No greater joy exists than the birth of a newborn baby. Despite this, the care of your newborn can be quite cumbersome, and mothers need rest to enjoy the other aspects of life.
While most women accommodate their newborns into their new daily routines, some women find it difficult to cope with the pressure of raising a new infant in addition to other duties like work and the caring of other children in the household.
Approximately 14.5% of American women feel the effects of postpartum depression after childbirth. While caring for their newborns, 38.7% of mothers drank alcohol to alleviate the stress, and 8.5% of women used illicit drugs during the care of their newborns. You or your loved one can get the care you need to enjoy freedom from postpartum depression.
Are You at Risk for Postpartum Depression?
The duties of a new mother can be quite daunting. Young mothers under the age of 25 are especially prone to the challenges of motherhood. The needs of an infant are exceptionally numerous. An infant must be continually clothed, fed, and cared for throughout the day.
The first three months of an infant’s life are essential for prominent growth and development. Because of this, new mothers may turn to alcohol or drugs to help them cope with the stress.
Postpartum depression and addiction are a deadly combination. Women who are postpartum, but who are not depressed, are less likely to turn to drugs or alcohol to soothe the pain.
If a woman used alcohol or drugs before pregnancy, she is more likely to go back to the drug of choice to cope with caring for a new child. About 19.7% to 46% of new mothers with substance use disorders will develop postpartum depression.
Estrogen and Progesterone
During pregnancy, estrogen and progesterone levels increase in the bloodstream to aid in the development of the fetus. After birth, hormone levels in the body will have various degrees of fluctuations, with drops back to normal that may cause a new mother to experience problematic mood swings.
With the caring of a newborn, a new mother may experience the lack of quality rest and sleep. In addition to this, chemical reactions in the brain can cause mild to severe mental health disorders and physical symptoms of distress inside the body.
The onset of postpartum depression may cause a mother to disconnect socially with her child. This is amplified more so with substance use disorder.
Most women know that it is dangerous to abuse alcohol or drugs during pregnancy. A young infant born to a woman who used alcohol or drugs is in danger of having the same addictions as the mother. An infant may have a plethora of conditions like fetal alcohol syndrome, neonatal abstinence syndrome, and neonatal opioid withdrawal syndrome at birth.
From 2004 to 2014, approximately 32,000 infants were born with neonatal abstinence or opioid withdrawal syndrome because of their mothers’ use of prescription opioids, drugs, or alcohol. However, many infants exposed to alcohol or drugs inside the uterus will not exhibit any symptoms post-birth.
Other newborns will manifest withdrawal symptoms from birth. It is best to seek the care of medical professionals to oversee the young infant’s recovery from substance use disorder to prevent further harm.
The long-term effects of substance abuse upon the newborn include congenital disabilities, stunted growth, and behavior difficulties. While caring for an infant with withdrawal symptoms, you may notice:
- Heavy crying
- Weight loss
Since most infants will only have mild to moderate symptoms, mothers can console their newborns by limiting their light exposure, by making sure their infants are swaddled and rocked regularly so that they can be made as comfortable as possible, and by using medication to treat the most severe withdrawal cases.
A physician may prescribe a cocktail of medications to treat the most severe withdrawal cases. Medications may include:
- Neonatal morphine solution
The drugs provide short-term relief of an infant’s withdrawal symptoms. However, drug treatment is a means of last resort. It is best for a mother to console her infant through the maternal bonding process to prevent the newborn’s prolonged hospital stays and drug exposure.
The Most Prevalent Abused Drugs by New Mothers
New mothers may return to the substances of comfort as a coping mechanism to the stresses of motherhood. The top drugs of choice are alcohol, cigarettes, marijuana, prescription drugs like opioids and benzodiazepines, and cocaine.
Between 30% to 49% of young mothers embarking on this new life challenge are at risk of turning to alcohol to cope. Alcohol acts as a depressant on the body to calm down the nerves and slow bodily functions. It makes the user feel exorbitant with the likelihood of wanting to meet new people.
The typical size of potent liquor in shots or for mixed drinks is 1.5 ounces. This is most common for cocktails like margaritas, daiquiris, or mojitos. A user may consider taking alcohol in straight shots with brands like whiskey, cognac, tequila, or vodka. For wine, the average drink is 5 ounces, which has the same alcohol content as 12 ounces of beer.
A mother may be known as a binge drinker if she consumes four or more alcoholic beverages in two hours. Women between the ages of 18-34 are almost one-third more likely to binge drink alcohol than other age groups.
Alcohol use disorder is a condition that affects the brain. A mother may have AUD if she cannot control the urge to drink, she experiences withdrawal symptoms, or she cannot cope with motherhood without the desire for alcoholic beverage consumption.
