I spoke to a friend recently about pregnancy, specifically when and where information is provided. We both agreed that the time right after labor to several weeks after birth is the most formidable time for new parents. In this time parents are plagued by lack of sleep, putting more tension on an already stressful time. Some people are lucky enough to have family and friends present in this time to help the new parents adjust to the daunting task of making life changes for a new addition. What happens for those that do not have the support of friends and family? What happens when parents are not able to deal with the stressors of new parenthood?
The National Institute of Health (NIH) estimates that up to 15% of new mothers have symptoms of postpartum depression (National Institute of Health, 2005). Postpartum depression symptoms can include, but are not limited to feeling: tired, antsy, little motivation, and decreased appetite (National Institute of Health, 2005). All of which can be misconstrued as typical feelings after having a baby. So how can we as educators better identify these signs?
Although we may never aspire to become parents, it is important to support those around us in their sexuality-related endeavors. A good way to look out for a friend or family member is to keep updated about the new family’s adjustments. Let the new parents know there are a number of biological, physical, emotional, and social changes that occur after the birth of a child. If symptoms seem to continue weeks after birth, talk to the person about how you can help. Reassure the new parents that they need not take on everything themselves. Recommend to the new parents that they seek out help from medical professionals, as ignoring can lead to harm of oneself, or the baby. Many treatments are available, and can be very effective. The following resources provide additional information about postpartum depression:
Bodnar, D., Ryan, D., & Smith, J. E. (n.d.). Self-care program for women with postpartum depression and anxiety. Provincial Reproductive Medical Health. Retrieved from http://www.bcwomens.ca/NR/rdonlyres/1197CA18-D2F5-4772-B6D7-7A9FFB1C6A7B/12518/ReproductiveMentalHealthSelfCareGuide.pdf
National Institute of Health (2005). Understanding postpartum depression: Common but treatable. News in Health. Retrieved from http://newsinhealth.nih.gov/2005/December2005/docs/01features_02.htm