Becoming a mother is like waking up and realising you have a new roommate you’ve never met or seen before. A woman must make a lot of readjustments when she becomes a mum, there are so many changes going on. Some changes are more obvious than others. Some of the changes that occur can sometimes be forgotten about or brushed to the side and those are the emotional changes. It just so happens that these emotional changes are mainly neurological ones.
During pregnancy the body is preparing and fine tuning the very make-up of the mother’s brain. Scientists who have observed new mothers have discovered behavioural changes in the way they act. And it all links to what’s happening in the different parts of the brain. The brain becomes more concentrated. It ramps up the areas that control empathy, anxiety and social interaction.
Basically, all the pregnancy and postpartum hormones give the mum a huge wallop of chemicals which help to attract the new mom to her baby but they also in turn increase all the other maternal feelings of unconditional love, wild lioness protectiveness and colossal worry. I’m sure some of you have been sat watching telly during your pregnancy and an ad might come on that just sets you off, the tears suddenly are streaming down your face. Or that constant worry that sets in about the most trivial things.
These feelings are all very real and relevant. Some scientific research has now discovered that, because of these chemical changes and hormonal surges during pregnancy and birth, many women experience anxiety and depression during pregnancy and postpartum. Some women may become a little obsessive like washing hands and checking the baby. Some mothers have reported high levels of thinking patterns that they cannot control, constantly thinking about the baby: are they healthy, are they sick, have they been fed enough? Perhaps increasing hormones like oxytocin and endorphins during pregnancy and postpartum can help.
Oxytocin helps to shape healthy relationships, trust and intimacy. Women experience a release of oxytocin during orgasm, during childbirth and breastfeeding. Also known as the cuddle hormone, it is why personal touch will increase the flow of oxytocin. Some scientists recommend at least 8 hugs a day! Endorphins are released as a reaction to pain and stress and can help to ease anxiety and depression. Understanding the changes that your body goes through prior to having your baby can help explain so many things. You will have read how your body changes in preparation to giving birth to your baby and you will have read about how to react to the changes in your baby.
But have you considered how to take care of you and how to react to the changes within you? Women go through a metamorphosis of kinds when they become a mum. Emotionally and physically you must ensure to take care of yourself. As well as learning to take care of the new baby you are learning to become a new family unit. You must rebuild your strength through care, rest, nutrition and help. Mums can become overwhelmed by exhaustion. They forget to eat or they just don’t have time and then they don’t ask for help. All of these are contributing factors to the depletion of those fabulous happy hormones.
Ensure you eat a healthy balanced diet whether your breastfeeding or not. Make sure to eat good carbs, low GI and nutritious foods. For example muffins, sourdough spelt toast, bananas, brown rice and oats. Make sure you’re getting enough B Vitamins. These are beneficial and essential vitamins when breastfeeding too. Getting enough rest is difficult and it is practically impossible to get the recommended 8 hours sleep… I don’t think I get that now! But there are other ways you can rest.
Meditation is a great way to give you a lift, and a 5-minute meditation can work wonders. Take time out when you feed baby. Put your phone away, pop on the radio, make yourself a cuppa and enjoy the time with your baby. As I said oxytocin is known as the cuddle hormone so doing skin to skin with your baby at the very beginning will be hugely beneficial. But later baby wearing or any cuddles with your children, your partner or your pet will work wonders to boost your happy hormones.
Other ways to make sure your hormone flow is kept at a steady pace are, like I said hugs, cuddling or stroking your pet, watching a movie that makes you laugh (out loud), gentle exercise (when you’re ready), sex (this is a subject for another very long blog).
Last but by no means least my much-loved focus, ask for help. I’ll say it again. Ask for help; it is okay. As a postnatal doula I sometimes think people get the idea that I may be plugging my business when I persist in the statement of “ask for help”. Of course I am always delighted when someone hires me because of my constant nagging however, this is by no means my end game. My constant nagging of new mums to ask for help is that it is necessary. For some reason, especially as new mums, we find it very hard to either ask for help or accept the offers. I think it has to do with all those chemical changes in the brain. The ones that are responsible for making us slightly fanatical at times.
Some mums will think they have to do this all by themselves because they are the mum. I know I did. My sister told me only recently about her observations of me when I had my eldest boy. She got the odd cuddle but never got to change his nappy. With my next boy she got to change a nappy or two and maybe got to dry him after his bath and it was only when the twins came along that she got to feed one of them.
Plan prior to having your baby, at the very least to have someone come in to clean the house one day a week, use the online shopping, enlist friends to help either by walking the dog or bringing dinner a couple of days a week. Or having a friend call in the morning to let you go back to sleep, invest in an eye mask and some earplugs and sleep.
You have most likely taken great care of yourself during your pregnancy. You make all of the appropriate preparations for your labour and birth, but you forget about the time when you land home, or more importantly no one tells you how to take care of yourself at this most important and crucial time. This is when we forget about the new mom. The forgotten fourth trimester as so many professionals call it. What an emotional way of putting it. It is such a whirlwind in your life that, yes, you can be forgiven for forgetting about yourself. After all as a mum you have a family to take care of now. However, remember in order to be the best mum you can be, you must take care of yourself first.
My job is to remind you of this and help you achieve it. As the studies show, and there is science behind it, new mums most certainly need as much care as their babies. “My confidence as a mother grows stronger everyday” ~ Unknown
“My confidence as a mother grows stronger everyday” ~ Unknown
About The Author- Genevieve from Helping Hands Postpartum Doula Cork
My name is Genevieve and I’m a postpartum doula. I’m originally from South Africa. I’ve been living in Cork for 20 years with my husband. We have four beautiful but wild boys and a dog. The boys are 12, 10 and for added fun 7-year-old twins! I am a trained yoga and pregnancy yoga instructor too. I provide support to families welcoming newborns into their lives during the postpartum period. You can read more about what I do in this Cork Kids and Moms Article “A Day in the Lide of a Postpartum Doula
Please make sure to check out my website www.doulacorkireland.com
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