that birth will be a stress-free and natural process and that bonding with your baby will be innate and instinctive – place heavy and unreasonable burdens on new parents.
None of this is helped by the flood of ‘social media mums’ showing off their post-baby bodies, placing unrealistic pressure on new mums, just out of hospital.
Fortunately, I believe the number of new mums asking for help is on the rise and there is far greater discussion and more new mums seeking support. These are just some of the changes women have to cope with as they adjust to motherhood:
Oxytocin, also referred to as the ‘love’ or ‘cuddle’ hormone is released during labour and continues to be released when engaging and bonding with the new baby in the days that follow. Unfortunately the birth of a baby and the immediate life changes that it brings can also increase stress and the release of the associated hormone, called cortisol.
Studies show increased levels of cortisol can inhibit the release of oxytocin, which can in turn reduce the feeling of desire to be attuned or present to your newborn’s needs. This ‘adjustment stress’ is completely normal and the release of this ‘love’ hormone will only be inhibited with prolonged or constant stress. There is no need to panic if you feel overwhelmed at first, my point is that it’s important to monitor your feelings on an ongoing basis and address any concerns you may have with your doctor or support network.
Fortunately, the number of new mums asking for help is on therise and there is far greater discussion and more new mums seeking support.
These tips can help you to prepare for the early days of motherhood and beyond:
Please remember that it is normal to feel overwhelmed in the first year – however, it is important to know the signs which fall outside of the‘normal’ realm and which may require more formal intervention.
Some of the symptoms/signs of postnatal depression/anxietyinclude, but are not limited to the following:
Research shows early intervention has an enormously positive impacton a mother’s confidence, feelings and attitude towards her baby.
Lindsay Perlman – Psychologist (infocuspsychology.com)