Why Are New Moms So Moody?

The wide range of feelings you'll experience during the first few weeks can be baffling. Here's how to cope with the ups and downs.

What Do You Mean I'm In Charge?

For many women, being home with a newborn is a fast ride on an emotional roller coaster. One day, you're euphoric as your child naps in the crook of your arm. The next, you're in tears: Not only do you realize you can't go out for an impromptu lunch with friends, but you're also terrified by your baby's sudden and explosive bowel movement.

Don't worry. "These mood swings are perfectly normal," says Hilda Hutcherson, M.D., an assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, in New York City. "After giving birth, women experience dramatic changes in hormone levels, which drastically affect their moods."

In other words, don't be surprised if you feel deliriously high and then completely bummed out -- all in the course of a single afternoon. "Many women aren't prepared for the intense range of emotions they experience," Dr. Hutcherson explains. "They think they will be totally thrilled with their new baby all the time, and they may feel guilty if they have any doubts or negative feelings at all."

Here's a look at common emotions new mothers experience and some suggestions on how best to cope.

What Do You Mean I'm In Charge?

As nervous as you might have been about the physical act of giving birth, that's nothing compared with the anxiety many women experience when they first strap their baby into his car seat and head home. Those feelings of insecurity often continue for the first few weeks. This is a result, in part, of being overwhelmed by the physical demands of motherhood: breast-feeding, changing diapers, and lack of sleep. So accept offers of help that come your way, or actively seek out assistance. Friends and family will understand how valuable this help can be and will provide it gladly.

Experts say new moms need a network of people they can call on to share their concerns. "It's very important to talk to other women who have had babies -- even if their children are older," says Ann Douglas, author of The Mother of All Pregnancy Books (Hungry Minds). Not only can they give you advice on baby care, but they can also reassure you that pretty soon you'll start feeling a lot more confident in your mothering skills.

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