It is very common for women to feel down after having a baby. In fact, 40 to 80 percent of woman experience some form of “baby blues” postpartum.
While it typically sets in after birth, there is the possibility of exhibiting signs right before the baby is born.
These feelings are normal.
Your body has just gone through some tremendous changes: growing a little human for 9 months, gaining weight in places you never imagined, not to mention stretch marks, and your hormones have reached their ultimate high.
After the baby is born, both physical and emotional factors are bound to have you feeling a little overwhelmed or weepy.
The acceptance of your new body and the sudden drop in your hormone levels wreak havoc on you physically, as well as the exhaustion of taking care of a new baby and producing milk.
The anxiety sets in when the reality of your new responsibility hits you square in the face. This baby relies on you for everything. Feelings of inadequacy and fear for their well-being is enough to have you feeling completely overwhelmed.
All of these things are normal and usually pass within a short period of time with no worrisome symptoms.
It is when this condition is prolonged (typically beyond 2 weeks) and those feelings progress that the real postpartum depression may be setting in and medical assistance may be necessary.
Duration of Symptoms
You are most at risk of suffering postpartum depression from four weeks after the birth of your child. Over time the symptoms recede in most cases, but some women have experienced symptoms for up to three years.
Everyone has a different genetic predispositon to symptoms, and will respond differently to treatments. These are factors outside of our control, and we are better off looking at what we can do to fast track recovery.
Severity and Duration of Symptoms
Early detection and medical intervention is the first critical factor in how long the symptoms could last.
Someone who suffers a major depressive episode will take more time to fully recover and the risk of this heightens the longer an individual waits to seek out treatment.
If symptoms are mild, but prolonged then again it could be a long road to recovery.
While this sound good in theory, unless you have an exceptional support system around you already you may not have the time or head space to notice if the symptoms of PPD are creeping in.
Having an awareness in advance, and scheduling some time for self reflection, yoga or meditation can provide some much needed thinking time that can release the pressure valve and give some mental clarity.
"I knew that something was wrong because I just wasn't myself. The truth is I just didn't have the time or luxury to even consider if I had PPD or not... In hindsight I should have sought help sooner, but the reality was that it was drowned out by the daily struggle"
Just a Mom
Effectiveness of Treatment
Being as honest as possible with your Doctor will put them in the best place to prescribe the most effective treatment for you.
It can be a daunting conversation to have and you will want to prepare information on the following to ensure any diagnosis is made with full information:
Many woman shy away from having this conversation early on postpartum. The consequences of avoiding this issue can be severe and will impact your quality of life at an important time.
Remember that Doctors specialise in this and help people get over these issues every day. An honest conversation is always best - even if you feel like it is not yet important.
You will not be able to get away from all external stressors. But identifying everything that is causing strain will allow you to then look at what can be eliminated, outsourced or altered.
Taking stock of everything affecting your state of mind could be a useful exercise in working through what is most important.
By doing this proactively and staying out of reaction mode you may find that you can take a load off your shoulders in a number of parts of your life.
Consistency in Applying Treatments
Once a treatment plan has been prescribed the shortest way to recovery is to stick to the plan. If you miss appointments, don't take your medication, or veer away from any lifestyle changes then your recovery may stall.
Perfection is unattainable with a new baby, but a little planning goes along way.
Involve your partner and other family so that you have someone to help with reminders, support, and accountability to keep you on track.
Symptoms of Postnatal Depression
If you suffer from the symptoms below for a prolonged period of time then you should seek medical assistance:
The first signs of postpartum depression may seem similar to normal baby blues. You may start by feeling overwhelmed, but in the sense that you honestly believe you will never get this motherhood thing down.
That can lead to feelings of guilt, feeling that you have failed and that you should be handling this much better.
Your emotions are very unstable. Even though the word “depression” brings about the picture of someone with no motivation, emotionless or suffering from crippling sadness. The truth is that many emotions can arise from depression.
You may feel angry with your situation and with yourself; you may feel confused and scared, unsure of why this is happening; you may just feel disconnected and empty, void of all emotion.
These are the first warnings that the baby blues are perhaps something a little more serious.
You and your family will need to keep an eye on your behavior and habits from here, because prolonged or severe cases of postpartum depression can lead to potentially dangerous situations for you and your baby.
Your behavior and emotional state can begin to interfere with your ability to care for your baby. You may forget feedings, and your baby can begin to feel neglected and lonely. You may lose all motivation and disconnect yourself from your family.
Postpartum depression can also drastically affect your thinking.
If you have thoughts of paranoia, thinking that you cannot tell the people close to you what you are feeling for fear that your child will be taken away from you, or if you have thoughts of running away or harming yourself or your family, these are signs that you need professional help as soon as possible.
