A new baby brings joy, but for many new parents those early days and months can be a time of anxiety and even depression. The good news is that new parents have so many local resources to call on for help.

We all want the first days with our baby to be as happily hazy, cozy and blissful as Instagram tells us it should be, but the reality is not always quite so simple. New parenthood is a marathon of joy, yes, but — for about one-third of new moms — it can also be a time of intense anxiety and depression. The very uncomfortable, but oh-so-normal feelings of sadness and isolation after the birth of a baby are known colloquially as postpartum depression or postpartum anxiety. Recently, though, the term “perinatal mood and anxiety disorders” or PMADs has become increasingly used in the world of maternal mental health as a better catch-all for the varied and complicated challenges that so many people face after the birth of a child. 

Whatever you want to call it, you know these feelings when you experience them. They’re overwhelming and often painful, and can be accompanied by strong feelings of guilt — this is not how anyone hopes to feel in the first weeks and months of new parenthood. Thankfully, there are many, many people out there waiting to help. Unfortunately, postpartum mental health support is not typically a de facto piece of postpartum care in the United States, but a bit of legwork while you’re pregnant can set you and your family up for a softer postpartum landing. If you’re expecting, there’s no better time to line up postpartum support for yourself. Doing it now will save you from scrambling when you’ve got a new baby to juggle, and the worst-case scenario is that you feel so great postpartum that you don’t end up needing the postpartum care you have put in place. And, if you have any history of anxiety or depression at all, it’s worth noting that that makes you more likely to experience PMADs, so a proactive approach is the way to go. PMADs are challenging but, with good support in place, this is a storm that can be tamed and weathered in relative comfort.

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From crisis support to ongoing therapy to super casual — but essential! — parent groups and meet-ups, for every budget and for every need, there is someone or something in Portland to support you through one of the biggest transitions of your life. If money is tight, consider registering for postpartum support! Or if you know someone who is pregnant and needs a great gift idea, consider teaming up with friends to give the gift of doula support. Even if it’s not your first child, the arrival of any child is a massive shift for everyone in your household, and new parents deserve all the support in the world.  

Call In the Pros

PMADs or no, any expectant parent can benefit from therapy. Every new baby brings with them a paradigm shift, and it can be a lot to process in the best of circumstances. It can be hard to carve out 45 minutes to spend on yourself, but you can do it! Enlist a partner, ask a neighbor for child care, or even bring the baby. Portland is lucky to have a host of therapists and psychologists with an expertise in the perinatal time, but they do mostly tend to have rather long waitlists. If you are pregnant or trying to conceive, now is the time to reach out and connect with a therapist. If you have trouble finding someone, reach out to Postpartum Support International, an organization that specializes in connecting new parents with the support systems in their area. See the list below for some local practitioners who offer therapeutic support through the perinatal period.

Postpartum Helping Hands

Not all doulas offer postpartum support. Some focus primarily on preparing for and supporting you through childbirth. But others focus heavily on the transition to new parenthood and offer tons of postpartum support options. While this type of care can definitely come with a bit of sticker shock, it’s worth its weight in gold — particularly for those who may be more prone to experiencing PMADs. Not only do postpartum doulas offer household support like meal prep and laundry, they’ll also help you rest and heal from birth while offering emotional support as you adjust to your post-baby reality. Many also include lactation support. See the list below for a few Portland-based doulas with postpartum offerings.

Parent Groups & Meet-ups

Sometimes you just need to talk to someone who gets it, and no one understands what a new parent is going through quite like other new parents! Special bonds are formed fast when you have babies at the same time as someone else — strangers become quick friends. Here are three groups that make it easy to connect with other parents who are at the same step as you on the parenthood journey: 

Hike it Baby

You’ll have to create a Hike It Baby account to view upcoming hikes in the Portland area, but sign-up is free and just takes a minute.

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Baby Blues Connection

When a new parent is experiencing PMADs, their partner is often in need of support as well, so we love that this Portland-born support network offers lots of support groups — mostly via Zoom these days — for new parents. They also offer one-on-one support and resources, via phone, text or email.

OHSU Baby Club

This weekly support group for parents of babies 0-12 months has gone virtual. The idea of getting out the door with a newborn can be daunting, so attending this weekly support group is even easier now that it meets over Zoom instead of in person.

Whether you’re a new parent or a new parent-all-over-again, whatever you hope or expect to experience during pregnancy and the postpartum period, one thing is certain —  surprises lay ahead. Taking steps to protect your well-being as you travel through this transition is a wonderful way to make the highs and lows of early parenthood feel a little more even-keeled. 

Miranda Rake

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