Why Do I Feel This Way? The Postpartum Cocktail of Emotions

Why Do I Feel This Way? The Postpartum Cocktail of Emotions

Last update: 25 May, 2018

Giving birth to a baby for the first time is a very important change a new mom and dad. They must live with a brand-new cocktail of emotions that occurs postpartum, until the new situation becomes normal.

In addition to changes made for the new baby, the most important change postpartum is the one that is not seen. We’re talking about the one that the mother carries inside. This is the emotional and physical process of the postpartum stage.

During this period of time, known as puerperium, the maternal body returns to equilibrium again. The physical part usually lasts about 40 days. However, recovering your way of  life and life with your partner can take up to a year.

“What it’s like to be a parent: It’s one of the hardest things you’ll ever do but in exchange it teaches you the meaning of unconditional love”.

-Nicholas Sparks-

The cocktail of emotions – hormonal imbalances and physical changes

If the future mother felt hormonal and emotional changes during pregnancy this continues into postpartum. In this period the hormones return to help the uterus contract and the breasts to start producing milk.

  • Estrogens and progesterone levels go down. These are hormones responsible for the ovarian cycle, which will appear after a few months or a year, when menstruation returns.
  • Levels of prolactin and oxytocin go up to contract the uterus and create milk. These contractions can be painful.


woman breastfeeding

A puerperal woman experiences big changes in her endocrine system, which can cause intense emotional changes.

Everything changes after birth

These hormones are also responsible for the mother making the baby her primary focus. Prolactin and oxytocin produce a state of greater attention and focus on the baby, relativizing or ignoring other stimuli from the environment outside it.

The mother will experience anxiety on separation from her baby, since her feelings are totally connected to it. She will feel sensitive about everything that happens around her, feeling overwhelmed by what seem like normal situations. But that for her, right now, they are not normal.

On the other hand, she loses interest in sex and other activities that were previously important. Life is centered on giving care, milk, and love to the baby.

Also, the mother is also recovering little by little from lack of nutrition when pregnant, as she is probably lacking iron, and in some cases iodine. She may also see intestinal changes, due to changes in serotonin. Other changes are:

  • Mood swings
  • Lack of sleep
  • Worrying
  • Discomfort
  • Difficulties in breastfeeding (cracks in the nipples and pain)

All this can make a new mom feel insecurity, disappointment, exhaustion, irritability, lack of concentration, anguish, fear, need to cry, stress, hypersensitivity and can sometimes lead to postpartum depression.


The dad’s role

In addition to all these changes in the mother, the father can feel out of place, he can be unsure of his role and what he should be doing. At the same time he may not understand or even recognize his partner, and may be unsure of how to help or support them.


parents with baby

But the family is generally there to help, usually the mother can take the role of main support. This may make the father or partner feel even more dislocated, and he may tend to look for other ways to feel useful, even when not by their partner’s side.

Fatherhood is the hardest job on earth. You are responsible for the physical, emotional and mental development of another human being.

How can we find balance again?

It is important to know that puerperium is a normal and temporary process that will allow us to adapt to a new life centered on the baby. To do this, accepting physical, social and emotional changes is essential, making sure that your new situation becomes normal and you re-learn how to tackle it with your partner.

The body is wise and knows how to return to balance, we only need an atmosphere of calm and support within the relationship with our partner, so that it occurs naturally and easily.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Beard, J. L., Hendricks, M. K., Perez, E. M., Murray-Kolb, L. E., Berg, A., Vernon-Feagans, L., … Tomlinson, M. (2005). Maternal Iron Deficiency Anemia Affects Postpartum Emotions and Cognition. The Journal of Nutrition. https://doi.org/10.1093/jn/135.2.267

  • Izard, C. E., Libero, D. Z., Putnam, P., & Haynes, O. M. (1993). Stability of Emotion Experiences and Their Relations to Traits of Personality. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-3514.64.5.847

  • Granat, A., Gadassi, R., Gilboa-Schechtman, E., & Feldman, R. (2017). Maternal depression and anxiety, social synchrony, and infant regulation of negative and positive emotions. Emotion. https://doi.org/10.1037/emo0000204

  • Haagen, J. F. G., Moerbeek, M., Olde, E., Van Der Hart, O., & Kleber, R. J. (2015). PTSD after childbirth: A predictive ethological model for symptom development. Journal of Affective Disorders. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jad.2015.06.049

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.