Having a baby is exciting, overwhelming, nerve-wracking, and exhausting all at the same time.
For some women, all the hormone fluctuations and the task of caring for a newborn can cause slight depression – and that depression goes away after a few days.
For other women, that depression might settle in deeper and make things feel darker, hopeless, and become worse rather than better.
At this point, you are no longer dealing with the standard "baby blues."
Instead, you might be entering what is known as postpartum depression.
What Is Postpartum Depression?
According to WebMD, postpartum or postnatal depression is quite common. In fact, a study of 10,000 moms found that one out of seven had postpartum depression.
Postpartum depression is a mood disorder that affects women after birth but can extend long after the baby is born. You might experience feelings of depression, anxiety, have difficulty sleeping, sadness, and exhaustion.
The causes can vary, and there is no single cause. Instead, it is a combination platter of hormones, physical factors, and mental factors. A few suspected causes include:
- Fluctuating levels of hormones immediately after birth – including progesterone and estrogen.
- Lack of sleep and constant sleep deprivation can lead to exhaustion and physical health complications.
If you had postpartum depression with a previous baby, you are also more likely to have it with a second. Also, genetics play a role in postnatal depression – which means if a family member had it, you too might suffer from it.
Common Signs of Postpartum Depression
Regardless of what might have caused your postpartum depression, the symptoms start to show relatively quickly. Knowing the symptoms and warnings signs could keep the depression from turning into a more severe mood disorder.
Common symptoms of postpartum depression include:
1. "Baby Blues" Don't Go Away
Baby blues are typical, but when those symptoms do not go away after the first two weeks, something might be wrong.
Feeling sad or hopeless past the two-week mark requires a visit to your doctor. Also, during those two weeks, the "blues" should taper off. If you feel them getting worse, go see your doctor.
2. Being Consumed by Sadness, Guilt, or Other Negative Thoughts
Being overwhelmed or upset every now and again is normal. However, if you are depressed, crying, feeling upset, blaming yourself, or feeling guilty about your life, you are entering the first stages of postpartum depression.
It can start as something as simple as feeling upset you couldn't do the laundry, or thinking you are a bad mom because your baby can't breastfeed.
3. You Start Losing Interest in Things You Normally Enjoy
When you watch your favorite show, which usually makes you laugh, are you feeling sad instead? Are you interested in spending time with friends like you used to? Do you enjoy your favorite foods still?
If you find yourself uninterested in eating, your spouse, or even seeing friends you used to love seeing, you need to speak with your doctor about these changes in your mood.
4. Forgetting the Details
When you are tired from depression and consumed by your thoughts, you might have difficulty concentrating, remembering details, or even making decisions. You might forget birthdays, appointments, or something as simple as your keys in the door.
5. Unexplained Mood Swings
Hormones fluctuating quickly out of the body can lead to mood swings, but when you are overly irritable, anxious, or start to experience bouts of rage, you need to speak with your physician about these mood changes.
6. Inability to Bond with the Baby
Mothers and babies bond instantly, but some do struggle, and it is normal. If you find yourself uninterested in forming the attachment, or you feel no emotional attachment to your baby, speak with your doctor. Also, if you have visions or thoughts of harming your baby, do not wait to talk to your doctor.
The Myths of Postpartum Blues Set Straight (Finally!)
Like most conditions, postpartum depression is surrounded by myths and misunderstandings. Some of these are old wives' tales, while others are incorrect facts you hear from family, friends, and possibly the internet.
To set the record straight, here are a few common myths regarding postpartum depression:
- You Must Cry Constantly to Have PPD: A woman suffering from PPD might cry, while another might have rage fits. It all depends on the woman. To think that you must cry every day or all day to have PPD is highly incorrect.
- You Can Only Suffer from PPD in the First Few Months After Birth: Sometimes it takes three to four months before a woman is diagnosed with PPD. Other times, women may not receive a diagnosis until a year after their child is born. Most moms shrug it off thinking they couldn't have PPD a year or two later, but the fact is that women can and should seek treatment.
- You Can Manage PPD and Cure It with a Positive Outlook: Someone might tell you to smile through it, and it will all get better, but PPD is a mood disorder that cannot be fixed with an attitude adjustment. Some women need counseling, medication, and continuous therapy. Without treatment, PPD can turn into postpartum psychosis, a severe disorder.
- You Will Hurt Your Child if You Have PPD: Rarely do women with PPD harm their children. There are those with a very rare psychosis condition that may harm their children. Even so, most women with PPD never harm their children at all. Instead, they are at higher risk for hurting themselves.
Getting Postpartum Depression Help: Where to Find Postpartum Depression
If your baby blues are not going away or you suspect that you have postpartum depression, the most important thing to do is seek treatment and not allow it to continue.
Postpartum depression is serious but treatable. With medication and therapy, you will get back to feeling like yourself, and you can get on with your life – enjoying your new child. Vista del Mar Hospital's programs are designed for adults going through all types of mood disorders and life-altering events, including new mothers.