Transcript: How to Help With Postpartum Depression and Baby Blues After Pregnancy
This is a text transcript from The First Time Mum’s Chat podcast. The episode is called How to Help With Postpartum Depression and Baby Blues After Pregnancy and you can click on the link to view the full episode page, listen to the episode and view the show notes.
Helen Thompson: The transition into motherhood is a challenging time for many mums, and there’s never a more important time to ensure you look after and nurture yourself. A recurring theme on First Time Mum’s Chat has been the lack of information available to moms to help them with their own health and wellbeing during their postpartum period. Yes, it’s important to always ensure that your little one is well looked after but please don’t forget to take care of you also. After all, you are not going to be at your best and give your all otherwise. I’ve had a number of guests who have shared their postpartum journeys and how they have struggled with various aspects and felt alone.
This week’s guest, Allison Lieberman, owns a marriage and family therapy practice in California and focuses her energies on helping new moms and new parents transition into motherhood and parenthood. Allison’s inspiration to help parents led her to start her New Mama Mentor podcast, which I highly recommend listening and subscribing to. I’ll include a link to Allison’s podcast in the episode show notes and will let you know where they are located at the conclusion of this episode.
Now onto the interview.
Hi Allison, and welcome to First Time Mum’s Chat. It’s lovely to have you here and I’m looking forward to chatting about what you do and hearing your pearls of wisdom when it comes to those postpartum baby blues and other issues.
Allison Lieberman: Thanks for having me, I’m excited to be here. I am a marriage and family therapist in California, Southern California to be exact and I own a group practice here that focuses on treatment for new moms, parents, new parents as a couple and really anything that has to do with that big transition into motherhood is what we specialize in and I have a podcast that sort of came from the gap between what information we get in pregnancy and the lack of information we get about our own wellbeing in postpartum. So that is sort of the inspiration behind the New Mama Mentor.
Helen Thompson: When you’re pregnant, you hear some stories and then when you go and give birth, you hear other stories and it’s really hard to know what actually truly does happen.
Allison Lieberman: Yeah and things as simple as, is it normal if I’m peeing my pants when I laugh or is it normal to be anxious when I bring my baby home? Those things are touched on, but they’re not really talked about unless you ask about them or you seek out the information, and so I am trying to create a space where it’s not too hard to find the information.
Helen Thompson: I think that’s good to have because a lot of moms I think, need that because they feel that there’s something wrong if they pee their pants or if they’re anxious. They think they’re not doing it right, they think there’s something wrong and it’s not that there’s anything wrong at all. It’s just part of giving birth and I think a lot of people aren’t told that.
Allison Lieberman: Right yeah and I don’t even know the statistics on it, but I know that they’re really high in terms of pelvic floor weakness or tightening, right? A lot of women experience that after birth, but there isn’t a whole lot on how to fix that and I think it’s the same with some mental health issues as well. I think a lot of women experience mental health issues after having a baby, but we either don’t talk about it or we don’t know what to do when it happens, and so we sort of suffer in silence.
Helen Thompson: Yeah, I had a very interesting podcast recently with a man called Peter Lap and he was talking exactly about what you are saying. He was talking a lot about the pelvic floor and the one, I can never pronounce it, it’s , diastasis. Yes that one. He was talking a lot about that and why it happens, and I actually found it really interesting from a man’s side because a lot of men don’t understand what women are going through
Allison Lieberman: I agree, actually, Peter’s great. I was on his podcast recently and I’m actually interviewing him this week too, which is so funny. He’s great. Yeah, but I also just had another male on my podcast that I interviewed this week, and he was the first one that I’ve interviewed and it is nice to have the conversation from both sides, right? To be able to hear, I was telling him his name is Jason, and I was telling him, I gotta ask you, our secret question as women is, why are men the way that they are and he had some good answers. But you know, I think there’s so many differences in our experiences and our approaches and just our genetic makeup between men and women, that it creates a lot of beauty, but also a lot of conflict and so I love having those conversations.
Helen Thompson: Yes, I do too. I mean, it’s like Men Are from Mars and Women Are from Venus, that book, I can’t remember who it’s by, but that’s actually a very interesting book. So, I have a question for you on this as a mom. What exactly is baby blues? I mean, people always talk about baby blues, but from your perspective, what actually is baby blues?
