Published: Oct. 17, 2006
Updated: July 14, 2010
It’s supposed to be one of the happiest times of your life. You got through the long months of pregnancy and the challenges of childbirth, and now you’ve got a brand new baby. So why do you feel so blue?
One in 10 new mothers experiences some level of postpartum depression in the weeks after delivery. They may find themselves crying for no apparent reason, or experiencing anxiety, exaggerated emotional highs and lows, and difficulties in bonding with the baby.
According to William Meyer, MSW, a clinical social worker and associate clinical professor in the department of psychiatry at Duke University Medical Center, postpartum support groups can often be very helpful for women coping with these symptoms.
Because ours is a mobile society, new mothers are often living at a distance from family and friends, Meyer says. New mothers often lack the traditional support networks that exist in many cultures. “Women dealing with the stresses of being a new mother are often very isolated,” he says. “Support groups provide the opportunity to connect with other women going through the same thing.”
Meyer helped hundreds of mothers establish those connections through a Duke postpartum depression support group he co-led for 18 years. “Each woman has her own unique story,” he says, “but they all share common experiences."
Though the support group no longer meets, Meyer still makes himself available to new mothers through phone or face-to-face consultations where he shares information about postpartum depression and available community resources. He also recommends that women talk with their OB-GYN, or connect via numerous other resources on the Internet.
While the first few weeks of having a new baby are almost always disorienting, Meyers says that women who are feeling distressed and having difficulty bonding with their babies after the first three or four weeks should seek assistance.
Counseling by a mental health professional can be helpful; a number of women find that an antidepressant medication is also needed. In many cases, however, simply exchanging understanding and support with other women goes a long way toward easing distress inherent in the postpartum experience.
“Too often, mothers who are having emotional problems or trouble bonding with their babies think there must be something wrong with them,” Meyer says. “It helps if they have a safe place to share those feelings with others -- and discover they’re not alone.”