Becoming a new parent is meant to be a joyful and exciting experience. You’re preparing for the arrival of your baby, decorating the baby’s room, and opening up baby shower gifts. Or you’ve recently given birth and are surrounded by friends and family who bring food and want to help in any way possible. But the truth is, sometimes you feel very alone. When it’s time for your 2 AM feeding and you’re holding your baby in the middle of the night, it might feel like there’s nobody around who gets what you’re going through.
Actually, you’re not alone. At SonderMind, we understand. If you want to talk to someone, SonderMind can connect you to a licensed therapist who specializes in parenting and perinatal issues and can be there for you as you navigate the challenges of being a new parent. You’re not alone.
Read on to understand why new parents might feel lonely before and after birth, and how this can lead to perinatal depression.
What causes loneliness in new parents?
You might feel lonely and isolated because you’re not able to do the things you used to do. For example, lunch with your friends isn’t quite so easy when you’re exhausted all the time, can’t get more than two hours’ worth of good sleep, or on a seemingly endless breastfeeding schedule. On top of that, you might feel sad, frustrated, and overwhelmed.
A recent study revealed that several things play a role in perinatal depression (perinatal means the time before and after birth) and loneliness. Some of these are:
- Self isolation and hiding symptoms due to stigma and fear of being a bad mother
- Sudden feeling of emotional disconnect after birth
- A difference in expectations and the actual support received from a partner and family
The study concludes that loneliness can play a major part in the experience of perinatal depression.
What is perinatal depression?
Perinatal depression is depression that occurs during or after pregnancy. Depression that occurs during pregnancy is called prenatal depression. Depression that occurs after birth is called postpartum depression.
Symptoms of perinatal depression can range from mild to severe, and include feelings of sadness, anxiety, and extreme tiredness. This can make it hard for new mothers to do daily tasks and care for themselves and their newborn. Some common symptoms include:
- Feeling sad, anxious, or “empty” mood
- Feeling irritable and restless
- Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, hopelessness, or helplessness
- Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities
- Extreme fatigue and tiredness
- Difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions
- Difficulty sleeping (even when the baby is sleeping) or oversleeping
- Abnormal appetite, weight changes, or both
- Aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems that do not have a clear physical cause or do not ease even with treatment
- Trouble bonding or forming an emotional attachment with the new baby
- Persistent doubts about the ability to care for the new baby
- Thoughts about death, suicide, or harming oneself or the baby
If you or someone you know is in crisis, get help right away. Call 988 for the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline or find other suicide prevention resources here.
What you can do if you have symptoms of perinatal depression
It’s important as a new parent for you to make time for yourself. When you care for yourself, not only do you feel better, but you can also take better care of those you love. Here are some ways you can get start to put yourself and your mental well-being first:
1. Lean on your support network
The first step towards dealing with perinatal depression is to talk about your feelings and seek help from people who care about you. Reach out to close family, friends, or a trusted health care professional and share your feelings with them. It is essential to have a network of support people who you can trust without fear of judgment. Joining a support group can also be helpful as you can meet other new parents who are going through similar experiences.
2. Practice self-care
As a new parent, it’s easy to disregard your own needs, but it’s crucial to prioritize yourself in the midst of caring for a newborn. Make time to practice self-care. Small things like eating a well-balanced meal, going for a walk, or watching your favorite show, can make a big difference in boosting your mood and overall well-being.
3. Get enough sleep
Adequate sleep is essential for both your mental and physical health, especially as you work through depression symptoms while balancing the stresses of being a new parent. Getting a full night of rest is challenging with a newborn. Practicing “sleep hygiene” can help. It includes turning off electronic devices an hour before bed, creating a comfortable sleep environment, and sticking to a consistent bedtime routine.
4. Move your body
Regular physical activity can alleviate depression symptoms and help lift your mood. Going for a walk or doing light stretching exercises for 30 minutes daily can provide a considerable mood boost and improve your overall well-being. Furthermore, exercising outdoors exposes you to sunlight, boosting the production of vitamin D, which may help in regulating mood.
5. Seek professional help
If your symptoms persist, or you’re struggling to cope, it’s essential to seek professional help. A mental health professional can provide the appropriate diagnosis and recommend treatment options. They can help you identify strategies to manage depression, develop coping mechanisms, and provide necessary support. Treatment may include therapy, medication, or a combination of both to treat your symptoms effectively.
SonderMind is here for you
Feeling lonely as a new parent is normal. But it should not prevent you from enjoying the excitement of pregnancy and a new baby. If your feelings of loneliness and sadness are getting in the way of your mental and physical well-being, it might be time to talk to a licensed mental health professional.
Remember that there is no shame in seeking help and don’t hesitate to reach out to someone. You’re not alone. With SonderMind by your side, you’ll have the ongoing support and tools to recover and enjoy the joys of being a new parent. We’re here for you, just reach out and let’s talk.