This article includes statistics and support about Postpartum Depression. Please Note these statements are based on experience and basic research. This post should not constitute medical advice. If you or someone you love is experiencing depression, anxiety, or any other mental or health concern, you should seek council from a licensed medical professional.
Postpartum Depression is more than just the baby blues.
It’s normal to experience intense emotions after having a baby. You’ve just HAD A BABY! This is not an everyday occurrence. More than that though, you’re hormones are going crazy. It can be hard to decipher once your in the midst of it what is just “baby blues,” and what is more along the lines of Postpartum Depression/Anxiety. 1 in 7 women will develop symptoms of Postpartum Depression.
The anxiety, mood swings and irritability of baby blues tend to last a few days or weeks. Postpartum depression is more severe and long-lasting. Symptoms tend to get worse, rather than better. (Mayo Clinic)
It is important to remember to take care of you during this time. It’s easy to get wrapped up in wanting to be “Super Mom” after baby has arrived. You’ve been smacked in the face with so much change (whether it’s your first, or third), you can easily forget to take care of yourself.
What are the symptoms of Postpartum Depression?
There is a wide range of symptoms. Symptoms can include:
- Feeling sad, hopeless, empty, overwhelmed
- Crying more often than usual or for no apparent reason
- Worrying or feeling overly anxious
- Feeling moody, irritable, or restless
- Oversleeping, or being unable to sleep even when her baby is asleep
- Having trouble concentrating, remembering details, and making decisions
- Experiencing anger or rage
- Losing interest in activities that are usually enjoyable
- Suffering from physical aches and pains, including frequent headaches, stomach problems, and muscle pain
- Eating too little or too much
- Withdrawing from or avoiding friends and family
- Having trouble bonding or forming an emotional attachment with her baby
- Persistently doubting her ability to care for her baby
- Thinking about harming herself or her baby
What happens now?
It’s important to know that you may experience very little to multiple symptoms. Just because you are only experiencing one or two symptoms doesn’t mean you shouldn’t address this with your doctor. Studies have shown that getting help sooner rather than later can help you to better manage your symptoms. Many therapists will tell you that if you notice that you are experiencing these symptoms for more than a week, it’s best to reach out to your doctor. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, more than 20-million people in the United States struggle with depression. The feelings do not go away and they will interfere with every day life. This is why it is so important to seek help.
When you’re caught up dealing with depression it can be hard to ask for help (personal experience speaking here). This is why it is so crucial that partners and family members educate themselves on the signs and symptoms so that they too can be an advocate for mom.
Postpartum: the myths
While there is so much taboo placed on Postpartum Depression, there is also a lot of myth surrounding it.
Recently I had a girlfriend tell me a friend of hers was told they didn’t have Postpartum Depression (despite having a number of the symptoms) because she had dealt with depression in the past, therefore it was just a reoccurrence of her depression.
I think my head literally snapped to the side when she said this. I just can’t believe this type of misinformation is still out there, and there are some in the medical field perpetuating it.
The National Institute of Mental health (NIMH), and Web MD both agree that a mother can have battled with depression (as well as a number of mental health related issues) and still be a candidate for postpartum depression or anxiety. The NIMH cites previous history of depression or bipolar disorder can increase your risk.
Another myth of Postpartum Depression is the social belief that mothers with postpartum depression are just lazy and/or disinterested in their babies.
Having trouble bonding or forming an emotional attachment with her baby (NIMH)
An unwillingness to engage with your baby doesn’t mean you don’t care for or love your baby. It’s a sign that she could quite possibly be experiencing symptoms of postpartum depression.
Treatment for Postpartum Depression
Treatment can be a combination of different approaches. Medication is usually the first you hear of. There are many medications that are safe for mothers to take if continuing to breast feed is important to you. Therapy and Support Groups are also vital assets in treatment. I myself have tried different medications and joined a local support group which I found beneficial. Many hospitals offer these groups free of charge (yay!) multiple times a month. It is important to know that like finding a good doctor, finding the right support group may take trying out multiple different groups. With all that said, at the end of the day it is important to keep the dialogue about how your feeling, and the steps your taking with your doctor.
On the more extreme, there is Postpartum Psychosis. If Postpartum Depression/Anxiety is taboo and not talked about very often, then Postpartum Psychosis is the “evil twin.” Postpartum Psychosis is brought on in 1-4 weeks after birth and is triggered by the huge hormonal shift that happens after birth. Symptoms can include:
- cognitive impairment
- grossly disorganized behavior
Postpartum Psychosis is far less common than postpartum depression which affects 10%–13% of new mothers,9 and the maternity blues, which affects 50%–75% of postpartum women.10 However, the combination of frank psychosis and lapsed insight and judgment in PP can lead to devastating consequences in which the safety and well-being of the affected mother and her offspring are jeopardized.11 Therefore, it is critical to quickly identify and treat the symptomatic patient. (NCBI)
We hear so much more about Postpartum Psychosis than we realize. It is on the news and in the media regularly. It’s hard to fathom why a mother would do something to harm herself, let alone her baby. Once you’ve learned about these disorders it’s like lifting a veil. You can read more about Postpartum Psychosis, including case study here.
Where do we go?
So with all this said, it is more important than ever to educate ourselves about Postpartum Depression, Anxiety, and Postpartum Psychosis. The feeling now is that women have largely had to be their own advocates. Education is key to understanding and treatment. That includes those in the medical profession (especially those who treat women in pregnancy and postpartum).
Please share this with friends and family. I’ve opened up and shared my own journey with postpartum depression and anxiety. You can read more about it here.
Note: These statements are based on experience and basic research. This post should not constitute medical advice. If you or someone you love is experiencing depression, anxiety, or any other mental or health concern, you should seek council from a licensed medical professional.
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