Welcoming a new baby into your home should be a joyous occasion. So, why is it that you’re feeling so…blue?
It could be a sign of the Baby Blues. Did you know that, according to the American Pregnancy Association, approximately 70-80% of new mothers experience instances of mood swings or negative emotions after the birth of their child? In fact, the Baby Blues can appear after a mere four days postpartum. Which, for many new mothers, often puts a real damper on an otherwise super exciting time in their lives.
The good news?
Baby Blues tend to dissipate after about two weeks post-delivery.
But what if your symptoms haven’t lessened? In fact, what if your symptoms continue to worsen even after a few months of bringing the baby home? Or even after a year?
It might be time to talk about postpartum depression (PPD) with your doctor. Postpartum depression has garnered a good bit of media attention over the past decade, and research continues to expand on the impact that giving birth has on new mothers’ mental health. About 15% of new mothers living in the US will experience PPD.
In my own experience as a new mother, I too suffered with postpartum depression. I have always considered myself to be an emotional person, so it didn’t surprise me all that much when I slipped into periods of sadness after my baby was born. The thought of me having postpartum depression did cross my mind. But I figured that as long I wasn’t harming myself or my baby, there was nothing to worry about. However, it wasn’t until my husband pointed out that my negative emotions seemed to be intensifying, that I realized it was more than I could—or wanted to—handle alone. Looking back, I am grateful that I had such a loving and supportive network of people surrounding me after my baby was born. It took me almost two years to come out of my own PPD, which I now understand, is unique to each mother’s experience.
That being said, it is important to remember that postpartum depression is not caused by anything that you have or have not done. While it does not have one known cause, it is believed that a combination of physical and emotional factors is at play at the onset. Hormonal changes may be potential triggers for the disorder. A woman’s estrogen and progesterone levels are at their highest during the course of a pregnancy, and once a woman has given birth, her levels drop back to pre-pregnancy level in the first 24 hours. As you can imagine, this dramatic change in hormone levels has the potential to throw off even the healthiest of new moms. So it’s important that you, your partner and loved ones know what to look for when it comes to postpartum depression (PPD).
Here are a few symptoms to keep an eye on over the course of the first year with baby:
Feelings of sadness, hopelessness or overwhelm
Oversleeping, or insomnia and being unable to sleep while baby is asleep
Not eating enough or overeating
Moodiness, rage or irritability
Trouble concentrating, making decision or remembering details
Frequent stomach aches, headaches or muscle pain
Constant worrying or feeling a sense of overwhelming dread or anxiety
Inability to form an attachment or bond with baby
Withdrawing from friends and family
Thinking about harming oneself or baby
If you are suffering from postpartum depression, here are a few steps you can take to get help:
Talk to your primary care doctor. Let them know what feelings and/or thoughts you have been having since bringing the baby home. There, your doctor can do a proper diagnosis and get you the medical care you need. Some suggestions your doctor might make could include talk therapy or counseling with a licensed professional and/or medication.
Ask for help. Your friends and family might not voice it, but they are excited to support you and your growing family. Sometimes friends and well-meaning family members don’t want to make new parents feel smothered with too much attention. Thus, they may not outright ask you what you need help with. Tell them. Be upfront about the challenges you’re going through and ask them if they’d be able to lend a hand once or twice a week for a few weeks. Give them the chance to be a part of this new chapter in your life and help lessen your load in the process.
Know that you are not alone. Postpartum depression is a mood disorder that affects tens—if not hundreds—of millions of new moms each year. Along with seeking medical treatment from your PCP, you might also consider joining a supportive network of other moms who are either going through or have gone through PPD. Recognizing that PPD is so common may be one of the most significant steps a struggling new mom can take.