Bringing home your new little bundle of joy is supposed to be the happiest time of your life, right? This isn’t always the case for many new moms. 1 in 7 moms will experience Postpartum Depression (PPD). It’s important to know all the signs, symptoms, facts, and how to get help if you’re having trouble coping. Rest assured knowing that you are not alone.
What is Postpartum Depression?
A mood disorder that affects women shortly after they’ve given birth. Extreme feelings of sadness, depression, anxiety, or exhaustion for more than 2 weeks are red flags. If these feelings are so overwhelming they are preventing you from accomplishing daily tasks for yourself or others, you may have PPD.
What Causes Postpartum Depression?
There is no single cause, but it does NOT occur from anything the mother does wrong or right. Likely, it’s a combination of physical and emotional factors from the rapid change in hormones after delivering a baby. Estrogen and progesterone quickly drop and can produce chemical changes in the brain which turn into mood swings. (Similar to how this happens on your period.)
A lot of mothers do not get the amount of sleep and rest they need to recover efficiently after giving birth. This constant sleep deprivation causes physical discomfort, exhaustion, and anxiety which can contribute to symptoms of PPD.
You’re also loaded with new baby responsibilities and pain/frustrations from nursing, which can cause added stress. Lack of social support, history of alcohol abuse, having a traumatic birth experience, or if depression runs in your family, puts you at an even greater risk for PPD.
- Feeling overwhelmed, empty, sad, depressed
- Worrying or feeling extremely anxious
- Feelings of restlessness, irritability, or mood swings
- Crying for no reason or more than usual
- Over sleeping or under sleeping
- Having trouble making decisions
- Forgetting details or daily tasks
- Inability to concentrate
- Feeling worthless or guilty
- Losing interest in hobbies you normally enjoy
- Experiencing rage or extreme anger
- Frequent headaches
- Physical aches and pains
- Eating a lot or not enough
- Withdrawing from family or friends
- Trouble forming an emotional attachment with your baby
- No interest in bonding with your baby
- Doubting your abilities to care for your baby
- Thinking about harming oneself or baby
“Baby blues” are a common phenomenon affecting 40%-80% of new mothers which also include feelings of sadness, fatigue, and worrying. However, usually these symptoms only last a week or two.
If you’re experiencing the above symptoms longer than two weeks, you need to seek help immediately. Only a professional health care provide will be able to assess your situation and symptoms to effectively create a treatment plan. Remember, it’s okay to ask for help.
Postpartum depression is treatable, and you don’t have to suffer alone. Here are the most effective treatments:
Counseling/Talk Therapy – A one-on-one talk with a mental health professional such as a counselor, therapist, psychologist, psychiatrist or social worker. Group settings in which other women are experiencing the same symptoms is also effective.
Two types of counseling are shown to be most productive in overcoming PPD based on the patient’s needs.
Cognitive behavioral therapy – This therapy helps people recognize and change their negative thoughts and behaviors.
Interpersonal therapy – This therapy helps people understand and work through problematic personal relationships.
Antidepressants – Medications such as antidepressants have a strong effect on the brain chemicals which are responsible for mood regulation. After just 3-4 weeks you’ll start to see improvements in symptoms. Most side effects are minor and take your body time to adjust to, they’re also safe for nursing moms.
Why Seek Treatment?
Without treatment, postpartum depression can last for months or even years. While it’s affecting the mother’s health, it could potentially hurt your baby’s ability to sleep, eat, or learn normal behaviors as she grows. By seeking help, you’re taking necessary steps to care for your overall well-being and your baby’s.
While taking medications, actively attending therapy and trying to overcome PPD, remember to:
Take care of yourself – eat, sleep, shower, exercise
Don’t put too much pressure on yourself – take one day at a time
Ask for support – ask for help or talk about feelings with your family or friends, join PPD support groups
Pamper yourself – get a massage, take a long bath, go shopping
REST – newborns are exhausting, 10-minute naps are even beneficial, hire a nanny for breaks
Get outside – stroller walks, soak in fresh air and sunshine for mood boosts, deep breaths
Slow down – chores can wait, drink tea, read a book, watch your favorite show
After having birth, pay close attention to the signs and symptoms and don’t be afraid to reach out for help! You’re not alone.
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