Allison Lieberman: Yeah, so I will define it, but also give my own personal example with baby blues, because I definitely remember having them and so it’s typically within the first couple weeks after giving birth. It definitely Does not extend past three weeks, I think three weeks is kind of long. It’s usually the first two and it’s really just the overwhelming sense of overwhelm, sadness, tearfulness, crying for no reason, not sure what you’re doing, feeling like a failure, all of those things. But then it subsides and it usually can be related to the adjustment, especially if you haven’t had children before, adjusting to bringing home a baby. But if you do have other children, adjusting to the new demands. It’s also a chemical piece too, right? When we are pregnant, our bodies take 10 months to build up these hormones to get ready for childbirth, and those hormones drop off in about three days after you give birth, so it’s quite a drastic shift and so that kind of contributes to the baby blues too. Not everybody experiences them, but most women do.
For me, I remember we were having friends come over for dinner, they were bringing dinner over. At least in the US that’s the customary thing, you offer to bring dinner over and meet the baby and I walked out of my bathroom and I closed the door behind me and my dog was in there. He was in there for maybe 30 seconds and barked so it was not a bad thing, but I could not stop crying and I was like, he’s gonna think I hate him, I locked him in the bathroom and our friends came over and they were like, what is happening? And I was like, I can’t stop crying. I don’t know why and it was very much just like overwhelming feeling that I couldn’t move past but when I look at it now, even the next day I can’t believe I was that upset about that, but it was very upsetting at the time. And so those are just sort of those reactions during that baby blues time. Once they subside, you might still have some of those things once in a while, but it shouldn’t be an everyday thing. If it is, you’ve sort of moved into some postpartum mental health stuff.
We call them PMADs. So it’s perinatal mood and anxiety disorders. So it’s depression and anxiety under that umbrella, either during pregnancy or postpartum.
Helen Thompson: That sounds quite a tough time to go through for a mum, especially when you are crying and you don’t know why you’re crying. You’ve got this beautiful little baby and you’re looking at your beautiful little baby and you’re bursting out crying and you’re thinking, why am I crying, this baby’s so beautiful, what is it that’s making me so upset?
Allison Lieberman: Yeah, and you know, especially in the baby blues phase, most people can be like, oh yeah, yeah, I just had a baby, it’s probably the baby blues and whatever but once you move past that, it becomes really overwhelming because it could be attributed to a trauma you had 20 years ago that you thought you moved past, or you ignored or didn’t realize was that big of a trauma until you had a baby and those are all the things that sort of start to come up in that first year and can really impact your experience, especially if you’ve been in active avoidance for your whole life.
Helen Thompson: So how would you support a mom who’s going through something like that?
Allison Lieberman: So as a support person, it’s really just like sitting there with that person, making space for them if they need to talk, not having judgemental reactions like, well, at least, or, you know, it could be worse, or things like that, those aren’t helpful, but just saying, how are you doing, are you feeling overwhelmed, is there anything I can do to help you, I wanna bring you dinner. All of those things that are just supportive are great. The less opinions that you have on this person’s experience, the better because that’s also, I think we all can like attest that that postpartum phase, everybody has an opinion about what we’re doing with our babies and our own bodies. So I think all of that are great ways to be a support person.
As a professional. I think it’s really important to help new moms figure out where the stress is coming from. Is it birth trauma, is it childhood trauma, is it a lack of support, do they have a support system, is a support system something that could be easily developed for them, do they need more help, do they need to be in a group, do they need to find a exercise class? What is it that they need that’s going to meet that need, that’s causing them to have this level of distress.
Helen Thompson: I’m asking this because I know my own experience with doctors and I’m being tentative when I say this, but do you find doctors are supportive or would you turn to somebody else? I’m thinking more of a midwife maybe, or a health visitor, or a health nurse or a doula maybe. Some doctors are good, but a lot of the time I don’t find them very supportive.
Allison Lieberman: I would say that the most supportive doctors that I’ve found have extended their practices to do other things. So coaching, supervision, things like that because they don’t feel like just being a doctor is enough to meet the needs. And I think in the US in particular, obviously it’s different across the world, but in the US, the insurance piece, definitely impacts the level of care that moms are getting. There’s a lot of restrictions, but I would say on a very general level, no, I do not think that doctors are the best support people. I think that they have a limit and their limit is, not in the empathy realm. It’s having the knowledge and delivering that, and that’s pretty much it. I don’t have a whole lot of experience with midwives to be able to speak on that but I think doulas are great. I didn’t have a doula myself, but I would say in terms of collaboration, they’re definitely the most collaborative professionals in terms of that. A postpartum doula I wish that all of us could have access to, because that would be wonderful.
They also tend to be lactation consultants, so it’s like a nice package deal and they help. They’re strictly there to help mom, they’re not there to help baby, they’re helping the mom, and I think that that’s really important and I wish that we all could have that.
