What is postpartum depression?
According to the National Institute of Health‘s website, postpartum depression is defined as “moderate to severe depression in a woman after she has given birth. It may occur soon after delivery or up to a year later. Most of the time, it occurs within the first three months after delivery.” What does this mean exactly?
Well for one, you can’t be experiencing postpartum depression if you haven’t recently given birth to a baby. Secondly, it is important to recognize the difference between common feelings after a baby’s birth compared to true postpartum depression.
Many new moms experience feelings of isolation and loneliness shortly after giving birth. Having a child creates a complete lifestyle change, and the amount of time it takes to take care of the completely dependent being in front of you can leave you feeling desperate for attention.
Not to mention hormones! After giving birth, a woman’s hormones fluctuate at an amazing rate. It’s no wonder why we feel like jumping for joy in one minute and then completely break down in tears the next! These typical mood swings post pregnancy don’t always constitute a diagnosis of depression. However, if the symptoms last longer than two to four weeks, it would be a good idea to check in with your doctor.
Remember, love takes time to grow. Just because you didn’t feel an instant connection, bond or immense love the moment you saw your child does not make you strange. This is all completely normal, even though media and other people may romantacize it. Don’t allow others’ perceptions of what you should be feeling dictate how you act or respond to your baby. Give yourself time!
When is it time to get help?
If you are unable to care for yourself or the baby due to your “blues” or “depression,” get immediate help. The most important thing is your safety and the baby’s safety.
It may also be time to seek help if you are afraid to be alone with the baby, have negative feelings towards the baby, worry intensely about the baby, or have little or no interest in the baby. All of these could be potentially dangerous signs of brain chemistry problems in the mother and could lead to frightening behavior towards the baby.
Other symptoms like feelings of being down, having the blues, feeling anxious, having trouble sleeping (besides the baby keeping you up!), lack of pleasure in things you used to enjoy, feelings of worthlessness or guilt, and agitation or irritability could also indicate precursors to postpartum depression. If your symptoms start over one month after the baby is born (not right away), you may be at even more significant risk for developing postpartum depression. Any signs or symptoms that you think are new or concerning should be brought to your doctor’s attention immediately to prevent further distress.
Where do I go to get help?
Your first and best resource to get help for depression is your doctor – whether it be your family doctor or your OB/GYN. Both disciplines have a lot of training in identifying depression in individuals. They also have resources of places you can go close to your community. If your doctor decides medication might be the best option for you to overcome depression, it is best to be consistent and let the prescribing doctor monitor your progress.
Postpartum depression and even clinical depression (of the not-after-baby kind) have well researched treatments and success rates are high for therapy. These are not disorders that you just have to “live” with. These can be treated and you can resume a normal life. So, don’t wait to get help! It will not only benefit you, but those you love, and it will definitely benefit your baby and the relationship you have with your baby.
Visit the National Institute of Mental Health for more answers to this and other questions.
Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for educational purposes only and should not be used for diagnosis or to guide treatment without the opinion of a health professional. Any reader who is concerned about his or her health should contact a doctor for advice.