By Diane Drapkin, MSW
As a therapist at the Postpartum Wellness Center and in collaboration with Boulder Women’s Care, I see many families embarking on parenthood. In line with best practices for meeting the holistic health needs of perinatal women, the PWCB and Boulder Women’s Care have established a four-week postpartum check for all women who deliver at Foothills Community Hospital.
A common refrain from new moms is: “this is really hard ……” “This” could be postpartum recovery, sleep, feeding, packing up to leave the house for the grocery store or an appointment, negotiating family members and new boundaries, and so on. As a society, we don’t talk about these daily challenges and exhaustion that come hand in hand with new parenthood. We tend to romanticize the experience.
The truth is that 1 in 5 moms will struggle with a Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorder (PMAD). New moms in the clinic frequently ask me, “what does that mean?” or “what is the difference between that and the ‘baby blues?’”
The so-called “Baby Blues” usually occurs in the first several of weeks postpartum and fades with time. I often say about the “Baby Blues” that you may find yourself crying over a commercial on television in this time period, primarily because of rapidly changing hormones plus exhaustion and general emotional overwhelm. It is important to note that this normal experience is acute and should dissipate as time passes.
When the “Baby Blues” doesn’t pass and PMAD symptoms develop, we want to catch it as quickly as possible! This is where the four-week check in the clinic has been a golden opportunity. The goal of the four-week check is to screen for emerging PMADs. Additionally, this check gives new families an opportunity to ask questions, express emotions, and honestly reveal the ups and downs of new parenthood in a safe and supportive environment. Many new moms will start our visit with “I’m fine” and end with “this is so hard, and nobody every talks about that” or “my mom/mother-in-law keeps telling me it should be easy and natural.”
I see many mothers face the daunting transition from a life filled with controlled schedules and met expectations to life with a newborn, which can often be very difficult to schedule and control. When consumed with mastering a new role under a wave of exhaustion, it can be difficult to realize that you are not re-gaining wellness after delivery. Our four-week check is an opportunity to explore these dynamics and provide support.
Postpartum support can have multiple facets, including: individual therapy, couple therapy, lactation support, acupuncture, and naturopathy. As a psychotherapist at the PWCB, I realize the value and accessibility of these services in supporting parenthood transitions. Our collaboration with Boulder Women’s Care means we are able to offer support very early in the postpartum period, allowing us to successfully address a multitude of things, from challenging feeding dynamics to navigating a traumatic birth.
We look forward to continuing our community partnerships in support of a holistic model of care toward perinatal wellness.