Helen Thompson: Yeah I think having that in your medical assistance is good. Also, I like naturopathic doctors. Doctors who are doctors, but also doctors who are naturopaths and they’re very few and far between. I interviewed a naturopathic doctor and it was really interesting talking to her because she was giving the tips like what what you were saying and what you want to hear. You wanna have that support. She was more of an approach of, okay, you may need the drugs, but let’s find out the cause of why you’re feeling this way. Naturopathic doctors are good because they’ve got the natural side, but they’ve also got the medical side if needed. And I think that’s a nice compromise.
Allison Lieberman: Yeah, absolutely, I agree. I, recently in the last year or so, discovered acupuncture and Chinese medicine, and I think that it’s another realm that is totally underappreciated in terms of the impact it can have because one, they really are in tune with your body. They’re having to do work on your body. They dedicate an hour to you, so there is that level of just investment in terms of that. It’s not like, okay, let’s do 15 minutes in, 15 minutes out, let’s go. You’re really feeling like they’re attending to you and I think just that in itself, even if they did nothing else would be great.
But then also just the benefits of acupuncture as it is, is also great and I wish that that was also something that was encouraged. Because if nothing else, it gives you an hour a week to spend doing nothing but taking care of yourself.
Helen Thompson: Yeah, I’ve had acupuncture before. I didn’t like the idea of needles in me but I had a few sessions because I had a really bad back problem and after two sessions, I was feeling so much better and nobody had been able to help me with that before. I’m definitely keen on acupuncture as long as it’s somebody who knows what they’re doing. Acupuncture, people don’t know about it, they don’t hear about it because it’s, I don’t wanna say it’s taboo. Maybe that’s not the right way of putting it.
Allison Lieberman: It’s what we call woo woo, it’s like that spiritual, we don’t understand it, so we don’t wanna do it thing, which it is, right? All the research around it says we don’t really understand why it works, but it does and that’s uncomfortable for some people, which makes sense. It’s very nice and it is underrated in terms of what it could do for you. The acupuncturist that I see specializes in women’s health and fertility and postpartum and all of that, so it’s even more specialized and there are those people out there.
So I think that it can be really important and it can definitely be a part of your care team and you know, of course doctors have to be a part of it but it doesn’t just have to be that, you can have the doula, you can have an acupuncturist, you can have a therapist, you can have a psychiatrist.
Helen Thompson: And I think that’s the key, having a team that support each other and from what I understand of acupuncture, I’m not an acupuncturist, but I have done a bit of kinesiology and I have done a bit of natural health in my time and I think it’s got a lot to do with the meridians. Which Meridian line is working and knowing which Meridian is out and how to correct it. That’s what I understand of acupuncture, but I don’t fully understand it. It’s all to do with the energy in your body and they sense where the energy isn’t working or is disconnected and they use acupuncture to support that energy and to get it aligned.
Allison Lieberman: Yeah. I mean, it’s so interesting because I’ve been having a lot of gut health issues. That’s why I started going again. I was telling her, I get this weird like eczema on my hands and she was like, oh, that’s interesting, that part of your hand is connected to your gut, so when your gut is inflamed and it’s having issues, then your eczema is breaking out because of that part of your body. You would never think your hands are connected to your intestines but that’s how crazy all of that is. So even something so small like that can make a huge difference and yeah.
Helen Thompson: It’s like reflexology. They’re all sort of connected as well. I know that from baby massage. There’s so many little trigger points that I didn’t actually realize, help with the teeth or help with this or help with that and it’s interesting how every part of your body interconnects and having somebody, like you said, who can support a mom who’s going through the baby blues, whether it’s postpartum, whether it’s anxiety, and having that team, I think is so valuable.
Allison Lieberman: Yeah, I agree and sometimes it isn’t something that you think you need, right? There’s no way, that when I was going through my postpartum experience, I would’ve thought, yeah, I need a doula, or I need an acupuncturist, or I need all these things. I knew that I needed therapy, I knew I needed a psychiatrist, but that’s just because of where I do work, right? But I wouldn’t have necessarily been like, yes, these are things that I need to feel supported, and I wish that somebody would’ve talked to me about what those things would do for me and how they could help. So one of the things I talk with a lot of my clients about is, If you have to invest money in something, what would be worth a hundred dollars a month to you?
Is it having somebody come and clean your toilets, is it having somebody come and do your laundry, is it having somebody come and deliver food? What is it that is going to help you feel less overwhelmed, that isn’t gonna make you go broke, but also is helpful to you and you have to pick and choose and piecemeal things together, and that’s fine but I think being able to kind of think outside the box on what it is that we need can be really helpful.
