Symptoms of Postpartum Depression and How to Deal with it
You have just given birth to a beautiful baby. Everyone around you is excited for you. Congratulatory messages are being thrown at you here and there, but why aren’t you feeling very celebrative? New mothers are expected to be overjoyous and just brimming with happiness. It can become quite confusing if you find yourself feeling exactly the opposite.
You feel tearful and unhappy. You feel worried and fatigued. You are full of self-doubt. You’re scared you’re being a terrible mother for feeling all these things. Well, stop right there. You are not a terrible mother. And you are not alone either. Those things that you have been feeling are part of postpartum blues or baby blues. About 40 to 80 percent of new mothers experience these baby blues. Postpartum blues are normally felt by mothers a few days after giving birth, and they usually last for just a week or two before fading away on their own.
If you feel, however, that your feelings are unusually intense, and if they have persisted for more than two weeks straight, your situation may need to be addressed more actively. You may be having postpartum depression. You may be asking, how long can postpartum depression last? What is the treatment for postpartum depression? Read on as we tackle about everything about postpartum depression symptoms, difference between baby blues and postpartum, and anything in between.
What is Postpartum Depression?
Postpartum depression is also sometimes called postnatal depression or post-pregnancy depression. It is classified as a type of clinical depression, and it can affect both the mother and the father after childbirth. Symptoms of postpartum depression may include feelings of sadness, having low energy, having difficulty in sleeping and eating, reduced sex drive, being tearful, and feelings of anxiety and irritability. Most women mildly experience these symptoms for a limited time. Postpartum depression may be suspected, should the symptoms you are having seem severe and have lasted for more than two weeks.
According to the American Psychiatric Association, postpartum depression can develop a few weeks following childbirth. Sometimes, it can begin even before giving birth. Depression symptoms after delivery are experienced by 0.5 to 61 percent of women. It is said that after childbirth, postpartum psychosis can occur in about 1 to 2 per thousand mothers. Among new fathers, postpartum depression occurs at an estimated 1 to 25.5 percent. In the United States alone, postpartum depression is among the leading causes of the murder of children below one year of age, occurring in an estimated 8 per hundred thousand births.
Do you have postpartum depression?
Telling the difference between the normal stress of being a new mother and clinical depression can be quite difficult. In both cases, you may feel sadness and despair. If your feelings of sadness and despair, however, have become too intense that you are no longer able to perform your daily tasks, like taking care of yourself and your family, then you might be suffering from postpartum depression.
An estimated 10％ of new moms develop postpartum depression. According to experts, the actual occurrence of postnatal depression may be even higher, but some mothers refuse to seek treatment and remain unaccounted for. If you feel that you are struggling, it is best to consult with your healthcare provider for a mental health assessment.
If your healthcare provider suspects that you may be having postpartum depression, you may be referred to a counselor. Antidepressant medications may also prescribed for you. If deemed necessary, you may be recommended to seek treatment from a psychiatrist.
What are the symptoms of postpartum depression?
Listed below are symptoms of postpartum depression. It is possible that you may only experience just a few of the symptoms at a time. You may experience all of the symptoms at different times or you may not have the others at all. Postpartum depression is not a one-size-fits-all illness, and what you are experiencing may be different from the symptoms of other women.
You may be suffering from postpartum depression if within the last 12 months of having had a baby, some these symptoms are familiar with you:
- Feeling overwhelmed. You feel like you can’t do motherhood and that you are never going to learn how to be able to do it.
- Self-doubt. You feel like you cannot handle being responsible for a baby. You are seriously doubting yourself and you are thinking that you should not have become a mother at all.
- You feel guilty. You feel guilt over not being able to handle your new role the way you believe it should be handled. You think you should do better and that your baby is not getting what she deserves. You are worried that your baby can tell that you don’t feel the joy you thought you would. You feel guilty for feeling bad.
- Lack of feeling bonded to your baby. You don’t feel that connection and happiness with your baby that you have read about in books or seen on television.
- You feel confused and scared. You don’t understand why this is happening or why you are feeling this way.
- Feeling irritated and angry. You find yourself having a short temper. You have no patience and you get annoyed very easily. You resent your baby and other people around you. There is this out-of-control rage that you can’t do anything about.
- You feel numb or empty. You feel nothing. You feel like a robot going through your daily motions.
- Intense sadness. You feel deep sadness and you feel tearful all the time, even when there is no concrete reason for you to be crying.
- Feelings of hopelessness. You feel helpless and you believe that your situation is never going to get better. You feel like a failure, weak and defective.
- Eating disorder. You have trouble eating. You can’t find the appetite nor the energy to get something to eat. Or you may feel the exact opposite, like eating is the only thing that makes you feel better.
- Disrupted sleeping patterns. You have trouble sleeping. You can’t sleep even when the baby is asleep. You find yourself waking up in the middle of your sleep and find it difficult to doze off again. Or perhaps you sleep too much that you are unable to get your daily tasks done.
