May is Maternal Mental Health Month with today (May 6th) dedicated as Maternal Mental Health Day. All month long we will be discussing postpartum mental health. We thought we would start our series by defining and discussing postpartum depression signs and symptoms.
We often think that life is joyful, loving, and blissfully happy for everyone when a new baby arrives. But that’s not always the case. Sadly, many new parents are left to navigate their new world alone. This can be especially hard for mom. When you just spent 9+ months having your needs catered to, the sudden lack of interest in your well-being can be jarring. It is estimated that nearly 900,000 women experience postpartum depression in the United States each year. That is shocking. Especially since so many women and families experience it in silence. So, today we are going to have a candid discussion about postpartum depression, its signs and symptoms, and how to treat it.
What are the “Baby Blues”?
After giving birth, it is common to experience mild symptoms of sadness known as “baby blues”. Common signs of baby blues include:
- crying spells
- mood swings
- trouble sleeping
These symptoms are very common in postpartum women and are nothing to be alarmed about. The baby blues are short-lived, typically lasting from a few days to a few weeks.
What is Postpartum Depression (PPD)?
More than just baby blues, postpartum depression is a severe onset of depression experienced after giving birth. It can occur as quickly as hours after delivery or as long as a year past the birth of your child. On average, postpartum depression occurs in the first three months after having your new baby. Conservative estimates show that upwards of 15% of new moms experience postpartum depression.
Postpartum Depression Signs and Symptoms
As we mentioned earlier, it is common for new moms to experience baby blues. However, if the symptoms remain or become more severe it could be postpartum depression. Signs of postpartum depression are:
- Depressed mood or severe mood swings
- Excessive crying
- Difficulty bonding with your baby
- Withdrawing from family and friends
- Loss of appetite or eating much more than usual
- Inability to sleep (insomnia) or sleeping too much
- Overwhelming fatigue or loss of energy
- Reduced interest and pleasure in activities you used to enjoy
- Intense irritability and anger
- Fear that you’re not a good mother
- Feelings of worthlessness, shame, guilt or inadequacy
- Diminished ability to think clearly, concentrate or make decisions
- Severe anxiety and panic attacks
- Thoughts of harming yourself or your baby
- Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide
Developing Postpartum Depression
If you develop postpartum depression, it is important to know that it is not because of anything you did wrong. PPD has nothing to do with how strong or capable you are. And it is definitely not a prediction of what type of mother you will be. Postpartum depression can happen for a lot of different reasons. Pregnancy, delivery, nursing, and caring for a baby are very taxing on your body, mind, and spirit. You may have a family history of depression which can make you more susceptible. Perhaps you are lacking a strong support system or your baby was born with special needs. Even your birthing experience can affect your postpartum mental health.
If you develop postpartum depression, please do not feel ashamed. And please know that it is perfectly acceptable, if not required, to seek help. If left untreated, PPD can last for months or even years. In rare cases, postpartum depression can evolve into postpartum psychosis. Symptoms of psychosis include:
- hallucinations or delusions
- obsessive thoughts about your baby
- sleep disturbances
- excessive energy or agitation
- confusion or disorientation
- attempts to harm herself or her baby
In those rare cases seek medical attention immediately or call 9-1-1
Treating Postpartum Depression
If you are dealing with the baby blues or even postpartum depression how do you know if you should “ride it out” or get help? Well, it is important to monitor your symptoms to keep track of any shifts in your well-being. If your symptoms don’t fade after a few weeks, get worse, or make it difficult to care for yourself or your baby it’s time to seek medical attention.
There are several options for managing postpartum depression. The most common treatments are:
- hormone therapy
Treatment for postpartum psychosis may require:
- removal from the home
- antipsychotic drug therapy
After receiving treatment for PPD, it can take a few weeks to feel like yourself again. Certain lifestyle changes in conjunction with medical treatment can have a double impact on your symptom relief. Regular exercise, a healthy diet, making time for yourself, and finding a support system are all important steps to take when managing postpartum depression.
It is also important to remember not to put too much pressure on yourself as a new mom. During your postpartum time, you are experiencing massive changes in your body, and in your sense of self. You are navigating your new role as a mother and redefining your old role as a partner. Your hormones are trying to rebalance and you’re most likely sleep-deprived. It is OK to feel overwhelmed. Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it and if you aren’t feeling joyful all the time, that’s OK. Most importantly, know that we love you, believe in you, and are always here for you whenever you need a support system, reach out anytime: 952-942-5676
If you or someone you know is exhibiting signs of postpartum depression, please seek help. If they are showing signs of postpartum psychosis or expressing suicidal thoughts or desires to hurt their baby, please call 9-1-1. Don’t wait for improvement, act NOW.