Becoming a Mother Isn't Easy

One reproductive psychiatrist researches the emotional transition to new motherhood.

In her TED Talk, reproductive psychiatrist Alexandra Sacks addresses the rarely-discussed transition to motherhood. She explains that while teenagers experience hormonal swings and physical changes, and the adolescent period is so well known, the transition to motherhood is so rarely defined. "There actually wasn't much in the medical textbooks, because doctors mostly write about disease," Sacks says about her research.

She was getting calls from confused, struggling women who didn't seem to be clinically depressed, but did not experience new motherhood how they thought they might. These moms thought they would feel happy and whole, know exactly what to do because of maternal instinct, and they were emotional and upset when these things didn't naturally occur.

 Sacks discovered a term in a 1970s document called matrescence. Similar to adolescence, this term for new motherhood defines the struggle caused by a new baby: physical and emotional upheaval. And some struggling new moms are confusing this upheaval with postpartum depression.

The hormone oxytocin is largely responsible for this change: it helps a mother focus her attention on her baby. But when she remembers she has other desires, responsibilities, and relationships, she experiences an "emotional tug-of-war," Sacks explains.

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Sacks believes that discussing matrescence freely can help new moms feel less guilty about their ambivalence and emotional struggle. Click here for the full TED Talk.

Jenna Phipps

Jenna Phipps

Jenna Phipps is a writer, editor, and dancer based in Nashville, Tennessee. She enjoys working with other people to improve their writing, taking long road trips, experimenting with choreography, and reading many novels.

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