In this article, Jacob Wilhelm, MA, PLPC will briefly discuss some of the changes that may occur within the individual parent and within the relationship, and some tips on how to stay unified in your
In This Article
About the Author
Jacob Wilhelm, MA, PLPC is a professional counselor specializing in Marriage Counseling, Family Therapy, and Anxiety & Depression in Men. You can schedule an appointment with Jacob for online counseling or in-person at our Columbia, Missouri counseling center.
Newborn, New Parents, New Problems.
Will I be a good dad?
Will I be a good mom?
How will this change our relationship?
Are we ready?
How will this change her?
Will we struggle in our marriage?
How will this change him?
Will I ever have freedom again?
Do these questions sound familiar? Welcoming a newborn into the family can bring an inundation of questions, thoughts, feelings, and reactions. This new life is the catalyst to becoming new parents, which will undoubtedly change your relationship with your spouse.
Changes are everywhere! For instance, hormones change, sleeping patterns change, responsibilities change, and now you are taking care of a baby that is 100% dependent on you…without a doubt, that’s a lot to take in and a lot of pressure.
However, change is not bad, and many of the changes are simply not in your control. So, what do you do? How will you navigate through these changes? How will you maintain the priority of your marriage?
This article will briefly discuss some of the changes that may occur within each individual parent, and within the relationship overall. It will also look at some tips on how to stay unified and focused on the needs within your marriage.
Physiological changes will help to shape our experience and perspective of the situation. Understanding what is going on inside our bodies is important in order to give light to what might be influencing and creating our experience. Furthermore, here are just a couple of the physiological changes that may occur in both a woman and a man after the child is born.
Changes in a New Mother
A woman’s body goes through a wealth of changes both during and after pregnancy; while the body once kept the baby alive in the womb, now it transitions into helping keep the baby alive outside of the womb.
Oxytocin, colloquially called the “love hormone” or “cuddle hormone,” is a key building block to bonding with the baby. Oxytocin can be increased by activities like staring at your baby’s eyes, hugging, or cuddling. Because of this, some hospitals will place the newborn directly on the mother’s skin to accomplish just that!
Some moms don’t experience that bonding right away, and that is not their fault! Bonding can happen over time. However, what can inhibit the initial bonding experience are two little variations in the oxytocin gene, and one variation in the oxytocin receptor gene. In these situations, there is a slight variation in those three genes. Research shows that the probable reason for the change is due to experiencing adversity growing up.
Furthermore, this variation in the oxytocin sites can modify the experience and regulation of stress. Prolonged feelings of stress and loneliness are two symptoms of the“baby blues” and postpartum depression. “Baby blues” occurs in about 80% of new mothers, and out of that 80%, postpartum depression occurs in 10-20%. “Baby blues” can be described as experiencing a few days to two weeks of mild ups and downs, weepiness, and stress. Similarly, postpartum depression displays similar symptoms. However, the symptoms are increased in duration and severity.
Here are some postpartum depression symptoms to look out for:
- Depressed mood or severe mood swings
- Excessive crying
- Difficulty bonding with baby
- Withdrawing from family and friends
- Unusual eating habits
- Unusual sleeping habits
- Overwhelming fatigue
- Reduced interest and pleasure in activities
- Intense irritability and anger
- Worthlessness, shame, guilt or inadequacy
- Thoughts of harming yourself or baby
- Thoughts of death or suicide
Those experiencing postpartum depression deserve care and attention. Furthermore, if you see your spouse experiencing postpartum depression, keep the following things in mind.
- Research shows that consistent spousal support can improve the wife’s mood
- Practice empathy by listening
- Look for areas where you can offer help and support
- Practice patience
- Spend time together
- Reinforce your love and care for her
- Encourage self-care
- Practice self-care
- Possibly encourage professional help
Changes in a New Father
Did you know that dads can experience postpartum depression? Paternal postpartum depression is believed to be caused by changing hormone levels of testosterone, estrogen, cortisol, vasopressin, and prolactin. In rare cases, some men share symptoms of pregnancy. For instance, they experience things like nausea, vomiting, and fatigue and this phenomenon is called “couvade syndrome”.
There is some evidence that levels of testosterone can decrease in men after their wife gives birth. This drop in testosterone is believed to assist the father in bonding with the newborn, showing greater sensitivity and care, showing a greater commitment to their wife, and decreasing aggression. In addition, oxytocin, as previously mentioned, helps bridge the gap for bonding as well.
To help protect against paternal postpartum depression, look for ways to bond with the baby and your wife. For example, hold the baby skin to skin, and simply stare into the eyes of the newborn.
These Changes are Normal
Who knew there was so much going on? These experiences may scare you, and may cause some friction in the marriage. Above all, know that with all of these changes, it is okay, it is normal, and there is help!
So far, we have been looking at the changes that can happen in the body, discussed some ways to help your spouse go through the transition into motherhood/fatherhood, and some things to be mindful of while navigating through these changes. Not only is it important to recognize what your spouse is experiencing; it is also important to stick together to help the marriage survive and thrive.
How to Survive & Thrive as New Parents
In conclusion, having a newborn changes things. The addition to the family can deepen your relationship, or it can make you feel more distant. However, experiencing distance during this time is not uncommon, and is not something you have to experience alone. Connecting with a counselor can offer direction and support for you to survive and thrive.
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