Your Mind On Motherhood
Why you feel that way Once your baby is born, your body begins to produce a hormone called oxytocin (aka the "cuddle hormone"), which induces feelings of intense love for and bonding with your baby. "Oxytocin causes your milk to let down and makes you feel an attachment to your newborn," Puryear says. Take note: Women who breastfeed produce more feel-good oxytocin than those who bottle feed.
Coping strategies Hug, kiss and cuddle your heart out; despite what some say, you can't "spoil" a newborn.
Absent-minded (aka "mommy brain")
Why you feel that way Estrogen and progesterone levels begin to fall dramatically immediately after the placenta is delivered. Then, breastfeeding keeps estrogen levels low. This prompts a state of forgetfulness that some women describe as total stupidity. "Low estrogen levels may contribute to this 'cognitive clouding,'" Puryear affirms.
Coping strategies Don't even think about multi-tasking! Focus solely on caring for your newborn and say "later" to extraneous tasks like laundry, cleaning your house, sending baby photos to your IM pals, writing thank-you notes, etc. If possible, take a daily short walk; it will help clear your head.
Lacking in libido
Why you feel that way Have you heard the adage that a new mom's biggest fantasy is sleep? In addition, breastfeeding lowers estrogen levels, which in turn lowers libido.
"Plus, if you're breastfeeding, you have another human being on you all day long," says Puryear. "At night, you just may feel, 'I just don't want another person on me.'" Some women describe this as feeling "touched out."
Coping strategies Tell your partner how you're feeling, physically as well as emotionally. "Your spouse may not realize there are physiological reasons you're not interested in sex," says Puryear. "If you don't tell him, he may think you don't love him anymore." Schedule some time away from the baby for intimacy; it doesn't have to involve sex. Even just lying together and cuddling will make him feel wanted and needed. And if it does lead to sex, you will likely need to use a lubricant, thanks to your lowered estrogen level.
Down and blue
Why you feel that way If even small hormonal changes can affect your mood when you're menstruating, imagine what a rapid decline in estrogen and progesterone can do to your disposition. Within 24 hours of your baby's birth, these hormones drop to pre-pregnancy levels, which can leave you feeling sad and stressed.
"After we brought [our son] home, my husband was excited, but I felt overwhelmed and isolated," recalls Trang Burnett. "I kept asking myself, 'Why don't I feel like he does?'"
"Sadness, fatigue, anxiety—most first-time mothers experience these symptoms," says Shivakumar. "They tend to resolve within two weeks."
Coping strategies Sleep. Hand the baby off to your partner and doze whenever possible. A few hours of much-needed rest will do wonders for your outlook.
If symptoms are severe, last longer than two weeks or start four weeks after delivery, you may have postpartum depression and should seek immediate medical attention. For information, visit the National Women's Health Information Center at 4women.gov; mededppd.org, a website developed with the support of the National Institute of Mental Health; and Postpartum Support International at postpartum.net.