Risk of Self Diagnosis
If you are reading this article at all you have probably done plenty of research on the topic already. Youtube is full of Mothers sharing their experiences with Postpartum Depression and while it can be a great relief to hear the stories of others going through a similar experience, this should never act as a substitute for the judgment of a Doctor.
You simply do not know the full story behind what that person experienced.
In researching this article I watched a number of videos with the trendy title of treating PPD naturally. While this sounds good, the one thing that seemed to be common is that no one was ever actually diagnosed as having PPD.
The baby blues is a thing, the massive life changes you have experienced will result in you feeling off. This is a given... so take these opinions based on self diagnosis with a grain of salt.
The video below by Dr Nehema Dresner offers concrete facts and are far more helpful in guiding your decisions.
Increased Risk Factors
Now, there is no reason to fear that your baby blues will escalate to the level of full postpartum depression. On average, it only occurs in about 10 percent of these women.
There are certain aspects that can put you at a higher risk.
Other factors which can contribute, or indicate an increased risk of suffering from depression;
Postpartum depression is a very serious condition that should not be ignored. There are many professionals that can help, either by simply giving you an outlet – someone to talk to – or providing medicinal treatments if necessary.
When your ability to care for yourself or your baby is compromised by the intensity of your depression.
A doctor may prescribe antidepressants in addition to psychotherapy. He may also recommend hormone therapy to balance out your levels.
Talk to your doctor about what options are best for you as any sort of medicinal intervention is not without its risks and side effects.
Your family and your own personal intentions can also play a major role in your recovery.
What the Experts Say
The following will walk you through how a treatment program is structured.
Initially this is driven by your medical professional, and over time as Mome learns more about what works for her she takes the lead.
Here are some tips to help you cope with your postpartum depression:
Bond With Your Baby
While depression can cause you to feel detached, you can help combat those feelings by creating a secure bond with your little one.
The bond between mother and baby is quite a special one.
Not only do you respond to each other emotionally, but it has actually been shown that endorphins are released in the mother’s body when she has a strong attachment to her baby.
This helps her to feel happy and confident.
It may take a lot of work, constantly reminding yourself to be intentional about it, but it will definitely pay off.
Rely on Others
One of the most dangerous things you can do when suffering from depression is trying to handle it on your own.
Withdrawing into yourself allows you to get caught up in your own thoughts and emotions, increasing the likelihood of you believing those negative things.
Positive social interaction with friends and family who wish to support you can give you encouragement and help when you need it most.
Seeking out other new mothers who are transitioning to motherhood can also be helpful, reassuring you that you are not alone. There are many groups, such as Mommy and Me that seek to do just that.
Take Care of Yourself
If there is one thing that will cause you to feel overwhelmed it is the belief that you need to be 100% on point all the time.
You may think that housework, exercise, cooking, and mothering should all be easy to balance, but it a lot for one person to handle, especially when there is a new baby involved.
Relax; take care of yourself. Make sure you are getting enough sleep, setting aside time for yourself to unwind, and eating proper meals.
Do not feel like you have to do it all right now.
Make your Spouse a Priority
You can start to go a little crazy when you do not have regular adult interactions, and your spouse can begin to feel a bit neglected if all of your attention is on the baby.
In addition, it is not good for your relationship if you do not carve time out for each other.
Be sure to communicate with one another in complete transparency, and set aside quality time, with no distractions, to ensure that you are remaining close.
Finally, be sure you work together as a team in this parenting thing, helping each other out and enjoying it together.
Take Inspiration from Experiences of Others
Sometimes you have to put the science and medical explanations aside and look for something else to give that you that courage and strength to get through the day in front of you.
You can take inspiration from the stories of others who have been where you are, and have come out the other end stronger for the experience.
The video below will give you goosebumps, bring a tear to your eye, and inspire hope to anyone who can relate to her situation. The quote below especially sums up the depths of where postpartum depression can take you:
"I thought she would be better off without me, and I think the only way out
if to go to the Golden Gate Bridge, and jump off"
Postpartum depression is a very serious condition, not to be confused with the average baby blues a mother may experience following childbirth.
While the baby blues can start within a couple of days after the birth of your baby and pass within a couple of weeks, postpartum depression is longer lasting and may need medical attention.
If you are a mother suffering from postpartum depression, reach out to your doctor and loved ones for help.
If you are a family member or friend of one of these mothers, offer your support, encouraging and reassuring her as she works through this difficult time.
Questions, comments, or concerns about postpartum depression? Let us know in the comments below. And be sure to share this link with others who may need advice or help.