Think about it. Your hormones and emotions are at an all time high. Your excitement to welcome your new little one into the world is immeasurable, but like most mothers to be, there is an aspect of anxiety to all that you are feeling. You then go through the feat of labor and delivery and your new little baby is placed in your arms. Euphoria. Joy. Excitement. Love, pure love.
Family and friends will want to come visit you and the new baby and company may be abundant. The attention that you were receiving when pregnant has now shifted to the new life you brought into the world. Then, just like anything, the novelty of having a new baby will wear off and people will get back to their everyday lives. Then, when you try to get back to your everyday life you realize that nothing is the same. This can be overwhelming.
The pressure to feel extreme happiness and pure bliss after having a baby is oppressive. It is only natural that women feel shame, disappointment or even denial if they feel anything other than joy and contentment. If this is not the case for women, they often feel guilt or shame. However, guilt and shame should not be felt. The levels of the hormones estrogen and progesterone are at an all time high during pregnancy. Post delivery, they hit an all time low triggering the baby blues.
Knowing the difference between the baby blues and postpartum depression is important. First, I would like to note that both are not your fault. Both are a result of hormonal changes within your body that you cannot control. However, it is essential to recognize that the baby blues is normal, somewhat expected, and will pass. Postpartum depression on the other hand is more serious and usually requires professional help. It is difficult to differentiate between the two because on paper, both conditions appear to be so similar. So many symptoms are shared between the two conditions such as irritability, inability to sleep, crying bouts and mood swings.
The baby blues are short term, usually last less than two weeks, and typically resolve on their own. The symptoms and signs of the baby blues are feeling sad, overwhelmed, angry, frustrated, anxious and like you want to escape your new life. However, with encouragement and assurance these symptoms will decrease.
Postpartum depression affects about every 1 in 7 new mothers (Bennett, 2016). The symptoms and signs of postpartum depression are excessive crying, depressed mood or extreme mood swings, difficultly bonding or growing close with your baby, loss of appetite or eating more than you typically would, withdrawal from family and friends, severe anger, feelings that you are an inadequate mother, shame, guilt or feelings of worthlessness, insomnia or excessive sleep, loss of energy, a drastic decline in interest and pleasure in activities that you used to enjoy, severe anxiety or panic attacks, thoughts of death or suicide and/or thoughts of hurting yourself or your baby. Again, I want to reiterate that if you are experiencing any of these symptoms that it is not your fault. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. You deserve help. It is also important to recognize that you do not need to have all of the symptoms listed to have postpartum depression. The bottom line is if your thoughts are bothersome and intrusive and if your moods are getting in the way of your ability to care for yourself, your baby, your family and things that you would normally do day to day then get help. It is important to note that new mothers may not recognize that they are experiencing these symptoms or may deny it if asked. If you recognize that a loved one is experiencing the symptoms of postpartum depression, do not be afraid to get them help.
Let it be known that if you experience a traumatic birth, are forced to have a birth experience that did not go as planned such as a c-section or induction or if you’re having difficulty breastfeeding, if your baby has colic, of if you have a personal or family history of depression than your odds of postpartum depression increase. Social support is also a large factor in whether or not postpartum depression is likely for you. The more social support you have, the less likely you are to develop postpartum depression. The less social support you have, than the more likely you are to develop postpartum depression.
Postpartum depression has gotten a strongly negative reputation for several different reasons. Historically, infanticide, which is the killing of an infant at the hands of a parent, has been blamed on postpartum depression in the media. However, it is important to note that postpartum psychosis is the leading cause of infanticide, not postpartum depression. To be clear, postpartum psychosis is a rare psychiatric illness that occurs in approximately 1 to 2 out of every 1,000 deliveries. The symptoms of postpartum psychosis can include delusions (false, typically strange beliefs), hallucinations (seeing or hearing things that aren’t truly there), irritability, hyperactivity, decreased need for or the inability to sleep, paranoia or suspiciousness, rapid mood swings and difficulty in communicating at times (Post Partum Support International, 2017). Postpartum psychosis is very serious, yet is treatable with professional help. If you are experiencing any of the listed symptoms, please receive immediate help.
The general rule of thumb is that if two weeks pass and you are still feeling the symptoms of anxiety and depression than a woman should proceed in scheduling an appointment with her ob-gyn for an evaluation. The treatment for postpartum depression most commonly includes medication therapy and psychotherapy. There are support groups available for new mothers in most areas. The support groups are typically free and occur weekly. Support groups are most certainly beneficial and something worth looking into. It is so helpful to form connections and a network of support from new mothers experiencing similar symptoms and circumstances. A trained professional who specializes in postpartum support often leads these support groups. If you are not sure if your area has a postpartum support group, contact your OBGYN or local hospital for information.
Postpartum support international is a wonderful resource for those who are struggling with symptoms of postpartum depression or for loved ones of those who are struggling with postpartum depression. On the postpartum support international website (www.postpartum.net), you can find local resources, chat with an expert, join an online support group, call the telephone support line or simply look up information on postpartum depression which may help you decide what your next step should be in terms of treatment and recovery.
There is so much stigma surrounding new moms and the baby blues/postpartum depression. The bottom line is there should be no embarrassment, guilt or shame in talking about your feelings and emotions and asking for help. Actually, the strongest and smartest mothers are those who take the step to get help as soon as possible, to best better themselves and their family. Postpartum depression is like any other potentially serious condition. If the proper help is received, than a complete recovery can be expected.
Bennett, S. (2016, August 31). Do I Have the Baby Blues or Postpartum Depression? Retrieved November 15, 2017, from http://americanpregnancy.org/first-year-of-life/baby-blues-or-postpartum-depression/
Postpartum Psychosis. (2017). Retrieved November 15, 2017, from http://www.postpartum.net/learn-more/postpartum-psychosis/