Having a new addition to your family comes with a hoard of responsibilities and challenges. And just like any changes experienced in life, you are not always fully prepared to handle them. A baby is obviously such a joyful addition to your family and your life in general. That is why postpartum depression or even baby blues are always so frowned upon.
To the average individual, these feelings do not make sense. How can you be upset, sad, low, or depressed during such a happy and exciting period? The fact is that this issue runs much deeper than it appears. Postpartum depression (often confused for baby blues as mothers tend to dumb down the intensity of their struggles) does not translate into a dislike or hate for your newborn. In fact, it is a more common occurrence than you would think.
1 in 9 mothers experience postpartum depression and up to 80% of new mothers experience anxiety, crying spells, or sudden mood swings. While for the most part, these feelings go away on their own in about a week or two, sometimes they can last longer. When they do stretch over a longer period of time, the stress and worry over why you’re feeling this way can worsen the entire situation. That is why it is necessary to understand why you feel this way and what to do to feel better.
These extremely challenging struggles are normal for the most part. The feelings usually go away on their own. However, some mothers deal with these feelings differently. Sometimes, instead of simply fading, these feelings intensify and grow. When this happens, you might find yourself completely drained, emotionally and mentally. This ultimately reflects on your physical wellbeing and leaves you incapable of looking after yourself properly. And we all know, you must take care of yourself FIRST so you can be capable of taking care of your baby.
Baby blues vs. Postpartum depression
How can you tell the difference between baby blues and postpartum depression? Think of the baby blues as a far less severe form of postpartum depression. The timeline is shorter, the duration is also shorter, and the symptoms are far milder.
- Occurs for a few hours every day
- Typically disappear within 2 weeks after childbirth
- Symptoms include sadness, crying, irritability, restlessness, and fatigue
- Occurs within 4 weeks to a few months after delivery
- Can last up to 1 year
- Symptoms are more severe and include high levels of stress, aggression, and feelings of detachment from your baby
According to Janet Weatherly, a certified nurse-midwife, the timeframe is usually the most obvious factor that distinguishes between the two. If you are unsure of what you are struggling with, talk to your doctor. It is important to embrace the new challenges and emotions are you are experiencing. Having an open conversation with your practitioner can help you overcome these challenges faster.
Why does postpartum depression occur?
There is no single reason or cause behind postpartum depression. However, there are some factors that contribute to it. Remember that correlation does not equate to causation.
One of the most important factors behind postpartum depression is your hormone level. Estrogen and progesterone are two hormones that are very necessary during pregnancy. The changes that a mother experiences in these hormones’ levels following childbirth can affect her mentally and physically. Moreover, the lack of sleep experienced also contributes to changes in mood and spikes in fatigue and stress levels.
These changes in routine and also hormonal levels can have profound effects on your mental state. Postpartum depression typically surfaces between a week to a month after delivery.
Seeking help for postpartum depression
One of the first things to acknowledge if you are suffering from postpartum depression is that you are no less of a parent than your partner. Having PPD does not make you a bad mother and it does not mean that you do not love your child. This is usually the first and quickest feeling that clouds a mother’s mind. But remember that this is not you speaking; this is your depression and altered state of mind. Just like having the flu does not make you incompetent or unloving. Similarly, postpartum depression does not take away from your capabilities of being a loving mother.
If you are noticing symptoms that could indicate the onset of postpartum depression, see a specialist. Consult your doctor or a healthcare professional and discuss your symptoms with them. Your healthcare professional may take one of several courses of action. These can include:
1. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
One of the treatment methods that your doctor may recommend is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). This treatment method enables you to recognize the negative feelings that you may be experiencing. In recognizing them, you will then be able to alter these thoughts and consequently your behavior.
2. Interpersonal Therapy (IPT)
Another treatment option is Interpersonal Therapy (IPT). IPT is a form of psychotherapy that focuses on improving interpersonal functioning which resultantly relieves postpartum depression symptoms. One of the most important aspects of IPT is the understanding that your symptoms are a response to the challenges you face in your daily life.
Your healthcare professional may also prescribe antidepressant medication. Depending on the severity of your symptoms and the state of your mental health, you may or may not need medication. The important thing is to never self-medicate and only ever use medication prescribed by a professional.
4. Treatment combinations
Another possible course of treatment is a combination of medication and therapy. Your healthcare professional will guide you through the best possible treatment plan. This may include a single course of treatment or a combination of multiple options.
The shift that you experience in life as a new mother can take its toll on you. Becoming a mother is overwhelming. Without adequate support and the right guidance, you can easily start to feel isolated and aloof.
If at any point during your motherhood journey you begin having concerns regarding your mental health, consult a professional. Whether it is for yourself or for someone you know, seeking professional help is always a good idea.
Sometimes those around you cannot empathize with what you are going through. That does not mean that you are alone. There are plenty of support groups and healthcare professionals whom you can turn to for support.
Start the conversation today to start your journey of healing.