What You Need to Know about Postpartum Depression
Pregnancy is such an exciting time in a woman's life. The anticipation of your little one's arrival. Of what he will look like. Of how his laughs will sound. And once he makes his appearance, all your questions are answered. He looks just like his dad. He sounds exactly the way you imagined he would. The joy and that indescribable way you feel when you hold him. The way he looks at you because he knows exactly who you are. You were meant to be a mother and now you feel complete with his arrival.
These are the normal feelings one would associate with pregnancy and child birth. However, you may not be experiencing any of these lovely, positive thoughts. In fact, you may be feeling sad and overwhelmed and indifferent towards your newborn. And it could be possible that you aren't just experiencing "baby blues". It could be possible that you are one of the thousands of new mothers who are diagnosed with postpartum depression, or PPD.
According to the American Psychological Association, up to 1 in 7 mothers have PPD. When you think about the number of children born in the US each year, that statistic is quite significant.
So what exactly is PPD and how does it differ from those baby blues? It is quite normal to have thoughts of anxiety and feel overwhelmed at the thought of being a new mother. You may feel sad, experience mood swings, have crying fits and trouble sleeping. These are all symptoms of baby blues. You may feel this way immediately after child birth, but these feelings usually resolve after about two weeks.
PPD is different in that these feelings are much more intense and last much longer. According to the Mayo Clinic, PPD is usually seen a few weeks later and in some cases, can even show up six months after the birth of your baby. Symptoms of PPD are so severe that they interfere with your daily routine and with your ability to take care of your baby. Here is a list of some of the other symptoms of PPD:
• Excessive crying
• Difficulty bonding with your baby
• Intense irritability and anger
• Diminished ability to think clearly, concentrate or make decisions
• Thoughts of harming yourself or your baby
• Recurrent thoughts about death or suicide
Again, as a new mother, you may have feelings of inadequacy or be anxious about how to care for your newborn. You may even feel guilty. I can attest from my own personal experience that after the birth of my second child, I was overcome with feelings for guilt. I felt "bad" that I wouldn't be able to spend more time with my older child, that I wouldn't be able to give her my undivided attention anymore. Did we make a mistake in having a second one so soon? Would I feel the same way about my second one as the way I felt about my first one? I felt like I had so much more love I wanted to give to my first one, and that it just wasn't right that I had to share that love with another child. I remember days when I would just lie on my bed, next to my sleeping infant, and cry that I couldn't put my older one to bed or that she wasn't cuddling up to me.
Thankfully, those feelings resolved in a few weeks and I was back to my normal self. It's important to note that I never felt any less love towards my newborn and I continued to bond with her. The exact cause of PPD is unknown; however, it could be due to an imbalance in hormones immediately after childbirth. It could also be due to changes in our emotional state after childbirth, with increased stress trying to balance a new life while being true to your identity.
It is imperative to seek professional help as soon as possible if these depressive thoughts haven't resolved within a couple of weeks. It is especially important to know that there is nothing embarrassing about admitting that you might have a problem. Remember, the sooner you seek help, the sooner you can bond with your baby and prevent any further complications. If left untreated, PPD can lead to more severe or chronic depressive disorder.
PPD is treatable. Your doctor may have you fill out a questionnaire and do some lab tests to determine any other underlying causes. Ask plenty of questions and accept help from anyone willing to offer. Do not isolate yourself. Take time out for yourself and rest and recharge as much as possible. Treatment options for PPD include psychotherapy (counseling sessions with a psychiatrist or psychologist) or anti-depressant medications.
As mentioned earlier, please seek immediate help if you are having thoughts of harming yourself or your baby. Confide in your spouse, your mom, your best friend or your pastor. Know that you are not alone and that you can get well. If these options are not available to you, please call 911 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK.
Please share this post if you found it useful; there may be someone out there who may relate and take steps in the right direction due to this article.
Comment if you or someone you know experienced baby blues or PPD and what you did to overcome and thrive.
Take care and happy pregnancy!
- Anita Koppuzhayil