Helen Thompson: Yeah, I think so too and and that brings me to the question I was gonna ask you, is how can mom’s advocate for themselves? We’ve talked about all of these things, but how can moms really advocate for themselves?
Allison Lieberman: Yeah, I have like a two-sided answer. One is to educate yourself, right? You can advocate if you educate. So I think understanding like what is ‘normal’ versus ‘not normal’, in terms of what you’re experiencing and that’s listening to podcasts, talking to professionals, not always just going straight to your OB and just taking what they say at face value. Their specialty is truly pregnancy and women’s health, but not necessarily all the other stuff. So really being mindful of like what doctors do what, and you have to educate yourself on that and sometimes that’s hard. So that’s part of my job, right, is like when I’m working with clients, if they have a problem, even if it has nothing to do with me, my job is to say, oh, you know what, that sounds like you’re experiencing this, you should go see this professional.
Something like pelvic floor health, right? If somebody’s saying it hurts when they have sex, that’s not necessarily my area but I know where they need to go. And so finding people that can put point you in those directions are really important, for the advocacy piece. The other thing is trusting your gut. We know when something doesn’t feel right and whether it’s trauma, whether it’s relationships, we learn to second guess ourselves, and sometimes we think we’re being over dramatic or we’re making something a big deal, or we’re under responding, or whatever it is. But if your gut is telling you that something doesn’t feel normal or right, whether it’s about you or your child or your family, or whatever it is, it’s okay to speak up. Worst case, you have to change doctors, worst case you have to change schools. Whatever it is, trusting your gut and knowing that you probably know what’s best for you and for your family.
Helen Thompson: I think that’s a good one, trusting in your intuition I think is very powerful. Every mom knows what to do, but they may not think they know. Deep down They know and so does your baby. Your baby knows what it wants as well, and so does your child. You just need to connect to that part of you and it probably sounds quite hard for some moms to do, and I acknowledge that, but that’s where you come in, to give them that support.
Allison Lieberman: Yeah and I say this from a place of personal experience too, right? I’ve been in the room where I don’t say anything because I’m scared somebody’s gonna get mad at me, knowing that what is happening isn’t what I want to happen. And so that takes a lot of internal work, either whether it’s getting over whatever that barrier is to speaking up and processing the guilt of potentially putting yourself in a position where you had to do something you weren’t comfortable with.
So, you know, for me, when I talk about this, I think about when my son was getting assessed for speech therapy and the assessment was terrible. The speech therapist was terrible and I didn’t wanna say anything cuz I didn’t want them to not give him the services and then afterwards I was heartbroken because it was such a terrible experience and I had to process that. I knew in my gut what was happening wasn’t right, but I still sat there because I didn’t want this person to get mad and do something else and so there’s processing in that too and sometimes we realize it after the fact and that sucks.
Luckily since that, we have had better experiences, but that was definitely a negative one, and I think even having access to someone on social media to see what is supposed to be happening and what you’re experiencing are very different. I don’t know how different it is in different countries, but, I know state to state it’s different too, but we have these individualized education plans and it sort of is how your child gets support throughout the school year and it’s very dicey here in the US actually getting those needs met and so there’s advocates, that is their job is they advocate for those. So it might be that you have to find somebody to do that too. That would be another person in your support system if you needed that.
Helen Thompson: Yeah so thank you for everything. I think we’ve spoken about a lot of different things. Is there anything that you would like to add?
Allison Lieberman: Yeah, you know, I say this often, but you’re not alone. I think most moms struggle with the transition. It’s just to what degree and the more you talk about it, the less alone you feel, even if it’s scary and vulnerable. So that’s always my ending line.
Helen Thompson: So if anybody wanted to get in touch with you how would they go about doing that?
Allison Lieberman: Yeah, so the therapy practice, our website is www.rihcounseling.com. There you can find out all about all of us and then the podcast is the New Mama Mentor podcast and it’s on all podcast streaming sites. And I’m also on Instagram at the New Mama Mentor.
Helen Thompson: Well, thank you Allison for all your pearls of wisdom. I’ve really enjoyed talking to you and I’ve actually learned a lot from you too and thank you for being on the podcast. It’s been a pleasure talking to you.
Allison Lieberman: Thanks for having me.
Helen Thompson: Alison shared some great tips and insights, and I highly recommend checking out her website and the New Mama Mentor podcast. I’ve included links to these in the episode show notes which can be accessed at mybabymassage.net/podcast/089.