Emotions and relationships in early parenthood

Becoming a parent can be a deeply emotional change, and many people felt quite overwhelmed by how much they loved the baby and how parenthood enriched their lives. One mother whose baby was conceived by donor insemination had feared this might affect their feelings for the baby, but her worries quickly disappeared. She was conscious of being over-protective sometimes. A few parents said it took them a while to feel a bond with the baby, especially if the baby was in special care (see 'Looking back - preterm birth and special care').

Some people found being a parent made them more emotional generally, and many said their priorities had changed, including the mother of a baby born with Down's syndrome.

Emotions can be very different at different stages of parenthood. In the early weeks tiredness and sleep deprivation can make people feel quite low. Some people were surprised how easy it was to give up a busy social life, but many women recommended setting aside some time in the evenings to spend with their partner.

Women often felt sharing parenthood brought them closer to their partner, but tiredness and the presence of another person in the relationship could sometimes be a strain.

Some relationships broke up because the prospect of new responsibilities and changes in lifestyle was too much (see 'Relationships and sex during pregnancy').

Some women also wanted some time for themselves and this could be particularly important for single parents. Coming home from hospital and realising they were on their own now could be quite stressful. Sometimes family members or the baby's father provided care so the mother could have a break, although some said they then missed the baby.

One single mother enjoyed being back at work part-time because it got her out of the house and talking to other adults. Several mothers went back to work because they liked the company and enjoyed their job.

Other people wanted to stay at home and spend as much time as possible with the baby. One mother advised women to make the most of the time they had with their children while they were small, even if it meant having less money, and to be confident they could be a good parent.

Many people feel a little down or tearful in the few days after the birth (often known as 'baby blues'), but a few people will develop persistent postnatal depression. This happened to one mother some months after the birth of her son, who had a heart defect and needed surgery. As well as the months of anxiety about her son's health, she felt going back to work too early contributed to her depression. (See also 'When something is wrong with the baby').

Last reviewed May 2017.
Last updated August 2012. 


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