- You can’t concentrate. You find it hard to focus. You can’t form your thoughts well. You have trouble articulating what you want to say. You keep forgetting the things you were supposed to do. You have difficulty in making decisions.
- Feelings of disconnection. You feel disconnected from your friends and family, and you feel strangely apart.
- Feelings of frustration. You feel frustrated that you are unable to get out of the rut you are in even when you are trying your best. You’re doing everything right, keeping fit and healthy, and yet you still can’t get over it.
- You want to give up. Thoughts of letting everything go and running away cross your mind. You feel like life is not worth living anymore. You just want to escape. You want your misery to end and may even consider taking too many pills or driving off the road.
- You feel anxious. You feel scared that you may never get out of this. You think things will never get better again.
- You are afraid of judgement. You don’t want to reach out for help from other people because you fear that they may judge you. Or worse, that they might take your baby away from you.
- You know something is wrong. You don’t know what exactly is happening but you know that what you are experiencing does not feel right.
- Loss of interest. You have lost interest in the things you used to enjoy, like your usual hobbies and activities.
- Feelings of exhaustion. You feel sluggish and you lack the energy to do anything.
What is postpartum anxiety?
New mothers who have postpartum depression also feel worried or anxious. Having persistent feelings of panic or worry may cause you severe distress, and prevent you from performing your usual tasks. According to studies, an estimated 8.5 percent of mothers who have postpartum depression also have clinical anxiety.
When you have postpartum anxiety, you may experience having common fears that include worrying about Sudden Infant Death Syndrome or fearing that your baby will be taken away from you. You may worry about being judged and criticized as a parent. You may find yourself unable to settle down and quiet your thoughts. You are unable to relax. You are just constantly worrying.
Be sure to inform your healthcare provider if you are experiencing intense feelings of panic or worry so that your anxiety may be properly addressed.
What causes postpartum depression?
Postpartum depression may be a result of a combination of hormonal changes, environmental triggers, and genetic factors. All of these are beyond your control. You are not responsible for developing postpartum depression. It is important that you know how depression does not happen because of something you did or did not do.
Some factors that may increase the risk for postpartum depression include:
- Having depression or anxiety during pregnancy
- Physical exhaustion after child delivery
- Having a traumatic childbirth experience
- Experiencing emotional stress of adjusting to parenthood
- Sleep deprivation
- Preterm delivery
- Having a sickly baby
- Lack of social support
- Previous history of depression
- Unplanned or unwanted pregnancy
- Multiple babies (having twins or triplets)
- Having a baby with birth defects
- Experiencing domestic violence
- History of psychiatric problems in the family
- Being a single parent
- Financial instability
How to deal with postpartum depression
If you are diagnosed with postpartum depression, it is important to seek professional help in order to treat your illness. Depression can get lonely, scary and confusing if left untreated. Postpartum depression is very treatable. Seeking treatment is important so that you may prevent your condition from getting worse. Treatment will keep you from slipping into a deeper depression that will be harder to get out of.
Aside from getting professional help, there are things that you can do to help yourself deal with postpartum depression.
Share your feelings and ask for support.
Keep those communication lines with your partner open, and share your feelings with them. Tell them what’s going on with you. Talk about your thoughts and let them soothe and comfort you. Don’t shut out your friends and family. Don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for help. Let other people know how they can help, like taking care of dinner or watching the baby while you tend to other chores. Join a mothers’ group or a support group for people with postpartum depression. You may be surprised by the number of women who are sharing the same experience that you have. It is always good to know that you are not alone.
Be kind to yourself.
Be good to yourself by making sure you meet your basic needs. Get enough rest and eat healthy. Try not to feel guilty for having post pregnancy depression. Remind yourself that it doesn’t mean you are a bad mother and that you do not love your baby.
Be forgiving to yourself.
Be gentle on yourself and don’t demand too much from yourself. It is understandable to feel like you don’t have enough energy to get out of bed and do something when you are suffering from clinical depression.
Sometimes feeling physically good can help you feel better on the inside. Pamper yourself from time to time by taking a long, relaxing bath while your partner watched your baby. Doll yourself up and look pretty for yourself. Wear your favorite clothes just to give you a boost. Go shopping and buy something for yourself. Cook your favorite meal or simply lounge around while reading your favorite book.
Take your baby out for a stroll in the park. Go out and meet a good friend for coffee. Get some fresh air in your lungs and some sun on your skin. A brief change of environment can do you and your baby a lot of good.
Take a slow day.
Avoid exhaustion by taking things down a notch when you get the chance. Rest when your baby is sleeping instead of squeezing in some laundry duty. Slow down to catch your breath back, and to get steadier footing.
You are not alone
It is important to know that you are not alone in this, and that postpartum depression is in no way your fault. Once you have accepted your situation and you are ready to get some help, there is no reason why you can’t overcome it.