The most frequent sentiment I hear is “this isn’t what I expected.”
A myth of perfect motherhood prevails in our society. Many new moms experience feelings of guilt and shame for failing to live up to the perfect mother image held by a society. They expect to be able to handle everything on their own and feel inadequate when they cannot live up to these unrealistic expectations. At the very least, becoming a mother is an adjustment that takes time. Transitioning to motherhood is difficult; bonding and attachment does not always happen right away.
Perinatal Mental Health is a term often used to capture mental health during pregnancy (prenatal period) and up to a year after giving birth (postpartum or postnatal period).
Mood and anxiety difficulties/disorders during pregnancy and postpartum or postnatal (perinatal period) represent the most frequent form of maternal mental health problems during pregnancy and up to a year following childbirth.
It is sometimes difficult to recognize or accept that something is wrong at the time when everyone expects a woman to be happy. However, it is imperative to undertake treatment as soon as possible to avert negative consequences to mother, child, and family.
Many women prefer to avoid antidepressant medication during pregnancy because of their effects on a developing fetus and during postpartum because all medication passes into breast milk in some amount. For mild to moderate depression and/or anxiety, interpersonal psychotherapy or cognitive behavioural psychotherapy are recommended as a first line of treatment (APA; CPA). However, for severe forms of depression and anxiety a combination of medication and psychotherapy may be warranted; in this case, it is strongly recommended that you have either a family physician or a psychiatrist monitoring the medication while undergoing psychotherapy.
Perinatal mood and anxiety problems are very much treatable with a short term, evidence-based approach - no mom to be or a new mom should ever feel alone or scared because of these difficulties.