Postpartum depression is real and impacts more people than you might believe. For years, the signs and symptoms of PPD were brushed off by people telling new mothers that they were just adjusting to life with a new baby. Unfortunately, this resulted in mothers suffering silently instead of speaking up to get the help they needed.
Thankfully, there is starting to be more awareness around the topic, allowing mothers to get help with postpartum depression.
But even though people are starting to talk about it more, there are still challenges in getting help. The stigma around mental health and postpartum depression can leave women nervous about speaking up. In addition, being a new mom is glamorized in society, leaving women who are struggling feeling like they are all alone or that they did something wrong.
However, that's not true. You are not alone if you are struggling. The American Psychological Association shares that one in seven women experiences PPD. If you are one of those women, it's not your fault, and you didn't do anything wrong. And most importantly, there is help available.
It's important to continue spreading awareness around PPD so that no more women have to struggle on their own.
Postpartum depression symptoms
One of the challenges that women face in finding help with postpartum depression is knowing how to identify what they are experiencing.
For years, PPD was covered with the "baby blues," which kept many women from getting the needed help. And while the baby blues are real as well, it's crucial to understand that it is not the same as postpartum depression.
What are the baby blues?
When you give birth, the hormone levels in your body begin to change. These hormonal changes can lead to mood swings. In addition, there are a lot of different emotions that come as part of the birth and new parent experience. It can feel overwhelming to adjust to all the changes when you bring a new baby home.
These types of changes can lead to baby blues. The March of Dimes shares that 80% of new parents go through this experience.
If you have the baby blues, you may feel sad and find that you cry more easily. Likely, you don't know why you feel the way you do. Typically, these feelings will show up within a few days of giving birth and can last for a couple of weeks.
If you are really struggling during this time, don't hesitate to talk to your physician or one of our licensed therapists. Even if what you are experiencing is a "normal" part of the experience, there are still tips and strategies that you can use to help you feel your best during this time.
What are the symptoms of postpartum depression?
A few key differences between baby blues and postpartum depression are the severity and how long it lasts.
Postpartum depression symptoms generally begin somewhere between a few weeks after giving birth through the first of the year. However, some women also experience anxiety and depression symptoms during pregnancy.
Postpartum depression symptoms can include:
Severe mood swings
Sadness and crying
Not wanting to spend time with family or friends
Changes in sleep patterns
Changes in eating patterns
Fear of not being a good mom
Far that something horrible will happen to your baby
Thoughts of harming your baby or yourself
Overwhelm, fatigue, and lethargy
Trouble bonding with baby
Thoughts of suicide
The above is not an all-inclusive list of symptoms that you may experience. If you aren't feeling like yourself after giving birth or bringing a new baby home, you should speak with your physician or another health professional.
Talk to someone that you can be honest with about what you are experiencing. It can be difficult for new moms to admit to others when they're having these feelings for fear of judgment.
Does postpartum depression go away?
The symptoms of PPD can last for around a year. However, that doesn't mean all women have symptoms for that long or all symptoms go away when the child's first birthday arrives. And thankfully, with the treatment options that exist, women can find relief from their symptoms without having to wait until they go away entirely on their own.
If you're wondering how to know if you have postpartum depression, we encourage you to reach out to one of our mental health professionals or your physician. If you don't feel like yourself, you don't need to wait until you hit a certain "low" to talk to someone. Instead, share what you're experiencing with a professional to explore your best treatment options.
Postpartum depression risk factors
A recently published study in JAMA Psychiatry found that you are twice as likely to experience postpartum depression if you have a family history of psychiatric diagnoses. However, it's important to note that while this may increase your risk, it doesn't mean that you will necessarily experience it.
Other possible risk factors can include:
Having postpartum depression previously
Stressful life situations such as the loss of a loved one or financial trouble
Your child has a health condition or needs additional care
You gave birth to multiples
You have a lack of a support system around you
Having an unplanned pregnancy
Relationship trouble with the other parent
Again it's important to note that these risk factors do not necessarily mean that you will experience symptoms of postpartum depression. But they can mean you are at a higher risk of doing so.
How postpartum depression is treated
Thankfully, like other mental health challenges and diagnoses, there are treatment options available that can help.
Postpartum depression therapy
Working with a therapist can be a helpful way to find support for PPD. Sometimes it can feel challenging to open up to your friends and family about how you're really feeling, but a therapist provides a safe space for you to explore all of your experiences, feelings, and emotions.
A therapist will be able to listen to you and then help you learn practical strategies you can use as you move forward. For example, a therapist can help you improve your thought life and shift any unrealistic expectations that you have to ones that are more realistic for yourself.
It can also be helpful to learn self-care strategies to help your feel your best throughout this stage of life. Caring for a new baby can leave women feeling exhausted and neglected. Therapists can help you learn strategies like meditation and relaxation techniques to help you take care of yourself better.
Medication for postpartum depression
There are also instances when medication can play an important role in helping women recover from postpartum depression. It's important to discuss these options with your physician. It's also important to mention if you are breastfeeding to ensure that any medication you take is safe for your baby.
Self-care for new moms
Adjusting to life as a mom, or adding a new baby to the family, can be challenging. And even when the transition is going smoothly, it's still essential for new moms to prioritize taking care of themselves.
Your mind and body have been through a lot, whether you experienced pregnancy or became a mom through a different route. You likely get less rest than usual, and your routine has been disrupted. This can make it difficult to do the things that help you feel your best. And while you may need to make some adjustments to your self-care routine, it's still important to do the things that help you feel like you.
Try to prioritize getting the rest you need. For example, if the baby doesn't sleep well at night, ensure you take naps as needed throughout the day. If your baby doesn't sleep well any time of day, see if a friend or family member can take a shift holding baby so you can lie down for a while.
Make sure you are keeping yourself nourished. It's easy when your routine is off to miss a meal accidentally, but do your best to eat regularly and have snacks as your body adjusts to not being pregnant and breastfeeding if you decide to.
It's also important to make time for things you enjoy. This may be in small amounts of time, for a while, as everyone adjusts, but don't put everything you enjoy doing on the back burner. Read books. Talk to your friends. Go for walks. Put the lipstick on even if you're staying home all day if that helps you feel your best. Do the things that help you feel like you.
You may have a new role as mom to this new little one, but it doesn't mean that you lose who you are as an individual.
Talk to someone if you're struggling
If things are feeling tough, talk to someone. If you are depressed, fearful, or anxious, talk to someone. Or, if you just aren't feeling "right," talk to someone.
Our team of licensed therapists and counselors are here and ready to help you get back to feeling your best so you can enjoy the beautiful life you are creating for yourself and your family. Call us today to be matched with a therapist who is right for you.