What is Postpartum Depression?
Your new baby is finally here! You've waited for this time for so long. And of course, you're just ecstatic at this new little life. But for many, that initial joy of giving birth can fade. Couple this with lack of sleep, the demands of a new baby, anxiety over parenting issues like breastfeeding, it's no wonder a new mom can feel anxious. Most new moms go through the "baby blues" where they feel tired, stressed, anxious, and a little sad.
But for many new moms, that feeling doesn't go away. In fact, it gets worse and develops into postpartum depression. The American Psychological Association says one in seven new moms will develop postpartum depression. PPD can develop within days of baby's birth, or it might take months for it to start. It can affect your ability to take care of yourself and your new baby, and even rob you of the joy of parenting your newborn.
That's why it's so important that you are aware of the possibilities ahead of time and learn to spot the signs and symptoms so you can get help immediately.
What are the Signs of Postpartum Depression?
It's normal to have the baby blues during the first few weeks of your baby's life. But if you start to notice any of the following symptoms of postpartum depression, it's important that you get help.
- Loss of pleasure or interest in things you used to enjoy, including sex
- Changes in your appetite - overeating, or eating very little
- Constantly feeling stressed or anxious
- Loss of energy
- Panic attacks
- Excessive anger or irritability
- Feeling sad for long periods of time
- Difficulty concentrating
- Difficulty make decisions
- Thoughts of harming yourself or your baby
Treatment for Postpartum Depression
The most important thing is to recognize you are suffering from postpartum depression and ask for help. If you feel like you've crossed the line from baby blues into postpartum depression, the first thing to do is to talk about it. Confide in your partner, a close relative, a close friend, or another trusted individual who can help you.
You'll also want to find someone who can help you take care of your new baby so you can focus on getting well. If you have someone who can help with housework, shopping, and even baby-related chores, make sure you take advantage of offers to help you. If you have older children, make sure you've got someone who can help care for and entertain them as you get settled in with your new baby.
Also, let go of any preconceived ideas of how the first weeks and months of your baby's life will be. Your house might be a mess, small tasks may go undone, it's all fine. The most important thing is that you and your new baby are mentally and physically healthy.
If you're having sleep issues, and let's face it - most new parents do - consider hiring an overnight nurse or asking a friend or relative to spend a night or two so you can get some restful sleep.
Once your doctor says it's okay to exercise, try to move a little more every day. Multiple studies have found that women who stay physically active during pregnancy and after childbirth are less likely to suffer from postpartum depression. Some new moms find yoga to be especially helpful in getting the mind and body to a healthy place after pregnancy.
For some women, antidepressant medications and therapy are the answer to treating postpartum depression. As always, talk to your doctor about what she thinks is best.
You should also consider joining a support group for new moms. Despite the current Coronavirus lockdown, most hospitals are still offering support groups for new moms dealing with postpartum issues, including depression. These services have been moved online. Plus there are plenty of national online forums and groups as well. Here are just a few resources.
Postpartum Depression Online Forums
Getting Immediate Help for Postpartum Depression
If you have thoughts about harming yourself or your new baby, it's important that you ask for help immediately. You can ask your doctor for a referral to a therapist who deals with postpartum issues. Postpartum Help International also offers a hotline where you can get immediate help for postpartum depression issues. That number is 1-800-944-4773.
Do New Dads get Postpartum Depression Too?
So much energy and attention is focused on new moms and new babies. But new dads can go through some challenging psychological issues as well. According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, 10% of men experience a condition called paternal postpartum depression (PPPD). It's more likely to happen if mom is also suffering from postpartum depression. The website PostpartumDads.org has a wealth of information for new dads in dealing with their partner's depression and their own.
New Moms Share Postpartum Depression Strategies
I allow myself to cry if I need to. I take a low dose of Zoloft. I get fresh air even if it's just sitting at the window. I confide in my sister and vent if I need to. I also find it helpful to give the baby to her dad so I can have a moment to myself. I know that this will pass and that my daughter is worth it all and more.
I go for a walk to a nearby beach where I live, listen to music, take some self-care time, write in a journal, talk to trustworthy friends and family.
I started to go to counseling and I get outside as much as I can. I also find that walks, meditation, and yoga are helpful.
My postpartum depression started early. Although I knew it existed, I didn't expect I would go through it. After a difficult laborending in a c-section, I found I would cry for no reason. My chest would fill and I would just start crying. I don't know how I got through it but I did. I was glad to know that I wasn't alone.