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The Be Well Podcast - Safeguard your mental health with Devon Kienzle, DO

Listen in to the full podcast or read from the partial transcript below as Devon Kienzle, DO, a Family Physician who practices at Skagit Regional Health - Smokey Point and Skagit Regional Health - Darrington Family Medicine, discusses safeguarding your mental health as a new parent.  Devon Kienzle, DOMaggie McKay (Host): Can you ever really be prepared for having a baby? It's such an exciting time, but it can also be filled with a lot of new worries, self-doubt, sleep deprivation and it can also be quite the juggling act. Happy as new moms and dads are, it's a lot. Today my guest is Dr. Devon Kienzle, a Family Physician with Obstetrics delivering at Cascade Valley Hospital in Arlington. Today, we're going to talk about safeguarding your mental health as a new parent.

This is Be Well with Skagit Regional Health. I'm your host, Maggie McKay. Welcome Dr. Kienzle, so happy to have you here.

Devon Kienzle, DO (Guest): Thank you so much for having me. I'm super excited to be here.

Host: Yeah, same here. Parenthood, especially the first time around, can be daunting and overwhelming along with all the good. So, what are some of the mental health struggles that new parents encounter?

Dr. Kienzle: Well, I think the first thing to understand about mental health and new parents is that it’s kind of all over the place. Right? Especially with new parents. It's a super exciting time. There are tons of happy emotions. And usually, that's the kind of pinning emotion that holds it all together. But mixed in there sometimes is a lot of stress, anxiety and exhaustion. There are times it's an emotional roller coaster for new parents. And that's for just the newborn period. Let alone once your kids starting to get older. I feel like that newborn period is kind of like this, the refiners for once you have a toddler and then go, my gosh, when you have teenagers, you know?

Host: Yeah, waiting for the other shoe to drop. What signs or symptoms should new parents look out for when it comes to mental health?

Dr. Kienzle: Yeah. A lot of new parents have heard about the postpartum blues and those are normal things, for the most part. Postpartum blues happen in 40% of all pregnancies and those emotions are pretty standard. They kind of come in the first few days. It's a whole mix of emotions, moments of sadness, or crying mixed with happiness and kind of a loss of what to do with those emotions.

And those last by definition, really resolve within a couple of weeks. But what I really teach our new moms to really be aware of is when those things start going beyond two weeks or when it just becomes incontrollable, right? Where those emotions start to persist you can't get out of it, of an episode of crying and tearfulness, or you start to have negative thoughts towards yourself or particularly your new child, which it’s part of what can happen when these emotions start to run wild. And this, I tell parents also to know that it’s not a bad thing, it's nothing to say about their own parenting. And it's just something to ask for help for.

Host: And you brought up breastfeeding. To me, that was so exhausting. I mean, just that alone. You're already sleep deprived because you have to breastfeed every so many hours. But it just seemed like it makes you so tired. If a new mom or dad, Dr. Kienzle is experiencing any of these symptoms, what steps would you recommend?

Dr. Kienzle: Yeah. So the first step is being on good terms with your primary OB provider, or any provider that you have close and good access to. And letting them know that you're struggling a little bit, because it's, like I said, it’s nothing to be ashamed of, is really the moral of that story.

These things can happen and sometimes we need some extra help. The other thing to know is to talk to your partner or some other close person to talk about your emotions and how you’re feeling. Not only so you have someone to talk to and someone to vent with, but also to help you keep track of where things are going.

Sometimes a close partner, close friend or family member is a little bit better at saying like, oh yeah last week you were feeling that way. And it's changed, it's either gotten better or it's gotten worse. It can be hard for us, especially like you said, when you're so absolutely exhausted of trying to keep track of one more thing.

Click here to learn more about Dr. Kienzle or to schedule an appointment today.