The early weeks of pregnancy are fragile—and confusing. Here, the answers to your questions.
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Eight out of 10 new mothers experience mild depression, also called baby blues, usually within the first week after giving birth. Symptoms include rapid mood shifts and crying, all of which may resolve by 10–14 days after delivery. Offer your wife opportunities for rest (have her set aside a couple of hours a day for herself), reassurance (tell her she’s a great mother), physical support (take care of the baby, go to the grocery store, wash the clothes) and emotional support (encourage her to talk about her feelings and really listen). The last thing you want to do is flip out. It may take her a couple of months to get better, but eventually she will.
Most serious postpartum depression (PPD) affects up to 10 percent of new mothers. It can interfere with a woman’s ability to care for her baby and may cause feelings of guilt and shame. If it lasts more than two weeks, she should seek professional help. Call your obstetrician or a support group, such as Postpartum Support International (805-967-7636) or Depression After Delivery, Inc. (800-944-4PPD).
— Lori Altshuler, M.D., director of the Mood Disorders Research Program at the University of California, Los Angeles, School of Medicine
What’s the secret to soothing a crying baby?
Most babies cry because they’re hungry, especially in the first six months. Try feeding your baby first, then check to see if he needs a diaper change. You can also offer him a well-washed finger; babies love to suck. If he’s still wailing, pick him up, gently pat his bottom, bounce and walk or dance around. As a last resort, put him in his car seat and take him on a drive; this will put him to sleep.
— Jay Gordon, M.D., pediatrician in private practice in Santa Monica, Calif.
It may sound selfish, but when is my wife going to lose all that weight?
That depends on how much she gained. The weight that can be directly accounted for by the pregnancy—baby, placenta, amniotic fluid, extra blood, increased breast tissue and fat stores—adds up to around 20–25 pounds. The majority of women are able to lose most of that weight within six to eight weeks after giving birth.
However, many women gain considerably more than that amount. If that’s the case, the weight may take much longer to come off, and it’s going to require some work.
You can help your partner during this time by being supportive: Offer to take care of the baby so your wife can get out and get some exercise; help prepare low-fat, healthful meals for her; and encourage her to keep breastfeeding. Some experts feel that nursing may help women take off weight more quickly after birth.
— Sharon Phelan, M.D., associate professor in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Alabama in Birmingham