Like alcohol, a new mother may use tobacco to calm her nerves when dealing with a crying infant. Tobacco acts as a stimulant upon the body. Nevertheless, it is dangerous to smoke while pregnant and after the birth of your child.
During pregnancy, the use of nicotine may cause your infant to have low birth weight, early birth, or a myriad of congenital disabilities like disorders of the mouth and tongue. Continued tobacco usage after birth and in the presence of your newborn can cause SIDS—sudden infant death syndrome.
Approximately 4 million Americans have a dependency on marijuana, and 6.6% of new mothers use marijuana. THC or tetrahydrocannabinol is the active compound in cannabis. This psychoactive drug changes a person’s reality or perception.
With marijuana, a mother may experience a lack of anxiety, light hallucinations, or increased physical appetite. Marijuana usage contributes to the majority of hospital room visits to treat individuals who became intoxicated from smoking or inhalation.
Psychoactive drugs like opioids, benzodiazepines, and stimulants are used by 3.6% of women post-birth. Physicians prescribe opioids like oxycodone and fentanyl to treat moderate to severe pain for women who may have had cesarean sections or other health complications after birth.
With an opioid use disorder, a woman may have difficulty caring for her newborn or keeping up with her other life duties. Opioid use disorder will make it difficult for a woman to perform pressing responsibilities at home, work, or school.
Over-reliance on tranquilizers like benzodiazepines can become particularly dangerous. A young mother may develop a dependency to cope with postpartum depression and the stresses of child-rearing. Benzodiazepines are used to treat anxiety, panic attacks, seizures, and potent muscle spasms. Overdoses can lead to comas and deaths.
Cocaine is a powdery substance that interacts with the nervous system. The drug produces boosts of energy and euphoria. A person can smoke cocaine, inhale it through the nose, or dissolve the drug in liquid so that it can be injected into the body.
On the street, cocaine is known as the rich man’s drug. It is used by 1% of new mothers. This stimulant can be hard on the heart. Users have experienced heart attacks and strokes while consuming the drug.
Why Mothers May Abuse Alcohol or Drugs
The cost of child-rearing can be overwhelming. A couple may not understand the socioeconomic responsibilities for a newborn until after birth. Young mothers under the age of 25 may not quite understand their encompassing roles while caring for their newborns since their brains are still in development.
Because of this, young mothers may not know where they can find help to combat postpartum depression. Women may use other various substances to alleviate the pain from postpartum depression. These drug or alcohol substances help a user to:
- Change their mood
- Medicate the pain
- Boost energy
- Relieve anxiety
It is usual for a woman to have the “baby blues” post-birth. With the “baby blues,” a woman can have a wide range of emotions from sadness, fatigue, hopelessness, and worry. This is entirely expected as 80% of women can have the baby blues, especially after the birth of multiple children.
However, increased anxiety and worry is not healthy when it interferes with a woman’s ability to care for herself and the rest of the members of her family. When a woman is no longer able to cope with stress and remains depressed for an extended amount of time, she has entered the next phase, which is postpartum depression. The symptoms of postpartum depression include:
- Inability to bond with the newborn
- Loss of interest in friends and family
- Physical pain like muscle spasms and headaches
- Wanting to harm the baby
- Wanting to harm yourself
- Overwhelming rage and anger
- Feelings of helplessness
Once a mother begins to have these symptoms consistently, it is necessary to seek medical intervention. A health care professional can decide if a mother is having psychotic episodes of emotional trauma or light depression from the “baby blues.”
The treatment of postpartum depression should encompass the total care of the woman with cognitive behavioral therapy, counseling and therapy sessions, and early childhood parental training. A woman’s family would join the therapeutic sessions for family group therapy.
Intensive hospital treatment for mental disorders can last from 60 to 90 days. During cognitive behavioral therapy, a licensed counselor and the new mother would understand together previous pain points during the person’s lifetime. The new mother would appreciate her crisis points, and she would learn new coping mechanisms.
For example, a woman may have experienced trauma from physical abuse during her childhood. This may cause her to treat her newborn with contempt. A licensed therapeutic counselor would uncover triggers to prevent the cycle of physical abuse.
Mothers would learn to recognize the triggers, avoid their devastating consequences, and cope with the duties of motherhood with cognitive behavioral techniques, which alleviates negative thoughts and emotions.
When a woman understands what is leading her to react to life’s difficult situations with substance abuse, she is more equipped to overcome her addictions.
During cognitive behavioral therapy sessions, a woman will record her behavioral thought patterns, encounter behavioral experiments that foretell reactions to patterns of kindness and hostility from others, and revisit the sights and sounds of imagery that have produced unpleasant responses in life. It is mainly through these cognitive therapies that a mother who is suffering from postpartum depression will experience freedom and relief.