When you spend nine long months anticipating what life is going to be like with a new baby in your arms, most people think it's going to be a wonderful experience. You just can't wait to hold them, love them, and show them off to the world. But for one in seven women, when the baby finally arrives, the experience isn't what they had hoped for due to Post-Partum Depression (PPD).
And as a new parent, this can bring with it a lot of difficult thoughts and emotions. While it's difficult for some people to overcome the mental health stigma to get help in general, it can be even more challenging for some new moms.
A lot of women who are struggling with symptoms of PPD feel embarrassed or ashamed of their thoughts and feelings, so they don't speak up to get help. They don't want to verbalize what's going on inside their heads because they're afraid of what others will think.
At The NEST Clinic, one of our specialties is Reproductive and Perinatal Mental Health. We want to help break down the stigma that gets in the way of people getting the help they need.
The "real life" postpartum depression symptoms and signs
So, there are plenty of places online where you can get a textbook definition of the symptoms of PPD. This includes things like:
Changes in sleeping
Changes in eating
Crying more than normal
Feeling empty, sad, hopeless, or moody
Not feeling connected to your baby
Withdrawing from loved ones
Feeling like an unfit parent
Chronic pain like headaches or stomach problems
Lack of energy
But let's be honest, a lot of these symptoms can seem normal when you're adjusting to life with a newborn. Your entire schedule may be thrown off and you're most likely working on little sleep. So, here are some other signs of what PPD can look like:
Missing what your life used to be like before your baby was born
Constantly imagining dropping or hurting your baby
Constantly imaging something terrible happening to your child
Feeling like you're stuck in a state of fog
Feeling "stupid", "helpless", "worthless"
Feelings of resentment toward your baby
Pretending to have a bond with your baby when people are around because you're afraid they'll realize that you don't really feel connected to your child
Thoughts about death or suicide
Here's the most important thing to understand—everyone isn't going to have the same symptoms. You may love and feel a strong bond with your child but experience symptoms in other areas. It can impact people in very different ways so don't write-off any symptoms that you're experiencing.
How to know when it's time to get help
Past generations had a tendency to try explaining away PPD as being "the baby blues". And while the baby blues are something that many women experience after giving birth, it's not the same thing as PPD.
People are a lot more open when talking about the baby blues which can lead people to think that their symptoms of depression are nothing more than that. This is another obstacle that women face toward speaking up about what they're thinking and feeling.
It's been found that 80% of new moms experience the baby blues. They tend to start within a couple of days of giving birth and can last up to two weeks. If you're continuing to struggle with feelings of anxiety, depression, or any other symptoms that you're unsure of after a few weeks, don't hesitate in reaching out for help. And if you feel overwhelmed by your symptoms even before those two weeks have passed, know that it's OK to get help.
Postpartum depression in males
And even though there isn't enough conversation around postpartum depression in general, it's even worse for postpartum depression in men. It might even catch you by surprise to read that last sentence.
Many people are unfamiliar with the fact that men can experience postpartum depression as well. While it's not as common as in women, some research suggests that it impacts as many as 10% of men. And with such little awareness about it in society, it's less likely that men will reach out for help.
The signs of postpartum depression in men can be different than what women experience.
Here are some of the signs to watch for:
Increased irritability or anger
Losing interest in your hobbies and activities you enjoy
Throwing yourself into working long hours
Pulling back from spending time with family and friends
Having a hard time concentrating or feeling frustrated
Feeling overwhelmed, sad, or "empty"
Newborns and new moms tend to get the most attention after childbirth and for the months to come. It's normal for people to check in on a new mom to see how she's feeling or to lend a helping hand. But it doesn't tend to work the same way for men.
Even though the arrival of a new baby drastically changes a dad's life, there is little mention of the transformation that happens. A new baby can bring added stress due to the feeling of wanting to provide. And dads can find that they also have to give up some of the hobbies they enjoyed to make more time for family.
There are lots of changes that can make the transition to life with a new baby challenging. And moms aren't the only ones that can struggle with depression in this stage of life.
Postpartum depression in adoption cases
Another area that is often overlooked when it comes to postpartum depression is adoption, which both birth mothers and adoptive parents can experience.
Birthmothers who place a baby for adoption can still experience postpartum depression. Just because they don't have the baby with them doesn't mean they won't experience these symptoms. In addition to this, it's common for birth mothers to experience difficult feelings like loss and grief. As a birth mom, it's important to be familiar with the symptoms of postpartum depression so you can get help if you need it.
Adoptive parents and depression
It's also possible for adoptive parents to experience post-adoption depression. Many of the symptoms are the same as those of PPD. And the same way that new parents can feel bad for not feeling happy during a stage of life that's often stereotyped to be a "joyous occasion", the same is true for adoptive parents.
You may have waited for years to have a child. You may have gone through challenges with infertility or a lengthy adoption wait. And you may have high expectations of how happy you should be feeling during this time. When your feelings don't match those expectations, you may find yourself struggling with feelings of guilt and shame because of it. You finally have what you've waited so long for but you don't feel the way you thought you would.
You're not alone in feeling this way. And it doesn't mean that there's something wrong with you or that you don't love your child. It may be that you're struggling with depression. Don't hesitate to reach out to a therapist for help.
Postpartum Depression Treatment Options
If you think that you might have Postpartum Depression, reach out to your doctor or a therapist for help. Don't wait for your symptoms to reach a certain level before you think they are "serious enough" to talk to someone about.
There are many different treatment options available to help you start feeling better and overcoming your PPD symptoms.
Our therapists at The NEST Clinic in Stillwater Minnesota want to help. And you don't have to have PPD in order to reach out for help. We can help you with any mental health or emotional health struggle that you're facing. We also have a Women's Health Nurse Practitioner on staff to help with medication management if needed.
We need to keep Postpartum Depression in the conversation
The more we keep this in the conversation, the easier it will become for new moms to speak out about their struggles so they can get help. If you had PPD in the past, share your story with expectant mothers and new parents so they know what to watch out for.
A simple way to help spread awareness is to hit the social media share button below this article and share it with your circle of friends and family.
And if you're struggling with anxiety, depression, unwanted thoughts, or other symptoms of PPD, reach out to schedule an appointment with one of The NEST's therapists.