How to deal with postpartum emotions?

MotherStories takes you behind the scenes of birth at the Clinique Générale-Beaulieu. Throughout the year, you will discover our interviews highlighting the different professionals involved in childbirth and the role of each one before, during, and after the birth. Today, discover more about the role of a nurse assistant, Maëva Griot. This role is often forgotten about however it is essential in the day-to-day of a maternity ward.

Muriel de Muralt psychologue assise dans une chambre de la clinique Générale-Beaulieu

Muriel, can you please introduce yourself in a few words 
I am a psychologist specializing in the development of young children from 0 to 3 years old and parenting. I have been working at the Générale-Beaulieu Clinic for 10 years, where I meet with parents who want a moment to themselves, a moment of exchange.

What is your role?
My role as a psychologist is to allow new parents to share their doubts and fears with them and to leave them at the maternity hospital so that once they are back home, the mother and/or father can embark on their new family adventure reassured.

Let’s not forget that you are not born a parent, you become one! Parenthood is a considerable change in the life of a woman or a man. Parents often feel helpless when they meet their new little baby and doubt their parenting skills. However, it is a daily learning process where the baby and his parents get to know each other, get used to each other, and create a bond.

What topics do you discuss with the mothers/parents who come to see you?
The topics vary and depend on the parents. We can talk about the experience of childbirth, which is sometimes difficult, or the questions they have about discovering their new role.

Is it normal to experience emotional ups and downs in the postpartum period? 
Yes, it is completely normal. Some mothers sometimes feel that their condition does not match the image of the “perfect” birth conveyed by society and social networks. A birth represented as a great moment of happiness and immediate connection with her baby. It is necessary to succeed in getting rid of this cliché and the guilt felt. It is very important that mothers can share their experiences, that they are not left alone, and that they are reassured.

What is baby blues and how long does it last?
The main cause of baby blues is the drop in the level of hormones. Between 50 and 80% of young mothers suffer from it after birth. The signs are feeling very emotional and having mood swings. They cry easily, feel sad, or are irritable and anxious. They also have trouble sleeping. This condition occurs between the 2nd and 5th day after giving birth and lasts for a short time, from a few days to 10 days. 

What are the differences between baby blues and postpartum depression?
The differences are the timing of the occurrence of symptoms, the intensity of the symptoms, and the duration of the emotional state. Postpartum depression occurs within a year of childbirth with a peak in the first 3 months. Unlike baby blues, postpartum depression lasts for several weeks, months, or even years. 

For information, during pregnancy or in the year following the birth of a child, postpartum depression affects 1 in 8 women. 

Can it also affect partners?
Yes, it is rarely or never mentioned, but men are also affected by postpartum depression and the incidence is almost as high as in women. They have the same symptoms, but it is less obvious to detect them because men tend to hide their emotions and it goes mostly unnoticed. 

What advice would you give to a postpartum mother to better manage her emotions?
To get through these first months of adaptation after the birth of a child as well as possible and not sink, it is important not to forget yourself. You have to give yourself time to yourself, without having to worry about the baby and without feeling guilty! In the beginning, it will be a matter of asking your partner, a relative, or a friend to look after your baby so that you can have a quiet shower or a little nap, then when you feel the need, to go and see a friend, go for a walk or simply take time to do what you have missed the most since becoming a mother. 

You don’t want to be left alone at home all day, every day with the baby. If you feel sad or anxious, talk to others and seek help from family, friends, or other health professionals (midwives, pediatricians, obstetricians, psychologists, MotherStories…).

Do you remember a mother you followed who particularly struck you?  
I remember one day entering the room of a mother in tears, overwhelmed by her emotions. She felt guilty for not having felt joy and love immediately after the birth of her baby. 

I reassured her that this “unconditional love” that everyone talks about does not always happen immediately after birth, that she is not alone in feeling this way, but that it is difficult to verbalize it for fear of being judged. I try to calm her down by explaining that this bond will build up little by little.

I end up making her aware of how her baby is attracted to her voice and face. It was only when she realized this that she broke down in tears, this time from joy.

These moments are often comforting for mothers who doubt their parenting skills. Usually, these simple steps are enough to soothe mothers and allow them to accept their emotions without feeling guilty. Most of them do not need to consult again when they get home, although I am always available to them if they feel the need.

If you would like to discover the maternity ward of the Clinique Générale-Beaulieu and meet their wonderful team, book a visit by calling directly +41 22 839 57 07.