Sleep Deprivation and Postpartum Depression

Caring for newborns can be exhausting. Adults normally need between 7-9 hours of sleep a night to feel fully rested. New moms rarely have that luxury. A newborn typically wakes every two to three hours at night to feed. By the time we get them fed, burped, changed and comforted it feels like it is time to start it all over again. Double or triple that time if we have been blessed with twins or triplets! Good advice we have all heard is to get as much rest as you can whenever you can and ask for help. Utilize family and friends whenever they offer and ask for help when they don’t. The idea that “it takes a village to raise a child” is still true, but harder to bring about. Many of today’s new families get less help from their traditional support teams. Some have followed the “job” and find themselves in different cities or even different countries when their baby’s are born. Being away from trusted families and friends during this joyful occasion can cause feelings of emotional stress and anxiety. Add these feelings with physical exhaustion and it can carry a very high price to our health. That is why hiring help such as an Infant Care Specialist, or Night Baby Nurse can be just what the doctor ordered.

Without rest our brain can quickly deteriorate. What we are finding is that we may not realize the adverse effects of broken or less than adequate sleep may have on us. Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania restricted volunteer’s sleep to less than six hours a night for two consecutive weeks. Afterwards the volunteers said they felt only a small increase in sleepiness and thought they were functioning pretty normal. However, testing their cognitive abilities and reaction time progressively got worse during those two weeks. By the end of the two-week test, they found them to be as impaired as volunteers who had been kept awake continuously for 48 hours!

Those who have experienced sleep deprivation for extended periods of time can readily feel how impaired their judgment and performance is. However, new parents who are consistently experiencing sleep deprivation in smaller increments may somehow feel this is their “new normal” and may not realize the detrimental effects that can be taking place in their brains. During these stressful times, having someone to help you get the rest you need is not a luxury, it is a necessity.

According to the Mayo clinic, our long awaited bundle of joy can cause a mixture of powerful emotions. But it can also result in something you may not have expected… postpartum depression. Many new moms experience the baby blues after childbirth that commonly include mood swings, sadness, and crying spells. However, these symptoms usually only last a few days to a couple weeks. Postpartum depression is a much more serious condition and may appear as the baby blues in the beginning-but the symptoms are much more intense.

Symptoms may include:

  • Feelings that you cannot take care of yourself or your family.
  • Intense irritability.
  • Overwhelming fatigue.
  • Lack of joy in life.
  • Difficulty motivating yourself to do everyday tasks.
  • Thoughts of harming yourself or your baby.

A new mother who has any symptoms of postpartum depression should take steps right away to get help. Talk to your healthcare provider for medical options.

Ask your partner, family, and friends for help for you, and your baby’s needs. There are Nighttime Infant Care Specialists/Baby Nurses and other night caregivers that you can hire to help as well. It is very important you don’t hide your feelings. Talk about them with your partner, family, and friends. Don’t make any major life changes during pregnancy or right after giving birth. Don’t try to do too much, or to be perfect. Make time to go out, visit friends, spend time alone or with your partner. Rest as much as you can. Sleep when the baby is sleeping. Talk with other mothers or join a support group. Call the confidential MOMS postpartum depression hotline at 866-364-MOMS.

The important thing to know is that you are not alone. The Center for disease Control reports 15% -20% of women, over one million in the US are effected by Postpartum depression every year. Some studies estimate the number to be much higher since many women are embarrassed to admit there is a problem so many will go undetected. It is not your fault. It can happen to anyone. Talk to your health care provider. Many physicians are concerned that women wait until their six week check -up to discuss these symptoms. It is important to seek help early and not wait. The sooner you get treatment the better. And most importantly know that what you are going through is temporary and treatable.

In the meantime get as much rest as you can and accept help from family and friends. Connect with new moms groups, hire help if you’re able and don’t try to do it alone.

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