You’re a new mom, and your baby is only five weeks old. You probably feel as though you haven’t slept for a whole year. You are still tender from the birth and this feeding thing. The designated “baby blues” period has passed, but you feel twice as bad as you did during those days.
It seems like everyone else is overcome with affection for this little life that you’ve brought into the world. But you’re left wondering what’s wrong. You don’t feel the same affection for your baby that others seem to feel. If anything, you feel a deep, dark despair and a longing for things to go back to the way they were. Parenting is hard, especially for introverts who need plenty of downtime to function at their best.
If this sounds like you, read on. In this article, I’ll explore the link between introversion and postpartum depression — and show you what you can do to get better. We’ll also take a look at what expecting mothers can do now to prevent PPD.
What Is Postpartum Depression?
Postpartum depression (PPD) is a harrowing experience that approximately 15 percent of new mothers go through. PPD is a mood disorder that results in extreme sadness, anxiety, and exhaustion. The symptoms may include:
- Feelings of sadness, anxiety, or being overwhelmed
- Moodiness, irritability, restlessness
- Difficulty sleeping or sleeping too much
- Not bonding with the baby and/or feeling unable to care for the baby
- Difficulties with memory and concentration
- Eating too much or too little
- Withdrawal and loss of interest in usual activities
- Crying uncontrollably
These symptoms may start during the pregnancy (peripartum depression) and can affect birth weight and even put babies at risk of premature birth.
The Link Between Introversion and Depression
Research shows that introverts may be more at risk for depression than extroverts. However, it is not a simple causal link, meaning, being an introvert does not make you depressed. But, being an introvert means you may be more likely to get depressed.
Similarly, researchers have discovered that introversion contributes significantly to the risk of developing PPD. One study found that high neuroticism and introversion was the only predictor of PPD for a year after giving birth.
Keep in mind that not all introverted moms will get PPD. And, extroverts can suffer from it, too.
In my experience, there are several reasons we introverts might be more susceptible to developing PPD. When I had my first born almost 9 years ago, I hadn’t strongly identified as an introvert (I actually seem to be becoming more of an introvert since having my two children). However, looking back, I can recognize tell-tale signs that my introverted and highly sensitive nature was affecting my experience as a new mom.
Having always been in control of my world and easily able to limit the stimuli that entered my space, this tiny human did what she wanted, and I felt as though I was going crazy. The feeling of having her with me 24/7 was completely exhausting. Not to mention the crying and general baby noises that were overstimulating for my soul that craves quiet.
On top of all of this (as if you need any more), new moms are expected to host family, friends, and other well-wishers who come to visit. I had not yet mastered the art of saying no, and I found myself overwhelmed and resentful towards my poor guests.
I didn’t bond with my firstborn (a tell-tale sign of PPD) until she was about three months old due to incredible difficulties breastfeeding. I’m positive that the only reason I didn’t develop full-blown PPD was because I was already on medication for high anxiety.
If you’re an introvert who is suffering from PPD, there’s good news — depression is treatable. You can get better; these thoughts and feelings don’t have to last forever.
And if you’re an introvert who is pregnant or planning to become pregnant, there are some things you can do now to prevent PPD.
How to Prevent Postpartum Depression
You may not be able to completely ward off depression, but you can do things to lower your chances of developing it or make it less severe. Here are three things expecting introverted moms can do now to prevent PPD.
1. Know the signs of PPD. Communication with your biggest support person will be crucial. Make sure they know what signs and symptoms to look for, because if you do get PPD, you may not recognize these signs yourself, when you’re in the thick of it. Also, catching early warning signs of PPD means you can get help sooner and prevent yourself from spirling deeper into depression. Early signs of PPD include the “baby blues” lasting longer than a couple of weeks, being unable to make decisions, difficulty sleeping even when the baby is sleeping, and intense periods of sadness and/or guilt.
2. Make specific plans regarding visitors. As an introvert, you already know that having visitors in your home, particularly surprise ones, can be stressful and draining — possibly even causing an introvert hangover. Now imagine those feelings increased tenfold because you have a screaming baby and no sleep. Set your boundaries and stick to them. In those first few weeks, make it clear that you want people to message you before they pop in. Yes, even your mom. Here are more tips for introverted moms to handle visitors.
3. Make a self-care routine now. According to Diane Sanford, Ph.D., author of Postpartum Survival Guide, new moms who spend at least 15 minutes every other day relaxing cope with the stresses of motherhood better than those who don’t. Start cultivating a self-care routine now that you can stick to as much as possible when the baby comes. What are the things that bring you joy and balance as an introvert? Things that energize you? Make a list of three simple things that you can do — like deep breathing, soaking in the tub, or reading — and start practicing them now.
Remember, you can leave the baby for 15 minutes between feedings with your co-parent or another support person. The more you do that from the start, the better. As an introvert, once the baby arrives, you will need a regular source of “me time” more than ever.
If You Have Postpartum Depression
If you’re struggling with PPD now, please talk to someone. Make an appointment with your doctor, but until then, make your partner or another friend aware of what’s going on.
And there are things you can do to help alleviate the symptoms:
- Sleep is crucial to surviving with a newborn, but knowing when to sleep is important, too. Sleep while the baby is asleep. This means ignoring the mess in the house or the piles of laundry.
- Research shows that exercising before and after giving birth improves moms’ emotional wellbeing. Is doesn’t have to be intense cardio; getting the blood moving in the fresh air is enough.
- Being flexible is important. Unfortunately, babies don’t run on our schedules, so it’s best just to chuck your plans out the window!
- Join a new moms group. Yes, we introverts love alone time, but having some time with adults will feel refreshing. Being able to share ideas, tips, and complaints with moms going through the same stages will reduce your feelings of loneliness.
The quickest way back to health is to find ways to cope with PPD that also tend to your introverted needs. It might be a hard journey, but the sooner you start it, the better.
We introverted mothers are such an amazing tribe. We love our children fiercely. We sacrifice our beloved alone time over and over again. Let’s embrace who we are and be fierce with our self-love too.
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