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You may feel like you should only experience excitement and positive emotions as a new mom, and it can be confusing when you don’t. You’re not alone, and your feelings are valid.

Having a baby is a life-changing experience. A new mom’s range of emotions from day-to-day includes joy, fear, sadness, excitement, anxiety, and more. While this emotional journey is normal thanks to the combination of hormone changes and limited sleep, moms who are experiencing ongoing feelings of sadness, depression, and loneliness can be at risk for postpartum depression.  

According to the Office on Women’s Health, 1 in 9 new mothers experience postpartum depression, a mental health condition where you may feel sad, empty, hopeless, or disconnected from your baby for longer than two weeks. 

But depression can start during pregnancy too.

Depression during pregnancy, or perinatal depression, can be triggered by everyday life stressors, such as balancing work and family or managing finances. Taking steps to support your mental health before your baby comes is essential. The third trimester can be a great time to not only prepare your home for your new arrival, but also to prepare yourself emotionally for motherhood. Here are a few things to keep in mind as you countdown to baby. 

Know your risks.

Prevention is the best path to success. If you are aware of the risks and symptoms of depression during and after pregnancy, you can better avoid or more quickly treat it. Having a family history of depression (or a history of depression yourself), having an unplanned or difficult pregnancy or birth, experiencing challenges with a partner, or having limited support at home can increase the risk for perinatal or postpartum depression. While these can be difficult conversations to have with your doctor, it can be a weight off your chest to share what you are worried about as you plan for your new baby. Your healthcare provider can then help you connect to the resources you need as a new mom. 

Build connections now.

Besides your partner or other close friends and family members, build your mom circle. Ask about groups for new (or experienced moms) in your area affiliated with your hospital, church, or local community center. Online support is also an option. Keep in mind that every mom’s experience and circumstances are unique. What works for a friend and her family might not work for you and your family. Always consult your healthcare team (your doctor, pediatrician, lactation consultant, etc.) with questions or concerns about you and your baby. Knowing who will help you after your baby comes can help put your mind at ease. 

Make “me time” a priority.

When your baby comes, your time quickly becomes the baby’s time. Babies are demanding, especially in the first few weeks and months. To be the best mom you can be, you need time for yourself, too. Whether you get outside and be active, curl up with your favorite book or movie, take a nap, drive, or whatever helps you relax, you deserve time for yourself regularly – not just as a rare treat or special occasion. Coordinate childcare tasks with your partner and support team to help keep your stress and anxiety at bay. 

Rest now, while you can!

In the last month or two before your baby comes, you might start nesting – rushing to complete your to-do list and prepare your home for your new arrival. But, besides a car seat to take your baby home, a safe place for baby to sleep, the supplies you need for breastfeeding or other infant feeding methods, clothes, and diapers, everything else can wait (or be ordered online!). This is an excellent time to sit back, put your feet up, and binge-watch a new show. If you have other kids, take time to snuggle with them before experiencing the life-altering change of a new brother or sister. 

Plan, but be okay to change it.

Planning is important – it can help you prepare and feel confident in your role as a new mom. But no matter how hard you try, life rarely goes exactly as planned. You may go through plans A, B, and C, and still have to come up with yet another backup plan – sometimes you may feel like you’re going through the entire alphabet. So, go ahead and make a labor and delivery plan, an infant feeding plan, and childcare plan, but remember to be flexible. Go with the flow and know that you’re strong and resilient enough to overcome any obstacle and conquer any challenge that comes your way. Facing the unknown can be overwhelming and take a toll on your mental health – remember that it’s okay (and even encouraged) to ask for help when you need it.  

You may feel like you should only experience excitement and positive emotions as a new mom, and it can be confusing when you don’t. You’re not alone, and your feelings are valid. Make sure you address any mental health concerns with your healthcare provider and lean on your support system when you’re struggling.