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What's the Difference Between Thoughts and Intrusive Thoughts as a New Mom

The journey of motherhood is a remarkable one, filled with moments of joy and challenges that test your strength. As you begin this new adventure, you might find yourself in a whirlwind of thoughts and emotions. It's perfectly normal to have a ton of thoughts that you did not have before baby, but it is important to recognize the difference between thoughts and intrusive thoughts, which can sometimes be distressing for lots of moms.


Everyday Thoughts for New Moms

First, let's talk about our thoughts. We have a bunch ofthought that cross our mind daily as we navigate the beautiful chaos of motherhood. Thoughts like, "Is my baby getting enough sleep?" or "Am I doing this right?" are entirely normal. They are part of the adjustment process, as you learn to care for your baby and adapt to your new role.


Every mom, whether it's their first time or not, has these thoughts. They come from a place of love and concern for your little one. Embrace them as a natural part of your motherhood journey.


These thoughts are like little signpost in your day along the path of motherhood. Some signs, just like thoughts tell us where we need to go and what dangers to look out for. And there are also plenty of signs that we ignore because they are not relevant to us or they are just fear mongering. It is the same with thoughts. We do not have to pay attention to every single thought that comes into our heads.



Intrusive Thoughts: What New Moms Need to Know

Some of these signs along the way feel like they just keep coming up out of nowhere and they are big and scary. These feel different from just thoughts, and they can be more distressing and cause shame, guilt and other unpleasant emotions. Intrusive thoughts might also come with sudden and unwanted images or ideas that can make you anxious or uncomfortable. You might have a fleeting thought of something happening to your baby, or of you doing something to your baby even though you would never want that to happen.


There intrusive thoughts can be really scary, because they are often thought that are entirely contrary to your true desires and values. For a new mom, these thoughts can revolve around the well-being of your baby or yourself, which makes them even more distressing. You find yourself thinking, "What if I accidentally hurt my baby?" or "What if something terrible happens to my baby?" We are then so shamed of these thoughts that we get stuck in shame, guilt and anxiety.


It's important to understand that you're not alone in having these thoughts. Many new moms have the same if not very similar thoughts. It is not an indicator of your quality as a parent. These thoughts don't define your love for your baby or your ability to care for them.



Understanding Triggers for New Moms

The early stages of motherhood comes with an incredible amont of change, both physically and emotionally. Sleep deprivation, hormonal shifts, and the adjustment to your new role as a mother can trigger intrusive thoughts. The lack of sleep can make even the most rational minds feel overwhelmed, and hormonal fluctuations can play tricks on your emotions.


Your body has just experienced a significant transformation, and your hormones are readjusting. These changes can impact your mood and the thoughts that pass through your mind. They can trigger moments of doubt and anxiety or even panic. For example, after a sleepless night, your mind may be foggy, and you might feel physically and emotionally drained. This is when intrusive thoughts can become more pronounced and harder to ignore. It's important to understand that these thoughts are not a reflection of your true desires or intentions. They're a part of the process, and seeking support and understanding can help alleviate their impact.


Story Time! Me and my husband switch off who wakes up with our son in the morning. One week, my husband was gone for a few mornings and I had to wake up with our son 2 days in a row. I broke down crying. I could not shake the thoughts that we were terrible parents and doing damage to our son in some way because he was waking up early. After a few minutes of crying into my husbands chest, I was able to realize that I was just sleep deprived... that we are not terrible parents and that we take really good care of our son, that we have a system in place because of this very reason! For me, being sleep deprived, even for 1 extra day, really effects my ability to regulate my thoughts.



Intrusive Thoughts and Mental Health

Intrusive thoughts no matter how intense or often, can provoke anxiety, shame and guilt. It is important to share these thoughts and emotions with others in a safe and validating space so they do not continue to fester and cause more distress. When Intrusive thoughts, are intense and persistent, they might be an indicator to reach out for mental health. There are some mental health conditions, like anxiety disorders and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) that have intrusive thoughts as a symptom.


Having anxiety, and having an anxiety disorder are very different things. You can have anxiety that is helpful and motivating for change, and then you can have anxiety that feels paralyzing. If you feel like your anxiety is getting to a place where support would be helpful, it is worth reaching out to a mental health professional or your doctor to seek support. Anxiety disorders can manifest in different ways, and for some new moms, intrusive thoughts become a focal point of their anxiety. These thoughts can trigger a constant state of worry and fear about the safety and well-being of their baby. It's essential to recognize when intrusive thoughts have escalated to the point where they significantly impact your daily life and overall well-being.


For new moms experiencing intrusive thoughts that are causing distress or interfering with their ability to function, it's crucial to seek professional help. Mental health that specialize in postpartum mental health can provide guidance and support tailored to the unique needs of new moms during the postpartum period.



Coping Strategies for New Moms

To navigate the world of thoughts and emotions, it's important to use strategies that support your mental well-being. For everyday thoughts, practicing self-compassion, mindfulness and seeking support from loved ones can provide comfort and validation. Remember, it's okay to ask for help when you need it.


When it comes to working with your intrusive thoughts, getting support from a cognitive behavioral therapist can be incredibly beneficial. Techniques like thought stoping, challenging thoughts, mindfulness and exposure to these thoughts are ways a mental health professional can guide you through these scary thoughts. Not all of us have a masters degree in mental health, just like not all of us have a masters or doctorate in physical health. Going to get support from someone who does this for a living is one of the best things you can do for yourself!


The Role of Self-Care

We tend to get lost in the role of mother when we have young children and that is normal! As we are in this phase, lets work on caring for ourselves too. Finding ways to take showers, brush our hair and teeth and get some rest are all challenges, and yet are so important as we try and navigate our thoughts. Remember, you are incredible, and you are doing your best for your baby.


Remember momma, you are not alone in this journey called motherhood!

 

Hi, I’m Kristina Anzell, I am a Clinical Social Worker dedicated to providing specialized and compassionate mental health support for moms postpartum. My mission is to empower you to thrive in your role as a mother while nurturing your own well-being. If you enjoyed this blog post, check out my blog here! If you want more information or are seeking treatment, feel free to reach out!

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